Global Ambassadors Symposium celebrates International Adventures

Melissa Nunez – General Assignment Reporter

The Global Ambassadors Symposium, hosted by the Office of International Education, celebrated Southern students who have expanded their borders and studied abroad, and also informed students who are curious about exploring other cultures as well, said Brendan Walsh, assistant director and Fulbright coordinator.

“It was our chance to honor students that have studied abroad for a semester or longer and have a free platform to tell their stories, to detail in whatever way they wanted,” said Walsh, “and also trying to be as informative as possible: what study abroad is today and how international experience impacted them.”

Albin Salazar, chemistry alumni, said the connections he made to the charming, down-to-earth citizens of Thailand was his favorite element of studying overseas. He said that becoming aware of different cultures and interacting with different classes of people, not only breaks barriers, but also builds character and helps students adopt strong communication skills they could utilize in their prospective careers.

Salazar added students who are intrigued by the prospect of travelling abroad, but are hesitant, should consider the valuable experience that comes along with it.

“I mean, who doesn’t want to experience a new adventure? Everybody wants to talk about it, but they’re a little afraid, so they have to get that little push to come to these events and get information,” said Salazar. “Just come, get your application done, and then just go abroad. You meet new people, then you have representatives in different countries that can vouch for you.”     

Alicia Divito, senior business management major, said in the four months she studied in Spain, her favorite aspects were the markets, the striking and historic settings, as well as the celebration she attended towards the end of her trip.

“My university was one of the oldest in Europe, so just the architecture and so much beauty was amazing,” said Divito. “During the last two weeks of September, the more fun aspect was fiesta. So they had two weeks of Casitas, with small little booths with food and drinks, there was a circus in the street, and the streets were just filled with people. Just think the amount of life and energy radiated from the city despite how old it was.”

Divito said traveling abroad gave her self-assurance and knowledge that can only come from experiencing another culture.

“It gives you the confidence to feel good about yourself and what you’ve done. When I was in my classes, I didn’t know any Spanish before I went. After a couple of weeks, I would walk out of class like, ‘I understood the majority of that,’” said Divito. “I really think it just gives you the confidence to know that you can do these things, and the energy and the enthusiasm to keep wanting to explore different cultures.”

Walsh said there are over 100 students enrolled in the 12 summer travel programs currently available for a wide variety of majors, such as nursing, creative writing, recreation and leisure, to countries such as China, Laos, and Liverpool.

Walsh said, like the students who shared their adventures abroad at the symposium, students who inquire about this experience themselves can profoundly enrich their higher education experience.

“It makes you more confident, it makes you more capable of cross-cultural dialogue, gives you a perspective on life that you just won’t get here,” said Walsh. “You don’t know how it is to live in Thailand until you live in Thailand. There’s millions of reasons why it is the most unforgettable thing about your college career, possibly about your life. You may not remember spring semester 2016 if you’re just taking classes, but you will remember the time you were in Costa Rica.”

Photo Credit: Melissa Nunez – General Assignment Reporter

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