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Abby Vogel
Alumni Ambassador
1. Why would you like to be an Alumni Ambassador?
I would love to be given the opportunity to become a CEA alumni ambassador because CEA has given me the opportunity to culturally enrich my life. From applying to jumping on the plane, CEA staff members were extremely helpful, inspiring, and supportive people. Being an alumni ambassador would grant me the opportunity to be a part of the amazing CEA family. I want to inspire other students to study abroad through CEA and give people real life testimonies about what it means to study abroad. Studying abroad has allowed me to grow personally, professionally, and academically and has shaped my life forever. Given that I experienced the challenges of dealing with COVID-19 while abroad, I would be able to give support to other students because of what I have been through. Becoming a CEA alumni ambassador would allow me to share my challenging study abroad experience as well as the life lessons that I have been taught through this unique time. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities CEA study abroad has granted me and I want to share that same inspiration with others.

2. What were ways you found to experience the local culture?
Seville, Spain is an extremely unique and beautiful city. Between the delicious cuisine, Spanish language, and historical landmarks there is always something new to explore. Coming into my abroad experience, I did not consider myself a strong Spanish speaker. Nonetheless, I decided I wanted to improve my skills, so I chose to stay with a host mom. My wonderful host mom did not speak any English, which was challenging at times, but it became the most rewarding part of my experience in Seville. My host mom, roommate, and I developed a very strong relationship even through language and cultural barriers. Knowing I always had a welcoming, supportive, and caring household while abroad allowed me to freely explore other parts of the city. My Spanish dramatically improved because of the authenticity of Seville as a city. Although Seville is home to many famous landmarks including the Jewish Quarters, monument of Christopher Columbus, and the Royal Alcazar, my favorite part of Seville was interacting with the local culture. Eating at authentic restaurants, learning about Seville’s history, and speaking Spanish to other Sevillanos is what made my abroad experience rich and meaningful.
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Amanda Hall
Alumni Ambassador
1. How has your study abroad experience shaped you?
I firmly believe that my study abroad experience has shaped me both personally and professionally in more ways than I can even understand right now. The first being it has made me okay with being uncomfortable. Studying abroad is the ultimate test of seeking discomfort: living with strangers, not knowing anyone, speaking a different language, however from this experience I have found that so much growth and amazing opportunities occur when we step outside of our comfort zone, and now I find myself searching for ways to seek discomfort in my everyday life. While I was in Granada, I volunteered in a bilingual school which gave me professional experience in global education and allowed me to further explore the ways in which I can incorporate my two majors--Spanish and special education-- into my future career. My life was enriched with new friendships, a newfound family in my host family, and most importantly a new home in Granada. All of these things are benefits that I immediately have felt I gained from studying abroad, yet I know that there are many additional ways in which this experience has and will continue to shape me for the rest of my life.

2. What were ways you found to experience the local culture?
One of my favorite components of studying abroad was the culture immersion. I lived in a home-stay while in Granada and found this to be one of the best aspects of my time there: whether it be using the local language with my host mother who did not speak English, eating tortilla de patatas, or participating in the midday siesta, I could not think of a better way to be immersed in the culture than living with locals. I also sought cultural experiences outside of the home as well and found no shortage of opportunities! I met locals by attending language exchanges, visiting my favorite cafe, or going for tapas. I celebrated local holidays such as Carnival and Día de Andalucia. I visited world heritage sites such as La Alhambra, La Sagrada Familia, and the Mezquita de Córdoba. Each of these unique experiences exposed me to a culture and way of life that was completely different from my own, giving me a newfound appreciation not only for my own culture, but of the beautiful traditions and people of another. Being immersed in a different culture was an experience like no other, and one that I urge all people to have.
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Angel Argueta Lara
Alumni Ambassador
1. Why should a student go abroad?
One of the best things about the CEA study program is that it offers an orientation program prior to the starting of classes and during that days I had the opportunity to meet so many people and also make new friendships. And in between this activity of orientation was when the onsite staff introduced us to the AICAPS activities which were different activities offered through the semester and the best part of it was that all of these activities were included in the price of our program. I attended many of thus activities but the one I enjoyed the most was the long day trips to other towns near Barcelona and the weekend Madrid trip which was an amazing journal from our departure until we came back to Barcelona. This was the aspect students joined the most about the program because of all the offering CEA made to us in making these activities possible.

