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CEA On-site Ambassador: Reflecting on Studying & Interning Abroad

July 08, 2014
by CEA CAPA Content Creator
Wow. There’s no other way to describe how I am feeling right now.  I’ve just returned to the United
States from an amazing and an enlightening six-month journey of a lifetime. The first few days are rough suffering from extreme nostalgia and I’m feeling a little bit of a foreigner in my own country (wait, everyone speaks English?), but I’ll be back on my feet and in my old routines in no time.
 Taylor Stoeckler (left) with CEA Alicante
Summer'14 students at Castillo de Santa Barbara
In addition, it’s also time I start reflecting on my time in Alicante and apply what I learned to pave the way for my future.  Although the lessons and skills I developed as study abroad alumna and on-site Ambassador are innumerous, I have three things that have impacted me the most during these past six months:
 Taylor Stoeckler (left) with CEA Alicante
Summer'14 students at the MARQ Museum
  • I can adapt to any new environment in no time.  Last summer, I said goodbye to Alicante for the first time, returned to America for a week, then turned around and moved to Prague for 7 weeks.  Those are three completely different cultures and lifestyles that I had to adapt and transition to in less than two weeks. Although at the time I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, I succeeded with only a little embarrassment and I managed to acclimate myself quickly. My experience was similar to students on shorter study abroad programs who have even less time to get the most out of the overall experience. Adjusting and familiarizing with the new culture quickly is crucial.

Additionally, transitioning from a student to an on-site Ambassador challenged what I learned that summer in a real world setting, forcing me to change from an experienced student to a very inexperienced international on-site Ambassador. Although I was very familiar with the program in Alicante, the transition was difficult at first. However, I was able to take charge of what I wanted to gain from the Ambassadorship with CEA Alicante Program Director, Alvaro Sanchez, guiding me in the right direction.

  • I can make an important decision in split seconds. When studying abroad, many students like to travel outside of their host countries and see as many places as possible before heading home. From my past experiences traveling throughout Europe, I can’t even count how many times the original plan has gone wrong for me. I’ve missed flights and trains, booked terrible hostels, crossed paths with people who absolutely hate Americans, and most recently, needed a taxi to the from the train station to the airport in Madrid to haul my 70lb suitcase back to America only to find out that I picked the one day all the taxis in the city decided to go on strike. With situations like these and many other unpredictable incidences, I’ve learned to remain calm in stressful conditions, hold back my frustration, and logically develop the ultimate plan B to get me out of any chaos.

  • Goodbyes are not forever, it’s a see you soon. The people you meet abroad are not just a memory you shove in the back of your head, they are lifetime friends that are mutually interested in your life and your endeavors. As a business student, we are taught from the first year how important networking is in the business field.  We live in a globalized world where connecting with other cultures and societies is more important than ever. There is no better way to get on your feet and connect with international persons than studying abroad.
Throughout my summer CEA Alicante Ambassadorship experience, I was fortunate to have an incredible mentor. It’s now been a full year since I met Alvaro, and I overlooked as a two-time Alicante alumnus, how important his role as the Alicante program director was to the students from the beginning of the program all the way until they say good-bye. In his position, he has to be extremely knowledgeable about all things Alicante and what American students will need in order to be successful in their new home. This includes, but is definitely not limited to, health and safety information, the differences between American and Spanish universities, and how to promote the study abroad experience in the future. The newly arrived students look up to Alvaro as a safety net until they get settled in and he must be prepared for whatever the students might throw at him. As I shadowed him throughout the arrival process and student orientation, I am floored by the amount of preparation that he devotes to every program and how passionate he is about Alicante and every student he meets.
 Alvaro Sanchez (left), CEA Alicante Program Director
with Joanie Alexander (right), Alicante Summer'13 alumna and
veteran Alumni Ambassador at Lindsey Wilson College.

Every day is different for Alvaro and to see him loving every second of his career with CEA gives me confidence for my future and makes me excited for whatever lies ahead of me after I graduate from Iowa State next May. This Ambassadorship with CEA has allowed me to reach my goals of living, studying, and working abroad. This whole experience has inspired me to continue going abroad, using what I've learned as a student and as an on-site Ambassador in order to be a citizen of the world.

Thank you, CEA, for offering these amazing opportunities and experiences to students like me; you make dreams come true. This is only the beginning; trust me, I’m just getting started.
Taylor Stoeckler is a third-time CEA alumna (Prague & Alicante Summer '13 and Alicante Spring '14). She is an Alumni Ambassador and a senior at Iowa State University.

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