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Center for International Programs

Student Ambassadors

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Center for International Programs

Center for International Programs
West Chester University
320 Mitchell Hall
675 S. Church Street
West Chester, PA 19383

Phone: 610-436-3515
Fax: 610-436-3426

Office Hours:
Monday - Friday, 8:00am - 4:30pm

International Student Advising:
Make an appointment.
Limited availability for walk-ins.

Study Abroad Advising:
Make an appointment.
Limited availability for walk-ins.

Student Ambassadors

Liz Bishop

image of Liz Bishop
Major: Finance
Program: Student Leadership Spring Break in Italy

My experience abroad was unforgettable and addicting! Just being in Italy and seeing what a foreign country looks like was amazing. I had never experienced what it felt like for something to actually take your breath away until I turned a corner and saw the Basilica di Santa Maria for the first time. I loved all the museums and guided tours, but I also really enjoyed being able to navigate around Rome and Florence and discovering parks, bakeries and cafes on our own. After spending just one week in Rome and Florence, I am constantly thinking about where I can travel next! My experience abroad has helped me achieve numerous goals thus far, especially in interviews. My cultural immersion trip is listed on my resume, and it always catches interviewers' attention. I am able to explain my experience adapting to a different culture and navigating around a foreign country, and it makes me stand out. My advice for students considering studying abroad is to DO IT! If you want to do something badly enough, there is always a way to make it happen. Being in a foreign country opens your eyes and exposes you to so many things that you would otherwise never see or do. There is no better time to travel than now. If you are considering studying abroad, definitely take advantage of these opportunities – you won't regret it!

Geneva Blaha

image of Geneva Blaha
Major: Political Science, International Relations track
Minor: Sociology
Programs: Intrax Study Abroad Holland 2009-2010, Summer in France Temple Study Abroad Program 201

I loved studying abroad, and have been lucky enough to have done it twice. The first was when I was 16 and traveled to the Netherlands and lived there for 11 months. I went to a Dutch high school, interacted with the locals on a daily basis, and by the end of my year, I had transformed from a reserved bookworm who hated getting anything wrong to someone who couldn’t care less about being wrong or sounding silly. My host family was wonderful. They treated me equally to their children and didn't let me fall back on English when I got frustrated with Dutch (even though they were all fluent in English) to provide me with a full immersion experience. You’ll find a new part of yourself while studying abroad- especially when you are learning or improving a language. There are moments when it is not easy- but it will be worth it!

My other experience was in Paris, France five years later, when I was 21. I was surrounded by other international students like myself. We had a wonderful time for six weeks completing a French academic program and living in a beautiful neighborhood with all the famous sites within walking distance. There was a lot more independence in this program, but I lost out on the language-improving benefits of living with a host family. I made some amazing friends, which I have since been in contact with. Probably the craziest thing about my time in Paris was having my friend from Holland come visit me for a weekend! It was amazing to have the two worlds overlap.

There’s no better time than college to study abroad! You aren’t tied down to any careers or huge obligations yet and there are tons of options for courses that will add to your major. It’s good to keep in mind that even though you are going to be in an exotic land, it is not a vacation and the honeymoon phase will end after a bit and you’ll remember you’re in a foreign country for the long haul, everyday life.

Sean Farrell

image of Sean Farrell
Major: Accounting
Minors: Communication Studies
Programs: Honors in Russia with Dr. Kevin Dean, Chinese Economy with Dr. Amy Li and Dr. Linda Zhu

