Three years ago, I sat in the exact spot where I sit now, writing this letter, at the University of Wyoming’s Education Abroad Office asking about study abroad in Spain. I had no idea what I wanted to do – only that I wanted to visit the place of my childhood dreams to improve my Spanish literacy. Growing up in Wyoming, I didn’t have much opportunity for travel outside of my state, let alone the country. Three years ago, I felt anxious and excited when I chose to study in Salamanca, Spain with AIFS without knowing that the tremendous effect of studying abroad would echo through my past, present, and future.
I had a perfectly planned picture of study abroad before leaving the country: 1) leave Wyoming; 2) live in Spain; 3) learn Spanish; 4) return home to teach Spanish. However, that plan was severely altered when I came home and applied for the AIFS Alumni Ambassador program. I knew that I wanted to spread the word about study abroad on the University of Wyoming’s campus; so, when I learned that I could apply for this competitive program after returning home, I took the chance and sent my resume to AIFS in Connecticut.
Since then, I have completed the program twice, helped jumpstart an ambassador program at my home university, gained a student internship at my university’s Education Abroad Office, won a grant to attend a professional conference on Education Abroad, and applied for a full-time position as an Education Abroad advisor. I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today without AIFS. Through the AIFS Alumni Ambassador program, I have gained valuable skills to carry into my professional career and have learned how to dive into the field of Education Abroad. Further than that, though, I have made lifelong friends, connections, and experiences which I will always treasure.
As my second, and final, year in the Alumni Ambassador program comes to an end, I genuinely want to thank AIFS for lifting me up and helping me achieve my fullest potential. Without the fabulous support of your study abroad program and staff across the country, I would not be in the position that I am in today. You helped a nervous student break out of her shell and grow into a confident young professional through cross-cultural experiences, international exchanges, and professional development. Thank you for everything.
Kaitlyn Emerson, University of Wyoming
AIFS Alumni Ambassador, August 2017 – May 2019