Brittany Beene, CISabroad Alumni Ambassador since 2014, had the opportunity to attend Diversity Abroad‘s Global Student Leadership Summit in Atlanta, GA and documented the entire event for all of those who weren’t lucky enough to attend. Here are her stories, tips, and lessons. Enjoy!
Hello my fellow ambassadors! My name is Brittany Beene and I studied abroad Spring semester of 2014 in San Jose, Costa Rica. I have been an alumni ambassador since Fall 2014 and I am also a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. I had the privilege of being nominated for Diversity Abroad’s Global Student Leadership Summit and Conference in Atlanta, GA. At the Summit I attended different workshops and seminars on how we can increase the diversity and awareness of underrepresented groups within our Study Abroad programs.
The first night of the summit was absolutely amazing! I was able meet and network with so many amazing professionals. I also had the pleasure of meeting with one of CISabroad’s Executive Members, Scott Tayloe. He was extremely nice and definitely taught me a thing or two about networking. I also learned the value of college and how we need to change the structure of earning an undergraduate degree.
Tip # 1: Make yourself uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure having studied abroad we have heard this countless times right? Well, it still applies once we return from our destinations as well. When sharing how amazing our programs are, be sure to speak to people who look different than you, speak a different language, or come from an ethnic background. It’s easy to market towards the same type of people you would normally talk to, but sharing your experiences with diverse groups of people helps you to grow as an ambassador and as a person.
Day two was packed full of new information, resources, and networking! We finally began our work with a Keynote Speaker: Sundaa Bridgett-Jones, who taught us that global institutions need global citizens. She also spoke about taking advantage of our opportunities NOW and how it’s imperative to be confident enough to reach out and ask questions.
Next we listened to Andrew Gordon (Founder of Diversity Abroad) as he explained what our International experience can do for our leadership potential. He taught us how we can transfer the skills we acquired abroad to a job and that asking for advice is a free service.
Tip #2: You are only as good as the information you have. To be a successful ambassador continue to ask questions and receive more knowledge. The more you learn the more you can teach prospective students.
Afterwards we continued to the Student Panel and Luncheon, where we were able to listen to our fellow students share their experiences abroad having come from diverse backgrounds. Lastly we learned about different career choices and how we are able to enter an international field. They gave us meaningful information about different organizations and what criteria is needed to apply for different jobs. We were also given tips on how to put our study abroad experience on our resumes and what is needed to apply for Fellowships such as Gilman and Fulbright.
Tip #3 No matter what you do in life become resilient(especially if you come from an underrepresented group). We all know that traveling abroad never goes the way we want it to. Unplanned things happen all of the time, that’s life! But how you respond to events is what’s most important. Figure out how to make it work!!!
The last day of the conference was absolutely life changing. Early in the morning I attended a special mini session titled “Approval Process: Is Diversity a Consideration?” We discussed diversity within the study abroad application process and whether or not multicultural offices/organizations involve themselves with the study abroad process. In the next mini session I attended, “Unlocking the World: Activities and Enticements…”, we discussed fun and interesting was to promote studying abroad to minority groups.
Tip #4: All groups of students need to be represented in the study abroad process. Push for diversity within your institutions. Speak with your faculty to ensure ALL students are represented and receive the chance to study abroad.
For our 3rd GSLS session we discussed social identities and how our identities affected our study abroad experiences. For example, I am a black woman and within studying abroad that alone may have granted me privileges or disadvantages. Many people will react based off of what they perceive. Keep in mind: when abroad, students may not know how people will react to their physical features(skin tone, clothing, hair, etc)
Our 4th session was titled “Paying it Forward: Making an Impact on Your Campus and Beyond”; we learned how to share our stories with prospective students who want to study abroad. More importantly, we learned how to market towards diverse groups and how impactful we can be towards these same groups.
Fun Fact: Only 5.3% of Black or African American Students study abroad.
For our final project in the conference we shared our ideas with over 400 professionals on themes such as marketing/outreach, pre-departure, in country programming, and re-entry. We stressed the importance of developing relationships with underrepresented students and taking the effort to ensure they have the best study abroad experience possible.
Now that the conference has come to an end, I am thankful for the amazing opportunity to attend! I absolutely loved the experience, beginning to end, and I was able to meet professionals from many diverse backgrounds. It was great to see all of us coming together for one purpose: Diversifying the International Education Field!
Tip #5: Always remember to put emphasis on the ‘experience’ of studying abroad not just the destination🌏🌎🌍 #GenerationStudyAbroad