Study Abroad can introduce a variety of new experiences: new cultures, new classrooms, and sometimes, even a new career trajectory. Don’t believe us? Meet our 2019 IES Abroad Ambassadors of the Year, Collin Thomas (Santiago—Spring 2017 | Hope College) and Samekh Harris Reed (Tokyo—Spring 2017 | University of Rochester), who each prove that study abroad can lead to new opportunities.
Collin and Samekh are clear examples of IES Abroad Ambassadors, or recent study abroad alumni, who go the extra mile to ensure that students on their campuses are aware of the benefits that study abroad can provide.
Meet Collin and Samekh and learn more about their motivations to make study abroad a reality for students:
Collin Thomas (He/Him/His) | IES Abroad Santiago | Hope College
"Studying abroad changed the trajectory of my life. The values, practices, and beliefs that I had internalized and endorsed were ‘put on notice’."
An alumnus of the IES Abroad Santiago – Politics, Social Justice & Language Program, Collin experienced both the beauty and challenges of studying abroad firsthand. Along with his studies, Collin completed an internship with Educación Popular en Salud (EPES) where he was able to foster deep relationships with the community of Santiago.
When reflecting on his experience, Collin writes, “Through my time as an intern at Educación Popular en Salud, I brought innovative qualities to their work by playing the role of the stranger. As a result, the conversation and connections that I crafted allowed me to recognize my vocation. I learned that I flourish through deep relationships with others where I can understand their struggles and empower them.”
With this newfound passion for connection, Collin participated in numerous Ambassador activities on Hope College’s campus to share the transformative nature of study abroad with his peers. Highlights of Collin’s Ambassador activities include presenting to first-generation college students and first-year seminars, working closely with both his study abroad office as well as Hope College’s Spanish department. Collin expanded his outreach by visiting several classrooms and residence halls as well.
“Passion speaks for itself. The warm goosebumps that occur when listening to someone describe their passion are ecstasy. I am zealous about the transformative kaleidoscope of culture that grows from studying abroad.”
This May, Collin will receive his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Spanish from Hope College.
As a direct result of Collin’s experience in Santiago, Collin will begin his Masters of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary, in the hopes of pursuing a PhD in Sociology or Religion after.
Read what Collin has to say about how transformative studying abroad was for him.
Samekh Harris Reed (They/Them/Theirs) | IES Abroad Tokyo | University of Rochester
"Studying abroad is terrifying but in a beautiful way. Even the thought of leaving home to travel to a country you have never been to before can make individuals nervous and hesitant, but where is the fun if you do not at least try to broaden your horizons?"
An alum of the IES Abroad Tokyo – Language and Culture program, Samekh used their role as an Ambassador to support students during predeparture as well as during re-entry.
Serving as a beacon of support, Samekh aimed to use their identities to increase awareness of study abroad to their peers. Samekh writes, “I spoke about all my identities and the intersectionalities of them…I found others who longed to go abroad but did not know how or were wary about traveling. In them I saw myself; someone who was eager to go but hesitant to leave their known comfort and travel to the unknown.”
To make study abroad accessible, Samekh worked with several on-campus partners to spread knowledge and awareness. Highlights of Samekh’s Ambassador involvements include organizing a study abroad panel sponsored by six campus departments and organizations, hosting pre-departure sessions regarding LGTBQ+ safety abroad, and most recently, contributing to the IES Abroad World of Difference Campaign.
In light of their experience as an Ambassador, Sam writes, “The unknown is intimidating, but no person has to go through the adventure alone. This is what I believe ambassadors are for: to offer a helping hand, to give that little nudge forward, and to pull the curtains back to say, “See? There’s nothing to be afraid of.” The first step to a journey is that, the first step. All it is is a leap of faith.”
Samekh received their Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of Rochester and is currently pursuing a degree in Higher Education/Student Affairs Administration through the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester. Upon completion of their master’s degree, Sam plans to go into the Education Abroad field as an advisor or student affairs coordinator.
Read what Sam has to say about common misconceptions tied to studying abroad in Tokyo.
Congratulations Collin and Samekh!
Our IES Abroad Ambassadors are here to help. Contact an IES Abroad Ambassador to learn more about a program or a location.