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Meet Paris On-Site Ambassador, Karisa!

 Taking a boat tour of the Seine with Fall '16 students.

According to Audrey Hepburn, “Paris is always a good idea,” and I couldn’t agree more. That is one of the reasons I applied to be an On-Site Ambassador at CEA Paris. I loved spending a semester abroad here and wanted a reason to return. It was a decision many around me questioned, since I was graduating college and should be applying for a “real job.” But how could I pass up this great opportunity? It was a once in a lifetime chance to return to the city I called home for four months and an opportunity to gain professional experience and development in the field of International Education. I disregarded the naysayers and decided to apply… And now, I’m here!

I had always dreamt of studying abroad in Paris, as cliché as that might sound, but it was a goal of mine and I worked diligently both at school and work to be able to afford it. My semester in Paris was life-changing, but was over in the blink of an eye. How could the best four months of my life be over already? I had to do something to quench my wanderlust and overcome my homesickness for anything and everything French. So, I applied to be a CEA Alumni Ambassador on my home campus, Champlain College, and the rest is history. As an Alumni Ambassador at Champlain, I promoted study abroad and shared my experience with students by tabling at study abroad events and working alongside fellow CEA Alumni Ambassadors. Not only did I have the chance to encourage other students to study abroad, but I was welcomed by the CEA alumni community, where I shared my love of travel with other returnees. It was the best way for me to relive my semester abroad while building my professional skills in areas like marketing, social media, teamwork, and leadership. As part of the CEA Alumni Ambassador program benefits, being an Ambassador on my home campus was just the first step to becoming an On-Site Ambassador in Paris!

 Another perk of the Ambassador Program: Attending professional conferences and meeting more of CEA's international teams like Meline Koruk (left), CEA's Center Director in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the annual NAFSA conference.

Of course, it’s totally different being an On-Site Ambassador as opposed to being a student. Instead of going to class and discovering Paris for the first time, I have my own desk and computer, and a first-hand look "behind the scenes" of CEA Paris in a professional setting. As an On-Site Ambassador, I'm planning social activities and helping facilitate events such as the tour on the Seine river during Orientation week. I'm also here to help students have a successful semester through sharing my stories, struggles, and more, while encouraging them to take advantage of everything Paris has to offer. As someone who’s been through the ups and downs of homesickness, language barriers, and travel snafus, I am happy to be a resource to students while they navigate through their individual journeys in Paris.
 On Fall break in Rome with my friends from the CEA Paris program :)

When I’m not at the center I can be found at my favorite Parisian spots or at local events for international students, making new friends and practicing my French. There is a lot of independence that comes with the On-Site Ambassador role and as someone who has lived abroad before, the transition has been easier than expected. Of course, there is still a lot of learning to be done and I hope to perfect my French language skills, and improve my knowledge of French culture during my time here (oh and eat a lot of pain et fromage, obviously!).

It’s so exciting to see students encountering Paris for the first time and watching their faces light up as they talk about their adventures and plans for the semester. It simply reminds me why I applied to be an Alumni Ambassador in the first place. It is an incredible opportunity to share one’s study abroad experience with others in hopes that they too, will head out on an adventure of their own. Being here with this new group of students has allowed me to come full circle from my own experience abroad. It has shown me the importance of being a global citizen and the life-changing effects studying abroad can have on one’s goals in life and career path, and how sharing that can inspire others. I am so grateful to be back in Paris with CEA as their On-Site Alumni Ambassador and look forward to sharing our adventures this semester. Allons-y!

Karisa D. is a CEA alumna from the Fall 2014 semester in Paris, France. She is a recent graduate of Champlain College, where she studied Business Administration and Global Studies. She is currently the CEA On-Site Ambassador in Paris, France.

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