Global ambassadors program promotes study abroad

The study abroad office at UM has put a new twist on an old program by starting a Global Ambassador group, which utilizes students who have studied overseas to share their experiences by promoting and participating in the study abroad events on campus.

“It’s the revitalization of an older student program we had that we sort of beefed up,” said Stephanie Molinare, who worked in the International Education and Exchange Programs office (IEEP) until last March. “We want to give students more of a leadership opportunity.”

Devika Milner, manager of undergraduate programs and special projects in the provost’s office, serves as the interim head of the study abroad office. She helped shepherd in the program, which began this semester.

“Devika came up with the idea,” said junior Gregory Sedlik, the lead student coordinator for Global Ambassadors. “She saw that the peer mentoring program wasn’t doing enough on its own.”

Sedlik got involved with the program after studying abroad in spring 2012 at the University of Leicester, England. He enjoyed the experience so much that he went on to do a study abroad summer program in Prague the same year.

Senior Marissa Wong, who studied in Chile in 2011, is another global ambassador. She is excited to be doing more to help students who may be interested in an overseas experience.

“I saw it initially as a way of giving back to the study abroad office,” she said. “Studying abroad has been the highlight of my college career.”

Wong said the new program is similar to the old one, only better. She described the changes in peer mentoring.

“There were more sporadic events like open houses and info sessions that we would go to on a voluntary basis,” she said. “Now they’re trying to get us more actively involved.”

According to the IEEP website, ambassadors assist in advising sessions and help coordinate on-campus study abroad events. In addition, they work one-on-one with international exchange students to help them in the transition to life at UM.

They benefit by developing leadership capabilities, improving communication and intercultural skills and getting public speaking practice.

The study abroad program, headquartered in Allen Hall, provides UM students with opportunities to study in more than 35 countries around the world through either UM-run programs or exchange programs at more than 80 partner universities.

The ambassadors can offer interested students firsthand knowledge of what it is like living and studying overseas. Applications for the new program are taken on a rolling basis, with the major prerequisite being having studied abroad with UM. Qualified students can apply online.

The program currently has 12 ambassadors, said John Schwartz, an intern in the IEEP office who works closely with Sedlik. Amal Hegeb is the new director of the program.

Global ambassadors are asked to participate in monthly planning meetings and cannot miss more than one per semester.

“We help out in marketing, participating in study abroad open houses and info sessions, the study abroad fairs, and tabling in the Breezeway,” Sedlik said.