Why I went: My freshman year, I watched the film "Hotel Rwanda" as part of the United Nations Student Alliance. It dealt with the genocide in Rwanda. The fact that such an atrocity took place while I was alive and I knew nothing of it was the catalyst for studying in Tanzania, where I was able to observe the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
After that first program, I was hooked. I went to the Study Abroad office expressing interest in spending my junior year abroad. My study abroad adviser helped coordinate back-to-back programs in Oxford and Prague, where I was able to study colonization and democratization movements, respectively.
I thought it would be an opportunity for me to learn about a different country, but I learned just as much about myself.
Thinking beyond America: We spend much of our adolescence being taught who we are as Americans and what that means in terms of our responsibility to our country. Study abroad introduced me to a broader layer of citizenship, invoking a sense of responsibility to a global citizenry.
I changed my intended major to anthropology and international studies. About half of my degree program took place abroad. I’m just so appreciative of UB — other universities don’t make it as easy to integrate education abroad into students’ degrees.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, going to Harvard: I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro at 19, visited 22 countries before my 22nd birthday and took classes at Oxford University.
I come from a blue-collar family, and these experiences gave me the confidence to say, "You know, I’m going to do my master’s at Harvard." I got into the international education policy program and graduated summa cum laude in 2011.
The State Department and beyond: When I came back from studying abroad, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else but helping other students experience the world. After Harvard, I held a short-term assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Swaziland, promoting exchanges between students from Swaziland and the U.S.
Now, I coordinate African, Middle Eastern and French study abroad programs at the University of South Florida.