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CEA On-site Ambassador: Meet Macey Hallstedt

My CEA journey started in the winter of 2013 and has grown to include being a CEA study abroad student, MOJO (Mobile Journalist), Alumni Ambassador, and now a CEA On-site Ambassador. Why did I choose to stay part of the CEA family in so many roles? More than any other institution I have ever encountered, CEA cares about its students. It is such a simple concept, but much easier said than done. In all the various endeavors throughout my entire life, I have never had the pleasure of interacting with such a cohesive team devoted to giving each and every student the opportunities to have an eye-opening experience. I feel confident making such a bold statement because I have lived it. CEA and I have a long history; one that I feel has helped us both a lot.
 Macey Hallstedt during her winter 2013
San Jose study abroad program

It all began in San Jose, Costa Rica. After many months of research, preparation, and tough decision-making, I had settled on a program and could not have been more excited. Upon arrival, I was blown away by how intentional CEA had been on its preparation to make sure the students had all the necessary information in order to feel comfortable venturing out on their own. They were always available and helpful, but still allowed students to be very independent.

After my first few weeks in San Jose, my program directors, Maggie and Leo, made us aware of an available position on the CEA team as a MOJO. Given my concentration in communications and predisposition toward writing, I jumped at the opportunity. So I wrote. And I photographed. And I recorded. And from all this, came a few tour videos, several photo essays, and even more blog entries encompassing all topics from how study abroad helps students even after graduation to what 'pura vida' means to me. All of them were published. In on fell swoop I had gotten some of my own writing posted on a platform other than my own personal blog and CEA had received blog content to help future students considering study abroad.

Fast forward five months to September 2013, as I was entering my junior year at the University of Michigan. I had accepted a position as a CEA Alumni Ambassador intern. Such a position includes things like giving presentations encouraging students to study abroad, creating and distributing flyers, working the CEA table at study abroad fairs, making contacts within relevant offices like International and Advising centers, and the like. The experience fit in so well with my communications concentration. Plus, I am so passionate about study abroad that I wanted to share it with everyone I met.

A year and a half later, my experience with CEA has come full circle. Due to my hard work as an Alumni Ambassador and an intense craving to go abroad again, CEA invited me back to San Jose, Costa Rica as one of the first to participate in the On-site Ambassadorship. So here I am, starting my CEA San Jose On-site Ambassador and seeing study abroad from a new angle.

 Macey Hallstedt (center) with CEA San Jose Academic
Director, Leo Duran (left), and Program Director,
Maggie Banchs (right)

My job is to plan cultural activities and meaningful excursions, and do pretty much anything else necessary for the international students to feel safe and comfortable here. That can include anything from showing them how to plan a great vacation, to where to buy the delicious Costa Rican fruits for cheap and how to avoid tourist traps to helping them with Spanish homework. The best part? I enjoy all of it.

I am not only here to serve CEA and its students, but I am also selfishly gaining invaluable experience in how to navigate international workplaces, how to help others feel welcome when all they feel is different, and improving my Spanish the entire time. I am having fun learning by doing and simultaneously providing a very important service to the international students; I am a student who has lived it, worked hard, succeeded, and returned to put my new skills to use. I am a living testimonial about how hard CEA works in order to ensure the best experiences for the students - both present and past.

Macey Hallstedt is a Winter 2013 CEA San Jose alumna, current CEA Senior Alumni Ambassador at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, former CEA MOJO, and currently a Summer 2014 CEA On-site Ambassador in San Jose. Don't miss her next post about what goes on behind the scenes at CEA San Jose!

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