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How My CEA On-site Ambassadorship Impacted Me

 Macey in Costa Rica

Prior to studying abroad, I had never considered international education as a potential career field. I never even knew it was an option. Prior to interning abroad, I had never thought working in international education would be something I would be good at or would enjoy so much. Now, after my time spent in San José, Costa Rica, with CEA and its month-long students, I can say that working professionally in the study abroad field is a major contender for my future career.

This July, I arrived back in San José as a CEA On-site Ambassador (check out my intro blog!) with much pre-existing knowledge about Costa Rican geography and culture, a desire to improve my repertoire in all things that fit under the Communications umbrella, and a contagious passion for study abroad and the growth that travel forces. I was excited to be there and happy to help, but largely ignorant about exactly what would be expected of me and how I was to go about things.

Here are three of takeaways:

Creativity: My On-site Ambassadorship with CEA was amazing because it allowed me to make use of my ability to identify with the students and simultaneously maximize my creativity. My primary mission was to help make it easier for students to engage and interact with our host culture. This involved doing reconnaissance work to find activities they might be interested in, broadcasting these opportunities to students, and potentially organizing reservations or transportation for such excursions. While this function is such a small portion of all the duties site directors have, I learned a lot in the process of things that appeal to students and how to best communicate with them. I also got a small taste of some of the satisfaction site directors can feel when their international students take their travels into their own hands and make the plunge by themselves. It made me very proud to know that the students who asked me for travel recommendations actually went and reported not only having the time of their lives, but also that they learned a lot about themselves and the culture.

Study Abroad From the Other Side: Thanks to this eye-opening On-site Ambassadorship, I was able to see the study abroad experience from the opposite perspective. These new observations have really helped my own study abroad experience to come full-circle. I have also made some helpful connections, both with University faculty, staff, and program directors in San José and developed powerful friendships with fellow international students and my host family. After a month there, I left Costa Rica this time with an enhanced ‘pura vida’ mentality and invaluable knowledge of cross-cultural business communication and customs.

Cultural Awareness:
While this Ambassadorship was perfectly suited to my Communications and Spanish double-major and passion for international travel, I would recommend such an On-site Ambassadorship to any positive and outgoing student willing to increase his or her language and culture competence. This Ambassadorship was rewarding for me because it allowed me to increase my appreciation and exposure to a culture I thought I already knew and understood and I also got to help other students make the most of it too.

In short, the experience was fabulously enlightening. I learned a lot, got the opportunity to visit old places, experience new ones, meet new people, and give back to a study abroad organization that changed my life. I would do it again in a heartbeat and I hope other students pounce upon the chance to do the same.

Macey Hallstedt is a Winter 2013  CEA San José alumna, CEA Senior Alumni Ambassador at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, and currently a summer 2014 CEA On-site Ambassador in San José.

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