I had no doubt that I should become a CEA Alumni Ambassador after spending Spring 2018 studying abroad in Prague. I wanted to share my experiences and encourage others to take that leap to enhance their skills and learn more about themselves, especially those who don’t see the experience as something accessible.
|Charles Bridge at night|
Planning for my study abroad program was more than choosing courses that will fit my academic track or understanding what to pack. It was also about making sure my financial aid applied, securing multiple scholarships, and readying myself for culture shock. I was late in realizing that I will look very different from everyone else, not just the locals, but also the other students I was studying with. It seemed that I was going through more culture shock with the group of students I studied with than with the local culture.
I absolutely appreciated what I experienced because it is necessary to feel different from everyone else. I became more aware of and got a better understanding of what microaggressions really are. Having the added experience prepared me to become an Alumni Ambassador with tips and expectations for a variety of students.
From the first tabling session at the education abroad fair, I knew I was doing something extremely worthwhile when the students kept asking questions. It provided an amazing way for me to unpack my study abroad experience and provide useful information to the students I spoke to. This also taught me that advising needs to be very specific—not only from an academic/professional standpoint, but a personal one as well.
|Tabling at the Education Abroad Fair with Justin Schaefer|
Becoming a Senior Alumni Ambassador was a no-brainer. I was able to lead my own group and inspire an ambassador to take on the senior role the next semester. With an active education abroad office on campus, I also had to come up with creative ways to conduct outreach on my college campus. It was amazing to brainstorm ideas with my team and continue to try new things.
I was thrilled to get the chance to return to Prague to be an On-Site Ambassador. It was the perfect way to continue my personal and professional growth. I knew all the reasons to pack and leave, but there were so many doubts because of the negative support from my parents. As immigrants, what they know is graduating with a degree to obtain a full-time job. The fact I was choosing a different path was very disappointing to them and made me question if it was a horrible choice. There were parts of me that thought I was an ungrateful daughter and a failure.
|View from my desk|
But while I thought about all of this, I knew I had to leave. I was raised to make my own decisions and to fully trust them. Also, the greatest lesson I learned from studying abroad is resilience. This was from having to bounce back from anything that seemed like an obstacle. It was up to me to go with my gut, and then learn and grow from everything.
After being back in Prague for two full weeks, there is no doubt that I should be here. With the amazing support from the CEA staff, I’m able to add my own spin to assigned work and take on projects I haven’t done before, all while remembering the joys of learning a different language and culture.
|Photo with CEA Staff|
Shelly Ng is the Spring 2018 Alumni Ambassador in Prague, Czech Republic, and is currently studying at Binghamton University.