2021-22 International Programs Student Ambassadors

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UF in Dublin


Taylor Blais

Taylor Blais

Email Taylor
Term Abroad: Summer 2019
Major: Accounting
Specialty: Traveling on a budget, weekend activities/day trips, best coffee shops, other countries to visit
Takeaway: My biggest takeaway was that accounting is the perfect field for me. Prior to studying abroad, I was unsure if accounting was the best major for me, but I came to really enjoy it after my internship.

I studied abroad because…
the opportunity to intern in another country was too great to pass up!

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad was…
funding the trip, but I knew that it was a rare opportunity and so I made it work.

A typical meal I had while studying abroad:
I made tacos for dinner for two months straight, and I would always have a cup of cookie dough ice cream for dessert.

My favorite spot in my host city was…
Marion Square Park. I would take naps there on my lunch break and they had a fantastic food market on Wednesdays.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad:
I got to ride a tandem bike through Phoenix Park, and it was much harder than I expected!

The most memorable experience for me while abroad:
I dumped my entire meal on my lap and then proceeded to drop my phone in a toilet at a restaurant the first evening we arrived in Dublin after I had just met all of my roommates.

A habit I picked up while abroad:
They don’t use top sheets on the beds in Ireland and I came to like that a lot, so I no longer use a top sheet on my bed in the US.

My most challenging experience while abroad was…
getting used to the opposite way of traffic. Once I finally got used to looking the opposite way to cross the street, I had to reverse my mentality all over again when I got back to the US.

What surprised me most about study abroad was…
how much I learned in many different areas such as financial independence, cultural awareness, and various accounting tasks.

My last bit of advice:
Be open to stepping outside your comfort zone!

Hunter VanScoy

Hunter VanScoy (Internal Affairs Co-Chair)

Email Hunter
Term Abroad: Summer 2019
Major/Minor: Accounting/Sustainability Studies
Specialty: Food/places to eat, internship
Takeaway: Knowing firsthand how other countries operate has given me an insight into American way of life and the role we play on a global stage.

I studied abroad because…
the great part about college is all of the new experiences we get to have, and nothing can compare to study abroad in terms of newer experiences. Being immersed in a different culture and learning to adapt to a whole new way of life is incredible, and all while being with others in your same position makes the whole thing feel safer and easier.

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad was…
the added costs of living and transportation that went along with maximizing my experience abroad, which did some serious damage to my bank account. I don’t regret it; however, the simple cost of it all will likely keep me from studying abroad again.

A typical meal I had while studying abroad was…
fish and chips, which is a way of life in Dublin (go to Burdock’s for the best, trust me). A full Irish breakfast is incredible, but most often breakfast just consisted of something quick like a granola bar or some fruit. Lunch was often a sandwich, and dinner could be any number of things ranging from fish and chips to a burger to a calzone or burrito. Dublin is very alike to the states in terms of food available.

My favorite spot in my host city was…
anywhere that I was with my roommates, so even time in our apartment was great. But going out to places like Brendan’s Cafe or a picnic outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral are simple things I will never forget.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad:
On a trip to Bristol, we happened to go at the same time as the city’s annual trademark hot air balloon festival, which was a really fortunate coincidence. I highly recommend the city overall, as it has the London feel without being so big and crowded.

The most memorable experience for me while abroad:
My internship was fantastic, yet my first day went so bad, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I rode the bus there, and while walking down the stairs to the first floor of the bus the driver slammed on the brakes and I went flying down the stairs and fell flat on the floor. Everyone stared at me, and I scrambled off the bus. Sadly, this was the wrong stop, and I had to walk 20 more minutes. I introduced myself to my boss, who offered me tea. I didn’t want to be rude so I accepted, yet it was boiling hot, and I ended up spilling it all over the lobby. It was bad.

A habit I picked up while abroad is…
my newfound tea addiction. I drank it every day at work, and I’ve brought that back with me. I also love watching Gaelic football and hurling now, and I force it on my friends whenever possible. I also say “craic” a lot, and no one understand me.

