Texas A&M University
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.