Advocating For International Education

Graduation is right around the corner and I can’t believe it’s been a year and half since I studied abroad in Paris, France with Academic Programs International (API). I still hold fresh memories of those incredible days in Paris, but what has really helped to incorporate my French experience into part of the everyday life is my job as an API Campus Advocate.

Advocating for international education on campus may at first sound like a boring job characterized by slogan shouting and pamphlet delivering. In reality, though, the job has been nothing but a load of fun for me. Looking back, I still remember how hard it was to transition from France to the U.S. upon my return from study abroad. My first semester back was filled with nostalgia for the lovely Parisian weather, sumptuous French food and abundant cultural activities open for participation on a daily basis. Needless to say, leaving those behind to return to a snow-capped liberal arts college in rural New Hampshire was a hard departure in every sense possible. Saying goodbye to friends I had made in France was difficult but coming back to a community where few share the same experience as mine was harder. It was harder because my biggest fear of coming back was to lose that experience, to have it reduced to an insignificant event in my life and to lock it away at the back of mind.

At a time of identity crisis and mounting fear, the API Campus Advocate program opened up an opportunity for me to relive my study abroad experience. Talking about the classes I took, the people I met, the places I travelled within France and throughout Europe in class presentations, study abroad events and diversity festivals not only helped me transition back to the campus culture but also earned me a job as a Study Abroad Ambassador in my college. Nonetheless, the most rewarding aspect of this experience lies in the many opportunities I’ve been given to revisit French culture.

One of the most memorable study abroad events I hosted as a Campus Advocate took place in the Beginners’ French Language and Culture class. After presenting to the class about the multiple channels students can get funded to either study, intern, teach or volunteer in France, we did a Jeopardy game in French to test out how students have absorbed the information. The class ended on a joyous note and the winner received French chocolates and books – fitting gifts that I was able to purchase with the Campus Advocate fund from API. Although taking place in a college setting, hosting events such as this has taught me the ins and outs of public speaking, marketing and event planning. Yet for all this fun, nothing compares to actually hearing from a student after the presentations about his or her plan to study in Provence next fall or teach abroad in Paris after graduation.

As I graduate and embark on another journey, it is amazing to see how such a small position has transformed me from an introvert who shies away from any chance to speak in public to a confident professional who can speak eloquently in front of a crowd. I’d never thought such things were possible, but I guess this is just the magic of studying abroad.

Vicky Huang is a student at Colby-Sawyer College and studied abroad with API in Paris, France. Vicky is currently serving as an API Campus Advocate

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