2. Why would you like to be an Alumni Ambassador?
Since my first year in college, I had heard about the opportunity of studying abroad, and from that moment I knew I had to do it at some point in my college life. My freshmen year passed and when I started my sophomore year I started to plan my study abroad experience. I had many options which CEA offers but I chose Spain because of two things: the first one was because Spanish is my first language and I knew I was going to feel safer going to a new country where I spoke the language, and the second thing was that I really wanted to get to know the Spanish culture. Since my study abroad has ended, I can say, no matter the circumstances and how it ended, that my semester in Barcelona was one for the books. It was a time where I met so many people, made a lot of lifelong friendships, saw new and amazing places, and most importantly Barcelona helped me to gain more independence and to build up my identity as a person. Because of that, I would love to speak and talk to students about all of the amazing things a study abroad program offers, how it will change their lives and all the great other things that come along with it. I feel that if you want to find yourself, a study abroad experience is one of the best things you can do.
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Carlo Pezzana
Alumni Ambassador
1. How has study abroad experience shaped you?
This experience in Barcelona profoundly shaped me personally and professionally. Living in Barcelona, another country, and learning my third language, Spanish, enriched me and expanded my knowledge. I feel much more closed to the Spanish culture, but also with the Latin American one since I made a lot of friends from South America in Barcelona. Meeting a few locals helped to learn about the Catalan culture and the debate with Spain. I even learned a few words from Catalan, and I can understand it a little bit. I also made connections with a lot of American students from all around the country, and that was another significant aspect. From a professional point of view, I connected with a lot of people from students and faculty to professors. Moreover, attending classes at a local university helped me getting to know the education system in Spain, and I would consider the idea of pursuing a Master's degree in Barcelona and working in Spain, a country that hypnotized me with its warm, diverse and suave culture.

2. Why would you like to be an Alumni Ambassador?
I would love to share my experience with other students. This is an opportunity to follow up and maintain the contact with CEA in a way that I will never forget my experience. Studying abroad for a semester or a longer period of time, is an opportunity that changes your life. It opens new doors and opportunities, it shapes your identity, and enrich you from every point of view. When I decided to study abroad in Australia in high school, my life completely changed. That was the best decision I have ever made. I would not be here applying to become an alumni ambassador without that experience. Since Australia, I became more open minded, and more eager to learn about other cultures. I love traveling, and take the most from every experience. I also like to build strong connections with other people, and it would be amazing to talk to other students about my experiences, influence them, and as an Italian student, to share my culture and let them know that going study abroad is a
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Diana Hajali
Alumni Ambassador

1. How has study abroad shaped you?
My study abroad experience made me a more well-rounded, independent, and understanding individual. It sharpened some of my existing skills, like my French, adaptability, and teamwork, as well as gave me brand new skills, such as independence and confidence. Studying abroad also guided my future educational and professional career paths. I enjoyed learning French and studying abroad so much that I decided to minor in French and pursue a graduate degree in international affairs. Now, in my role as an international trade specialist at the U.S. Department of Commerce, I not only get to occasionally use my French language skills but, more importantly, all the other skills that CEA's program allowed me to gain. In working with interagency colleagues, local staff abroad, or foreign government officials, I am able to be understanding, open-minded, and respectful. In working on my own sets of projects and giving presentations to coworkers across the government, I am confident, free to create, and grateful. I truly do not think I would have the outlook I have on life right now without my study abroad experience, and I have CEA to thank for that. I am now excited and ready to take the next step and serve as an Alumni Ambassador to be that beacon of light for others.

