As I mentioned in my last post, this second trip to Paris I had the wonderful opportunity to be an On-site Ambassador, their very first! So what is that, you ask? Let me tell you.
Most people who study abroad, once they’ve come back home, constantly post nostalgic pictures of their favorite memories and itch to go back one day. I definitely fell into that category. Due to the fact that I was going to be talking about study abroad, and Paris, and anything travel related, I figured I might as well apply to be an Alumni Ambassador for CEA. Thankfully, I got to participate in that program and spent the semester attending study abroad meetings around Belmont’s campus and talking to prospective students about CEA and study abroad in general. Being a part of the Alumni Ambassador team allowed me to connect with other people who had studied abroad and were going through the same ache that I was. We, as Ambassadors, collaborated with each other in different ways. We talked about our experiences with people around campus, and we even got cool t-shirts, pens, and sunglasses to pass out to fellow students. So not only was I getting to talk anyone and everyone’s ear off about studying abroad, but I was also building my professional career at the same time, working with CEA, and practicing my marketing skills.
But even with all this, my heart still ached to be back in Paris. So, three months after I got back to Nashville I bought a plane ticket to return over Christmas break and decided to figure out if there was anything else I could do while there, besides simply being a tourist and catching up with old friends. Cue “Ambassador On-Site Intern” light bulb, one of the benefits that Alumni Ambassadors can take advantage of. Kristi Ellison, the Alumni Relations Coordinator with CEA, told me about this opportunity- a chance to return back to the homeland and help out the onsite staff with any projects they may have going on and of course, hanging out with the current students. She was able to connect me with the team in Paris and about four days before landing, it was all set for me to be their very first On-site Ambassador.
During my time there, I worked most mornings and focused my energy on a marketing project that they were starting. Whenever possible, I talked with the students that were there and were about to end their semester and go home, something I could definitely relate to and give advice about. They had their Farewell Dinner, their final event with all the study abroad students to say goodbye, at the gorgeous Le Train Bleu Restaurant in the Gare de Lyon that I was also able to attend and talked to a lot of the students! Many of them had questions about the Alumni Ambassador position, and just as I will say to you reading this, I highly recommended it to anyone who had a great time abroad. I set aside one morning to have an informational session at the office to give an overview of what it entails to be an Alumni Ambassador and answered any questions that the students may have had. And of course, there was some enticing complimentary coffee for those that came. To summarize pretty much all of the conversations I had with the students, here are the top three questions that I got:
1) How on earth did you go home?
- I kept telling myself “I have to graduate, I have to graduate, I have to graduate.”
2) What is an Alumni Ambassador and what do you do?
- In a nutshell, this internship provides you with a professional channel to share your study abroad enthusiasm and help potential students through their own personal study abroad experience. It’s an excuse to tell everyone you meet that they have to study abroad. It also increases the number of people you talk to so your friends don’t hate you after one week.
3) When are you going to come back and how can I do that too?
- Still working on that one, but I know I will. CEA works hard to keep you connected with international options, and being an Alumni Ambassador gives you lots of resources and opportunities to find ways to travel abroad so stop dilly-dallying and apply already! (click here for the app!)
However, the biggest advice that I shared with students about returning back home was to not let the daunting thought of leaving take away from where they were at that moment, whether they had two weeks left or two days left. There would be plenty of time to reminisce once they were back home, so I reminded them to take advantage of still being there! All those things you said you were going to do the first day you arrived and still haven’t done, go do them! That bakery you always passby and keep telling yourself you’re going to order a “chausson aux pommes,” or that building you keep saying you’ll take a tour of, do it! And remember that you’ll always have Paris, even after you leave.
Kelsea Riddick is a CEA alumna (Paris Spring '14). She is an Alumni Ambassador and senior at Belmont University.
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