My journey with CEA officially began in the Fall of 2017, but you could say that my dreams to study abroad began long before that. I am a recent graduate from the University of Arizona with a degree in French Language and minors in Business Administration and Urban & Regional Development, but it was studying abroad that got me where I am today. CEA was the very first program that caught my eye when starting my research. Due to the fact that the bar was set so high, there was no other program that I wanted to go abroad with; through trusting my gut, I knew CEA was the best choice. Since I was studying French, I thought France would be the best place to go to practice and improve. The famous Audrey Hepburn quote, "Paris is always a good idea," has always been engraved in my brain -- thus, even though I knew there were multiple locations in France I could choose from, my heart chose Paris. I narrowed my choice from 10 programs down to one: French Language Studies at the Sorbonne. I would soon experience a classroom full of international students and get to experience an education in a different country.
My time abroad was one I will never forget. The anticipation was well worth it, but it seemed to me that I was in my first month in and I was already sad about leaving Paris. There’s so much to see, but when your priorities are classes and homework, you realize that your time abroad can feel very short; especially if you plan on traveling to other cities on the weekends. It’s a period in your life where you tell yourself not to blink or else you’re going to miss what’s happening. Toward the end of my trip, I came to an agreement with myself that I wasn’t going to be sad when I left Paris because I knew I would be back.
One morning in Paris, I woke up to an email saying that I was recommended to be an Alumni Ambassador by one of CEA Paris staff members. I wasn’t quite sure what the opportunity was, so I did some research and I became greatly interested. I got to learn more about this opportunity at the end-of-the-program conference held at CEA, and I realized that this could be the opportunity I was looking for to return to Paris. I decided to apply and become a CEA Alumni Ambassador.
Upon my return home to Phoenix, Arizona, I got the opportunity that many Alumni Ambassadors don’t get, which was to have my interview at CEA Headquarters. After a wonderful experience and getting to meet some of the team members, I was accepted as an Alumni Ambassador and started my duties in the Spring of 2018. As an ambassador, I got to promote CEA through sharing my experience with other students, attending and helping out in the study abroad fairs, posting on social media, and many more activities. My bi-weekly meetings consisted of interacting with a Senior Alumni Ambassador and a few other ambassadors to talk about previous experiences, future goals, and accomplished activities with CEA. After a semester as an ambassador, I was asked to become a senior ambassador, and I continued the journey as such for a whole academic year.
In early 2019, when the opportunity arose to become an Onsite Ambassador for the summer, I happily applied. A few weeks later, I received a call that I was selected to become the Onsite Ambassador for CEA Paris. It was such incredible news, because it was a long term goal of mine that I finally achieved. Being accepted took me back to the moment when I first dreamed of wanting this opportunity abroad.
Currently as an Onsite Ambassador, I am seeing Paris through a different lens. Instead of a student, I am now a staff member. I am taking on many additional responsibilities and projects, which I am absolutely loving. My responsibilities include doing Student Spotlight articles, in which I showcase students and talk to them about their educational and social experiences here in Paris. I am also working on the weekly newsletter that's sent out to students and staff, which talks about things to do, places to see, and foods to try here in Paris. My goal at the end of my ambassadorship is to share my story with students in order to engage them with the possibility that one day, they could find themselves in my shoes. This could be a wonderful experience for students looking for more extracurricular activities and who still wish to stay in touch with their time abroad -- so that they can share their stories with those curious about studying abroad.
My transition from student to Alumni Ambassador to Onsite Ambassador was and has been an experience that helped me gain friends and many skills. In my Senior Ambassador days, I gained leadership skills when leading the bi-weekly meetings, and broadened my communication skills when things were unclear for students or myself. Being an Onsite Ambassador has allowed me to experience what it's like to be in a real work environment with real tasks, deadlines, and best of all, co-workers who work like a team and have your back! I’m excited to take on the rest of the summer and see what more CEA Paris has in store for me.
Kiara Perez is the Fall 2017 Alumni Ambassador in Paris, France, and is currently studying at University of Arizona.