2. What did you enjoy most about studying abroad?
I most enjoyed how immersive my study abroad experience was. After only a week in my host country, I felt like a local rather than a visiting American student. From staying in an international student residence hall to taking public transportation to speaking French in every establishment I went into, it truly felt like I was a local and like I belonged there. This helped me feel more comfortable and at ease being in a new country, and gave me the confidence to use my French more, make local friends, and travel alone across the country. In turn, being able to immerse myself in the culture gave me newfound skills of adaptability, understanding, open-mindedness, and independence that I ended up carrying with me throughout the rest of college, through graduate school, and that I carry currently in my professional career. I believe CEA's program was pivotal in allowing me to immerse myself as much as I did, due to most French teachers at the university speaking only in French, as well as CEA's advisors, who provided us with cultural lessons, often from locals themselves, and excursions to other parts of the country.

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Erin Diacik
Alumni Ambassador
1. What was your favorite course abroad?
My favorite course I took abroad was Cultural Values and Stereotypes: Spain and the U.S. This course was taught by my Academic Director, Mary Alice Soriero, at our CEA center in Sevilla. We learned about cultural values of the U.S. and Spain, as well as gaining valuable intercultural communication skills. It was so meaningful to compare the differences in the culture that is comfortable to me, and the culture that is brand new and shocking to me. Learning about these differences made a huge impact on reflecting about my experiences abroad. When I travelled, I found myself using what I learned in class to guide my behavior and observations I made about countries. My favorite part of the course was actually our final exam project, which we completed remotely at home. We were introduced to the capstone project on the first day of class, where we would create a video filled with our memorable experiences and lessons learned abroad. I met some lifelong friends in this class, and at the end of the semester, it was so meaningful and emotional to watch videos of my friends and classmate’s growth and deep understanding of Spanish culture, all while honoring our beautiful city.

2. How has your study abroad experience shaped you?
Despite going abroad in the midst of one of the most challenging times our nation has ever experienced, I learned so many valuable lessons that I can apply to my future. I made the decision to study abroad solo, meaning I did not travel with any friends or anyone I knew. I also made the decision to travel somewhere where I had never learned a day of the language. This became a huge factor in shaping me today. I learned that I should never be scared about new opportunities, because I will have or find the support I need to make it successful. Although my experience was cut short, my time abroad in Spain gave me confidence that I will able to carry for the rest of my life. In January, I knew a handful of Spanish phrases. But in March, I was able to confidently engage in real conversations with my host dad. Studying in a place where English was rarely heard was overwhelming and scary at times, but one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had. Studying abroad taught me to make the most out of every moment, because you never know when it could be taken away from you.
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Kaylea Focia
Alumni Ambassador

1. What were your favorite classes while abroad?
While abroad I was able to take 2 classes and a seminar, all of which I loved. However, I think that my favorite course was the class I took in Seville, Spain. This class was the culture of food and wine in Spain, which just by the title alone is very intriguing. Not only was this class completely in Spanish so I was able to learn the language but I was also able to learn the history of the country of Spain and how the food came to be. In this class we were able to learn in the classroom, go on excursions outside of the classroom, and attend tasting sessions in and outside the classroom. There is something special about this class and learning while also experiencing what you are learning about that not only helps you understand the material more but also connect with what you are learning about. This and many other reasons I could go on and on about is the reason that the culture of food and wine was my favorite class taken in Spain.

2. What did you enjoy most about studying abroad?
The one thing that I enjoyed about the CEA study abroad experience that I enjoyed the most was how the entire program felt like a family. I never thought I would get as close to all the staff and the other students in the program as I did, and I loved it and cannot wait to reconnect with everyone in the future. The classes at the CEA center and the many excursions and extra activities that CEA provided with the program I believe are what not only allowed us to bond as a group but also to bond with the country and the culture we were living within.

