We caught up with AIFS alum, Christie Koness, who had a summer study abroad experience with AIFS in Salamanca, Spain back in 2008. Check out her international education experience helped pave the way for her current career and how it impacted many other areas of her life.
How has your study abroad experience impacted your educational goals and career?
Studying abroad changed everything for me. I probably would have never had the courage or even desire to volunteer teach abroad after college, which then helped land me at the job I have today: helping people get TEFL certified and teach English abroad themselves. My life has become focused around global education and travel all because of study abroad.
How has your study abroad experience impacted other areas of your life?
It showed me that I could be independent. I could show up in a foreign country not knowing anyone, the culture and barely the language and end up loving my life there. It taught me to be adaptable, empathetic, open-minded, and to be fearless which has transferred into my job, relationships, life choices, and more.
Have you been back to your study abroad location since your time abroad?
Yes! In 2016, I took my husband back to Spain and we took the train to Salamanca from Madrid for the day. I was able to find my homestay, favorite coffee shop, favorite tapas bar, and university all without help or a map. It was so incredible to visit the place it all started.
Are you still in contact with other students or anyone you met during your time abroad?
Not as much as I would have liked in the past few years, although I did meet up with a few of my friends when they have passed through Chicago. We keep in touch a little through social media.
Are there any activities or traditions from your time abroad that you have continued back in the US?
I was in Spain when they won the Euro Cup in 2008 so ever since, I have been a Spanish Football fan! I also love making tapas from time to time. I wish I could have brought back daily siestas.
What are your top destinations for future travel?
Tanzania, Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt.
Any advice for students who are considering studying abroad?
You never know what experience can shape and change your future. Maybe study abroad won’t be as impactful as it was for someone else as it was for me, but I have never met one person who regretted their time abroad. Don’t let things like relationships, money or time away from your friends for one semester (or year) stop you from having the experience of a lifetime!
Any advice for recently returned study abroad students?
Try to embrace being home. Use your experience to open others minds and encourage others to travel and see the world.
Anything else you want to add?
Thank you to AIFS for offering me the opportunity to finish my Spanish language credits abroad and really have an amazing experience. I credit so much of how I have lived my life in the past 10 years to my experiences abroad.