We caught up with AIFS alum, Maggie Collett, who studied abroad with AIFS in Salzburg, Austria back in the Spring of 2013. She gave us the scoop on how her international education experience made an impact on her post-grad plans, her decision to move to Ireland, and how studying abroad gave her lifelong friendships. We’re looking at you, “Austria Girls.”
How has your study abroad experience impacted your educational goals and career?
Studying abroad made all the difference in the world for me! Before I studied abroad, I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer. Studying abroad opened my eyes to the big picture and made me realize I don’t want to sit behind a computer screen for the rest of my life.
I went on to get a Master’s in Leadership paired with a graduate fellowship in my school’s Student Life department. I wrote my thesis about how studying abroad can change a student’s career goals! I also designed a packet as part of my Master’s that helps study abroad students advertise their experience on their resume.
After I graduated with my Master’s, I planned on looking for a job in either a student life or study abroad department on a college campus, but traveling was once again tugging at my heartstrings and I ended up moving to Ireland on a working holiday visa instead! Ironically, now that I’m here in Ireland, I’m working on the local college campus.
How has your study abroad experience impacted other areas of your life?
Studying abroad planted a wanderlust seed that will never go away. I truly think that as long as I have a round-trip ticket booked, I won’t be happy because it means I have to go home eventually. Moving to Ireland with a one-way ticket was a dream come true! But unfortunately the working holiday is only a year-long visa and I have to return to the states in May 2018. Figuring out other ways to move abroad, though, has totally consumed my life! Who knows what’s next?! Maybe another working holiday visa, maybe teaching English…
Studying abroad also broadened my horizons tenfold. I never would have been so brave to move to Ireland before studying abroad. And now that I’m here, I hang out with people from all over the world – Brazil, France, Italy, Ireland… the list goes on! I never would have had the mindset to try and speak to someone who was from a different country before studying abroad.
Have you been back to your study abroad location since your time abroad?
Not yet. 🙁 I plan to go back in December to see the Christmas markets. I know that it will be different because my AIFS crew won’t be there with me, but I am positive that I’ll still be able to navigate the streets with my eyes closed!
Are you still in contact with other students or anyone you met during your time abroad?
YES! I talk to my AIFS friends every single day. We have a group chat and even though we’re scattered all over the country, we talk every day and try to see each other as much as possible. We’ve celebrated New Years together, been there for each others’ weddings, and supported each other as we all jet-set off across the globe. One of my AIFS friends is even currently doing a working holiday visa just like me, but in New Zealand! Our friends and families all know who we’re talking about when we say “The Austria Girls.”
Are there any activities or traditions from your time abroad that you have continued back in the US?
I always acknowledge May Day now! It was a big celebration in Austria.
What are your top destinations for future travel?
Any advice for students who are considering studying abroad?
JUST GO! It’s scary and unknown, but it is so worth it in the end. It will reward you for the rest of your life with an endless curiosity and insatiable case of wanderlust!
Any advice for recently returned study abroad students?
Take it one day at a time. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you have a bad day. Allow yourself those moments of sadness and feel free to flip through your Facebook albums reminiscing about your time abroad – but don’t forget to enjoy your time back home, as well. Chances are you missed it while you were gone! Also, it helps fill the hole a little bit if you can plan a trip to see your AIFS crew or even plan your next international adventure.
Interested in having a life-changing semester like Maggie? Learn more about how you can study abroad in Salzburg, Austria.