Thus far, I have had three study abroad experiences with WCU; my freshman year I traveled to Russia and my sophomore year I studied in China, and in the summer of 2015 I went on a program, like a summer camp in Chengdu, China called "Discover SWUFE 2015". Both experiences were very different, but both were very awesome. In the spring semester of 2013 I enrolled in a seminar class, in which I learned about Russian culture and history. This preparation proved helpful while in Russia because in addition to sightseeing (St. Petersburg & Moscow), we met with officials and students of Herzen University in a two-day exchange. President Weisenstien of WCU, using his personal connection, was able to arrange such a meeting, resulting in a signed agreement that promised to foster inter-collegiate relations between the two universities in the upcoming years. In my travel to China, however, the courses were taught while abroad. The first class was a supply chain management course that was taught during the first week in Beijing, and the second was a Chinese economics course during the second week of the trip in Shanghai. This trip was interesting because in addition sightseeing (Great Wall, Forbidden City, Shanghai World Financial Center, etc.), we were able to visit multiple companies daily because of our teacher’s personal connections from when they used to live in China. I was even able to arrange a meeting with my next-door neighbor, who is in architect, while halfway around the world!

Studying abroad has helped me develop in many ways. First, it helped me to stop being hesitant with decisions and to just say yes. Now in life when I see opportunities come knocking, I make sure there is a sound reason to say no, or you can bet I’ll be taking you up on that opportunity with full-force and making the most out of it. I find myself trying to make the most out of each day and I can assure you living each day with some adventure in it is much more enjoyable. Another change I have noticed about me is that my interests have shifted from meaningless twitter feeds to now being concerned with actual news. I ask questions and do research to try and better my worldview and knowledge of current events.

My advice to students considering studying abroad would be to JUST SIGN UP!!! Honestly, I never even considered Russia until one of my classmates came up to me one day when I was studying and said, “Hey, Sean wanna come to Russia.” I believe I had just recently watched the movie ‘Yes Man’ and was feeling particularly eager to try that practice out so I simply said, “Yes!” I had no idea what I was getting myself in for that day, but after returning from Russia I knew I had become slightly addicted to traveling. China was another similar impulse decision and I can truthfully say those were the two best decisions I have ever made in my life. Attempting to explain to someone why I have enjoyed traveling so much is difficult because there are literally thousands of reasons that simply describing my trips or offering advice would not do it justice. The only way to truly know is to experience it for yourself.

Erica Gerichten

image of Erica Gerichten
Major: French
Minor: Linguistics
Programs: Hosei University Exchange Students Overseas Program, Tokyo, Japan Fall 2014 and spring 2015

Visiting Japan had been a dream of mine for years, and the opportunity I was given to study and live there was absolutely incredible. I learned so much about Japanese culture and language while studying alongside students from other countries, including China, Hungary, England, France, Thailand, and many more. Being away from home for a full year taught me to be more independent, but also unafraid to admit my faults and ask people for help. I used to be shy and nervous in public but now consider myself to be more outgoing and willing to take advantage of more activities and opportunities. As someone who has never traveled extensively before my time abroad, I also learned how to coordinate trips either alone or with small groups of people. I was able to see much more of Japan than just the city of Tokyo, which gave me a better appreciation for the variances in culture across the country.

Studying abroad sparked my interest in other cultures and ultimately affirmed my decision to switch to a language major. Even though English is used widely throughout Japan, I was able to immerse myself in the Japanese language and connect with it more intimately than I had in an American classroom. I developed better studying habits and learned about how world languages reflect cross-cultural relationships. I hope to return to Japan again someday and also travel to many other countries.

Kaitlin Lederer

image of Kaitlin Lederer
Major: Secondary Education
Minor: Spanish
Program: American College of Norway Fall Semester

Norway has always been a part of my life. My mother is from Norway and my extended family lives there. Having the opportunity to study in Norway was important to me because it would help me explore my identity, and this familiar but far-away country on my own terms. Before the semester began, friends and classmates were puzzled when they heard I was going to have my study-abroad experience in Norway. Most of them couldn’t place the country on a map, but this didn’t stop me from booking my flight. During the five months I spent in Norway, I explore the country, travelled throughout Europe, and made amazing friends along the way. The intimate environment that the American College of Norway in Moss has allows the students to form incredibly close-knit relationships. My time abroad was enhanced by a new emotional understanding of friendship and sense of self. The bond I felt with my friends then is just as strong now, even though we’re thousands of miles apart.

