When I matriculated into the University of Mississippi from my small town in Carlyle, Illinois, I had every intention on becoming a doctor. I went through the motions of the medical school requirements through freshman and sophomore year, yet something was missing. I was doing what I thought I wanted to do and excelling in it, but I was just not completely satisfied with the work I was doing. Because I was a Spanish major, I felt the next natural step would be to study abroad, so I elected to do a semester in Madrid, Spain with CEA. When I was in Spain, it was one of the first times in my collegiate career that I was satisfied, happy even, with the work I was doing.
I returned to the University of Mississippi that fall, and I was struggling to assimilate back into life as a college student. There was not a day that went by that I did not think about my experience, and I began to think that my career was meant to be something other than medicine. I started to change my academic curriculum to better fit my interests. I picked up a minor in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages because I thought I maybe wanted to teach, but it was not until I began work as a Peer Advisor in the Study Abroad Office at my university that I really began to see more direction for myself. Every day, I was given the opportunity to interact with prospective study abroad students, and additionally, I sometimes work with our international students. Every day, I help them navigate the intricate details of one of the most empowering and life-changing opportunities they will be afforded in college, and with my study abroad experience with CEA in my back pocket, I feel that I have the right tools and life experience to help them make the decisions to succeed.
For the first time in my life, I feel fulfilled and happy with my work. I know in my heart that I want to work as an international education professional because every aspect of my academic and professional work revolves around these ideas. I also fully understand how study abroad can positively impact and change a person. By working in this particular field, I know that I can be a strong advocate. Studying abroad has opened so many doors for me, and if it were not for my semester abroad in Madrid, I don't think I would be standing where I am today.
Kayla VonBurg is the Spring 2017 Alumni Ambassador in Madrid, Spain, and is currently studying at University of Mississippi.