Study Abroad Advice from Ambassador Kimberly Webber: How Study Abroad Affects You, How to Make Friends Abroad & Advice for Students Returning Home

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Kiah Zellner-Smith
July 29, 2016

Kimberly Webber wears many hats: she’s a newly minted graduate of the University of Puget Sound’s Business Leadership Program, an alumna of our IES Abroad European Union Program from Spring 2015, a former video blogger for IES Abroad, and now, one of our July 2016 Ambassadors of the Month.

One of the coolest things Kimberly has done as an IES Abroad Ambassador has been to create a student ambassador program within her University’s study abroad office…talk about having initiative!

IES Abroad: What does study abroad mean to you?

KW: Out of thousands of schools in and out of the United States, you chose one (or two or three) of them to be your home for a few years. But for the brief time you decide to study abroad, you are deciding to leave the normalcy of your home school and experience another place. Studying abroad is acquainting yourself with something outside of the norm. After that, everyone's study abroad experience differs.

IES Abroad: How did you meet local students while abroad?

KW: Studying abroad and traveling so often with 80+ peers means that making non-American friends requires more personal effort. Most of the local friends we made were fellow students living in our apartment complexes who frequented the same student bars. Some of them wanted to practice English more, too, so it was a win-win. There is always at least the most basic common ground when you can ask about the literal translation of language-specific euphemisms.

IES Abroad: How has an element of your identity affected or been affected by your study abroad experience?

KW: I abstain from drinking. Not only did I study abroad in Europe, which has a lower legal drinking age, but I studied abroad in Germany, the beer capital of the world. That was not only challenging from a social aspect, but also from a cultural appreciation aspect. Something that bummed me out is that I didn't get to fully experience all Germany had to offer. That part almost had me evading my convictions a few times. I went with my friends to bars and clubs and it definitely got easier over time. I held my convictions with support from friends, but it was a personal challenge when I studied abroad.

IES Abroad: What would tell someone who’s on the fence about studying abroad?

KW: If you can afford it, go. If there's a small monetary difference, make a GoFundMe, or apply for one more scholarship and go. Studying abroad will open your eyes to the way you've been living and it may spark interests that you've never had before. I never appreciated or cared for politics until I studied the EU, in the EU, around EU citizens. UK citizens just voted to leave the European Union, and I'm thousands of miles away at a technology-deficient summer camp in Texas, and I still found ways to educate others on the motives behind and effects of Brexit.

IES Abroad: What one piece of advice would you share to those who are returning home from study abroad?

KW: When you return home, avoid thinking that everything has returned to normal. It hasn't. You are not the same and the environment around you will not feel the same. Don't allow yourself to fit back in the same box you occupied before you left, pretending like a life-altering experience didn't happen.

IES Abroad: What are your short-term plans?

KW: I’m supremely passionate about my faith, people, and telling stories. The greatest opportunity I ever had was to be a video blogger and ignite my passion for visual marketing and story-telling. My short term plans are to finish my "story internship" with Pine Cove ministries then move to Ireland for a year in September 2016!

Thanks, Kimberly!

The IES Abroad Ambassador Program connects our future students with our past students. If you’re interested in learning more about our Ambassador Program or have a question for a past IES Abroad student, visit our IES Abroad Ambassadors page.  

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Kiah Zellner-Smith

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