Before my semester abroad, I always considered myself to be shy and awkward. Studying abroad was an opportunity to have a fresh start. It allowed me to be the outgoing person that I’ve always (quietly) wanted to be. Although I typically had travel companions, figuring out the logistics of traveling, using maps instead of a smartphone and navigating transportation, helped me gain a new sense of independence. I had to resourceful in situations in which I felt lost, didn’t understand the language spoken, or couldn’t decipher street signs. This confidence translated to my academic path as well - studying abroad unveiled new paths for my future and career path. Prior to this experience, I was so set on what I wanted to do after graduation and where I wanted to be. Now, I am determined to work in a new state or country. As an education major, it has become increasingly important to me to expose myself to new cultures, languages, and teaching methods.

If you’re considering going abroad, don’t just consider it - do it! Feeling hesitant or nervous is to be expected, but challenge yourself to get to the good part. Leaving your comfort zone might be daunting at first, but learning and exploring is what it’s all about. Go on a program without your friends. Try to say yes as often as possible – to going out with your roommates, spending a weekend in a different city or country, tasting food you’ve never of before. Bring a camera everywhere you go, but not always a smartphone – it will keep you from embracing your new surroundings. Those text messages can wait while you’re on a hike in the mountains or in a museum. Begin your experience with an open mind. I didn’t know just what to expect – but I ended p more than happily surprised. The experience is what you make of it, and I bet you’ll be happy you decided to tap into a new part of yourself by living in the moment.

Alexis Markiewicz

image of Alexis Markiewicz
Major: Spanish
Minor: Latin American and Latino Studies

I can remember quite clearly the many hours I spent researching and investigating different study abroad programs after being accepted into West Chester. I knew that studying abroad was an experience I was determined to have before I graduated! It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I sought out my Spanish professor, Marcos Campillo, with questions about the many faculty led study abroad programs offered through West Chester. That was when I learned about his program taking place the following summer, in Rosario Argentina! Needless to say, I signed up for the program bought my plane ticket soon after!

Argentina was all that I’d dreamed it would be! I had such an amazing first study abroad experience there. Before Argentina, I had never traveled outside of the United States and couldn’t believe all that I was missing out on! All of the amazing food, languages, and people are things I am so grateful for having encountered. I was able to form close friendships with both my host family as well as other students I met from Rosario. Studying abroad offered me the opportunities to both use and expand upon my language skills as well the opportunities to grow as a more independent person. I would not trade my study abroad experiences for the world!

My advice for any student considering studying abroad is that there is most certainly a program out there for you, all you need to do is find it! Studying abroad for the first time can be scary, but with all the support and advice available to you here at West Chester you will not regret it! Keep an open mind, find your trip, and take it!

Ashley Shirk

image of Ashley Shirk
Major: Communicative Sciences & Disorders
Program: ISA Summer Term in Galway, Ireland

I studied abroad at the National University of Ireland, Galway. In Ireland, I lived in an apartment-style student accommodation for a month in the summer with four other students. I was able to travel all over the country while I was there. Studying abroad really changed the way I view myself and the world around me. It gave me an amazing opportunity to do what I’ve always wanted to, explore. I was able to see a different culture, how their history and language tied into the country’s identity. When I left I was beyond excited but very timid, because I had never traveled much it was an experience completely out of my comfort zone. Being there changed the confidence I had in myself. This adventure showed me that I love to travel and that I am still finding who I am as a person. It gave me a fresh chance to be self-reliant and put myself out there. I met so many wonderful people while I was abroad, and I am happy to say I still stay in touch with them. I was able to be open to the experience and find the bright side on even the rainiest day (especially because it was Ireland so there were a lot of rainy days). It was a completely unbelievable and fantastic adventure that I totally encourage anyone and everyone to experience. I think my one piece of advice would be to stay in the moment. I have so many great memories of being abroad but I do not know if I would remember as much if I was worrying about what was happening at home or if I was on my phone the whole time. I only could text my family and friends when I had Wi-Fi, which you do not usually get in the middle of the Connemara countryside, so it was one way to keep me in the moment. I was able to better get to know the people around me and explore the city without my phone as a distraction. Stay open minded, embrace every opportunity, and stay as long as you can.