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Maddie Robbins
Alumni Ambassador

1. How has study abroad shaped you?
My study abroad experience has impacted my prospect of life the most. Prior to the program, I felt that life was very concrete, that I am making a one-way path for myself and sometimes I felt “stuck”. However, studying abroad with CEA has shown me that life-changing experiences are not too far away. I’ve come to find myself no longer feeling powerless with my life’s path, and though I can’t control things like the COVID-19 restrictions, I’ve learned to navigate and choose my life path, regardless of the circumstances.

2. What did you enjoy most about studying abroad?
It would be a lie if I didn’t say I enjoyed the authentic French cuisine the most… But food tastes better when you’re with your friends! I am incredibly thankful for the connections I was able to make due to the nature of the CEA program. I was able to meet many students from my home university that share the same passion as I do (which have blossomed life-long friendships), as well as international students that I’ve stayed in contact with. Outside of school, the immersion into the culture gave me the opportunity to connect with others locally. I’ll never forget the kindness of our downstairs neighbor Bruno, the owner of Mille et Une Quilles, who I could depend on for directions, protecting our mail, and great wine recommendations!

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Noemi Cerritos Gatto
Alumni Ambassador

1. Tell us what the local culture was like in your host city.
My experience with the local culture in Barcelona was immersive. I chose to live with a host family and I truly believe that is what made my experience. Learning and taking classes was wonderful but getting to spend time with my host family and listen to all the knowledge and experiences they shared with me is something I will never forget. Another part of experiencing Catalan and Spanish culture is through food. Living with a host family enabled me to try all sorts of Spanish and Catalan cuisine. While this was circumstantial, I also made the effort to explore a new part of the city any chance I got. After class, my friends and I would walk around and try to find a place we had never been before. I would also try to navigate a new way home each week. Doing this allowed me to see so much of the city I would not have seen otherwise.

2. How has study abroad shaped you?
My study abroad experience confirmed that I want to travel and work in diplomacy as a career. I was unsure going in the previous semester if I wanted to continue studying psychology. Spending time in another country and learning about other people solidified my desire to work in the international relations field. I realized I wanted to finish my degree in psychology and then hone my studies to help others through diplomacy. Spending time in Spain contributed to me confirming this is what I want to do for a career.

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Tiffany Zahn
Alumni Ambassador

1. Tell us what the local culture was like in your host city.
The local culture in Madrid was unlike the culture in Alabama in every way and I absolutely loved it. My favorite quote that I heard was that Spaniards “work to live, not live to work” and I took that to heart. In the restaurants you seat yourself and have to flag down the waitstaff, which is one of my favorite parts about the dining culture because you don’t have someone walking up to you asking questions when, coincidentally, you just put food in your mouth. The eating times are also so different and much later than I was used to, but that meant that the city was alive during all times of the day. There were young children running and gleefully shouting through the streets at midnight, and the older citizens shuffling by on their way home as young adults headed to the clubs to dance the night away. The culture in Spain is so vibrant and full of life that as one walks through the lit streets, you can’t help but look around and smile as you observe the joy and excitement on everyone’s face.

2. Why have you decided to become an Alumni Ambassador?
The program CEA gave me an amazing opportunity to study abroad when I didn’t know if it would be possible or not. My home institution had cancelled the study abroad program twice on me and I felt very hopeless of ever fulfilling my abroad dreams. However, I found CEA and they were everything I could have asked for in a study abroad program. They had activities, the perfect courses for me to finish my minor, and they were so kind and helpful during the application process. I would love to be an ambassador so that I can talk about the wonderful experience of study abroad and the great way that CEA caters their schedule to the students and helps them in any way. I would also love to motivate students with disabilities like me to go out, travel, and see the world as everyone else does. Disabilities can hold so many people back, but I want to emphasize that, especially with CEA, travel and new experiences are possible.

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