Stacey Abella: A Journey Through Europe and a Journey Within

ies abroad logo
IES Abroad
August 21, 2023
Alumni Spotlight Header
Alumni, Entrepreneur and Book Writer

Stacey Abella IES Abroad Freiburg '97 graduated from Wittenburg University and then The Thunderbird School of Global Management. After many years in corporate, she finally uncovered her journals form her time abroad and had an epiphany. Now not only has she published her journal and takeaways from her time abroad but also has her own company to inspire others to find clarity. Check out her book and website.  

IES Abroad: As an undergraduate at the Wittenberg University, what inspired you to study abroad in Freiburg, Germany? Was this your first time traveling abroad?

Stacey Abella (SA): I first became fascinated with Germany when I attended Wittenberg University. Our sister city, Lutherstadt Wittenberg [Germany], was offering a custom-designed, six-week summer program, exclusively for Wittenberg University students. The program, which I took between my freshman and sophomore year, was a great introduction to studying abroad.
After that summer, my friend Heather (Ransom) Bodle (who also went on the Lutherstadt Wittenberg program) and I decided to sign up together for our junior year abroad. We wanted to go to a different part of Germany and experience university life there. The IES Abroad program provided just the opportunity we sought: administrative and logistics support, classes that could translate easily into a U.S. transcript, placement in student housing with local students, and the chance to take classes at the local university, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität.

IES Abroad: What inspired you to write your book Secrets from My Travel Diaries?

SA: Studying abroad was a pivotal time in my life. It meant taking that first step out on my own, prior to graduating that following year. I journaled throughout my study abroad. Writing helped me make sense of all that I was experiencing – and even then, I dreamed that someday I would turn it into a book.

In late 2021 I left corporate America to work full-time on my coaching business. Shortly thereafter, I felt a stirring to seek out my diaries again. Reconnecting with my study abroad experiences reignited an entirely new adventure, which ultimately became Secrets From My Travel Diaries: How One Burnt Out Executive Reignited the Adventurer Within.

“These months have brought a series of tiny moments that have altered my way of seeing things forever.”
Secrets From My Travel Diaries

IES Abroad: Your book reads as a travel diary during your time studying and Freiburg, Germany, among other adventures. It looks like studying abroad and travelling had a profound impact on you. What are some things you learned about yourself during your time abroad?

SA: In reading the diary entries, I was struck by the funny, nonchalant way in which I characterized the things that happened, with German words intermixed. My aim in writing the book was to preserve the feel of the fragmented, handwritten entries –  written on trains and after late nights at dance clubs –  and weave them into stories with life lessons.

Studying and traveling has had a profound impact on my life. On the plane to Freiburg to study abroad, I wrote: “At 21, I’m embarking on a journey to figure out who I am...” I think of my study abroad experience as both an external and internal journey. Immersing myself in another culture allowed me to become an observer of my own culture and helped me understand myself in a new way.

It also stretched me to find out what I was truly capable of. When you study abroad, how much you get out of the experience is entirely up to you. I found that incredibly empowering and fully embraced the experience!

“With every opportunity that comes, part of me is saying, ‘Go for it!’ And the part of me that’s still not so sure is speaking so softly now, I can barely even hear that voice anymore.”
Secrets From My Travel Diaries

IES Abroad:  You found your journal from your time abroad after many years and it became a catalyst to blogging and changing your career from corporate to consulting. What is the importance of journaling or blogging for those who are currently abroad or thinking about going abroad?

SA: (Technically, I started blogging in 2019 and founded my consulting business in 2020. I began to write Secrets From My Travel Diaries in late 2021, after leaving my corporate career.) In my consulting business, I’ve developed a clarity method to help my clients who are making a career or life transition, develop and execute a new vision for their lives. Reflection is a key component in the method I have developed. I’ve found that journaling and blogging bring clarity about who you are, what you’re experiencing, and why. And once you have clarity, the solutions to your problems and where to go next tend to the surface on their own –without having to go searching for them.

Your study abroad experience will go by so fast. Take the opportunity to journal and blog about what the experience means to you. And if you choose to seek out your journals years later, like I did, you’ll see that you’ve captured a time in history that’s like no other, past or future.
Without realizing it at the time, my diaries captured an entirely different way of life that no longer exists today – a world of paper maps, pay phones, cassette tapes, and constant pre-Euro currency conversions. I wonder how life today will compare to 25 years from now...?

“Sometimes everything I’ve experienced still seems like a dream. Yet that is me in the pictures, standing in front of a windmill in Amsterdam or the Colosseum in Rome. Only my diaries make it feel a little more real.”
Secrets From My Travel Diaries

IES Abroad: What advice would you give students considering studying abroad or interning abroad?

SA:  Just do it! You end up regretting the things you didn’t do more than the things you did. (Yes, that saying is true).

Start planning early, with your class schedule and your finances. When you are determined and have a goal in mind, there is always a way! When I was preparing to study abroad, I loaded up on classes in my major so that I could take more electives while abroad. To pay for our Eurail passes, my friend Heather and I washed dishes at our sorority house.
Go into the experience with an open mind. Set the intention to learn, grow, and create the experience you want. The chance to be a student abroad may never come again!

“It’s hard to believe I'm living in a foreign country, in a life that feels very normal now. When I bought my Eurail pass, I couldn’t possibly grasp how those trains would take me to the places that I'd only dreamed of. And I didn't know how much going to all those places would change me... I guess, no matter what, I’ll always know that somewhere out there, wherever we may end up, there are others who share the same stories, the same laughter, and the same experiences that I do.”
Secrets From My Travel Diaries

Learn more about studying abroad in Freiburg, and check out all of our Alumni Spotlights and Alum of the Month profiles to see real examples of how study abroad changed the lives and careers of our past students.

Are you an alum? Make sure to join our Facebook or LinkedIn groups so you can connect with other Alumni or check out next year's Freiburg Alumni Reunion Weekend

IES Abroad News

Read More

IES Abroad regularly publishes news stories, articles, student stories, and other helpful study abroad content. Stay up to date on the latest from IES Abroad by reading our recent posts.

View All IES Abroad News