Julie Singer

image of Julie Singer
Majors:Middle Grades Prep and Special Education
Program: CEA- Prague Spring 2015

It’s pretty unheard of for education majors to study abroad, but when I found out I could fit it into my four and a half years without pushing back to five, I knew there was no way I could pass down the opportunity. Studying in a country with a thick language barrier and new friends and surroundings, was quite difficult at first, but I found that with time, being open to new experiences helped make me the confident and determined student and leader I am today. I gained the confidence to make new friends regardless of background, go on trips to places I had never been, and do things like mini bungee jumping and pulling all nighters to watch the sun rise over the Charles Bridge. Sometimes it’s hard for people to leave their comfort zone, leave the town they grew up in, but sometimes all you need is that extra push, to do something bigger than yourself to help realize your potential and build your confidence, and be independent; there’s no better time to do this than during college.

Keeping a blog was one of my biggest accomplishments abroad. I traveled almost every weekend and was able to put in a lot of time and effort on flights back to Prague, including every detail of my weekend trips for my family and friends at home to be updated on what I was up to. Not only did it keep them in the loop, but it is now something I can look back on in the future and have as a resource for future study abroad students and for when I’m feeling nostalgic and want to relive my time abroad. Now as a Global Ambassador for WCU’s international program, I love helping students choose the right program for them, knowing the trip they’re about to experience is going to be more than they’ll ever imagine and hope for, and definitely an experience of a lifetime. I’ll be back for you, Europe!

Brianna Swartz

image of Brianna Swartz
Major: English Writing B.A.
Minors: Italian Language and Peace and Conflict Studies Certification: Currently pursuing a Secondary Education Certification
Programs: AIFS - Richmond in Rome- Summer Session

Italy shared so many things with me: the opportunity to experience the richness and the utter completion of being in a different country, of performing unique cultural traditions, of learning new histories, of tasting authentic cuisine, and of being amidst incredible art and architecture. I met so many new and interesting people who I would have never met or been influenced by otherwise, and I am so fortunate to still be in contact with them today. I gained the confidence within myself to put my Italian language minor to the test, utilizing my skills to learn and find my way through Rome. Ultimately, I gained an insight as to who I was. As I roamed from Italy to England and Greece, I realized that traveling and learning about the many cultures of our world was something that I cherished, and I knew that I wanted it to be a part of my life in the future.

For me, studying abroad encouraged the growth of my spirit in that it refreshed my mind, pushed me to tolerate, adapt, and accept differences in culture and tradition. It inspired me to want to see more, to do more, to be more than what my previous path was leading me to be. Once I am finished at West Chester University, I hope to use the skills and knowledge that I gained from my experiences to teach English abroad. I am completely inspired and excited about going to places that I have not seen before. For all of you who are thinking about studying abroad or who are hesitant about it or who haven't even given it a thought, make the best decision of your life and take advantage of what the study abroad programs have to offer you! Sometimes it is when we are thrown into the mix of nothing familiar when we realize who we are and what we want to do with our lives. My international experiences changed the course of my life, and I know it will for you, too!

Amy Toner

image of Amy Toner
Major: Athletic Training
Program: Healthcare in the UK with Dr. Rachel Lindsey and Dr. Scott Heinerichs

My study abroad experience was all I had hoped it would be. I have always dreamed of traveling to Europe and I finally got to this past summer. I learned a lot of things that pertained to my major and had wonderful experiences.

When it comes to my personal and academic goals, my study abroad experience has helped me a lot. I strive to be more independent and traveling is a great way to do so. I was also able to learn more about my major and what sports medicine is like in England.

The best advice I can give to students who are interested in studying abroad is to do their research. There are so many opportunities for anyone in any major. I never thought that I would be able to study abroad as an athletic training major, but there are so many amazing programs. If you want to study abroad then you can make it happen.