My most challenging experience while abroad:
The morning of a weekend trip to Glasgow my phone was stolen at the airport. I still had two weeks left in the program, and learning how to acclimate to my schedule without it was surprisingly difficult as I used it for nearly everything from alarms to a map. Getting a burner phone helped, but I still relied a lot on my roommates for help.

What surprised me most about study abroad was…
how a place can be so foreign and not foreign at the same time. There were often times when I would forget that I was abroad, but there were other times I would be completely lost.

My last bit of advice:
No matter what, you’re not going to pack correctly. But I do advise you bring nice clothes that you can dress down, as you would be hard pressed to find a situation where a button down won’t substitute for a t-shirt, yet the opposite can’t be said.

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UF in Europe


Sabina Boddupalli

Sabina Boddupalli

Email Sabina
Term Abroad: Fall 2019
Major/Minors: Finance/International Development and Humanitarian Assistance & Accounting
Specialty: My specialties are finding the right program (exchange vs. UF-sponsored program), weekend trips, and finding things to do in your city.
Takeaway: My biggest take-away is that study abroad is really just about experiencing something new and finding out more about your interests. There’s so much that you gain from it in the moment, and it ultimately is a nice time in your life to look back at.

I studied abroad because…
I was considering a career in international business and wanted to see how I could adapt to living abroad. Also, I wanted to challenge myself to see new things and meet new people.

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad:
The biggest obstacle I had before studying abroad was just picking the right time and program. I had a bunch of different programs that I was interested in and knew I could only afford to do one great program, so I did lots of research on all the programs. Before studying abroad, I almost tried to cancel the program because of nerves and second thoughts, but I ultimately stuck to the decision and it all worked out.

A typical meal I had while studying abroad:
Limerick: Eggs, Potatoes, Veggies
Paris: Bread/sandwiches of various types
Rome: Pasta or pizza, lots of gelato

My favorite spot in my host cities:
Limerick: My favorite spot was 100% Volcano Wings. It’s a food restaurant with absolutely amazing wings and cheese fries. I loved it because I would always go there to de-stress and randomly bump into other people on the program there.
Paris: My favorite spot was the Louvre. The Louvre is like a maze, but I felt like I could go there a hundred times and still find something that I had missed the first time. Each piece of art has a story behind it, and the collection is just huge. Plus, it’s free to get in with a student card.
Rome: My favorite spot in Rome was the Pantheon. I basically just visited it a lot and ended up doing a report on it. It’s gorgeous.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad:
One cool thing that I did was go on a weekend trip to Greece while I was living in Rome. I had grown up really interested in Greek myths, so being able to see all the ruins in real life was insane.

The most memorable experience for me while abroad:
On the week-long break in Fall, I went on a trip to southern France with a friend. We decided to go to an obscure national park (if anyone’s interested it was the Parque National des Calanques). We didn’t know what to expect, but we ended up hiking over 10 miles on a crazy-hard hiking trail and seeing some really beautiful sights. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get an Uber back and got caught in an insane storm on our way out. We basically ran along the streets in the pouring rain hearing booming thunder right behind us until we found a hotel and asked if we could be let in for a bit. The woman in the hotel was so nice and gave us towels and hot drinks for free. We waited there for hours until the woman finally was able to call us a taxi back to the train station. It was stressful at the time, but it’s a really great memory.

A hobby I picked up while abroad:
I didn’t pick up too many habits or hobbies. I started drinking tea and coffee and tried journaling.

What I found most challenging while abroad:
I think the hardest part of being abroad was trying to balance all my interests. There were so many things that I wanted to see in each location, so I really had to just sit down and see how I could balance classes, finances, and seeing everything I wanted to see.

What surprised me most about study abroad was…
how easy it was to travel. As someone who had never been out of the country, I expected it to be so much harder to adapt to a country where you don’t speak the language, but it really isn’t hard at all. You can really get by with whatever limited language skills you have.

My last bit of advice:
If you’re nervous about studying abroad or are concerned about finances, which program to go on, timing, or whatever it may be, please come talk to me!! I think study abroad is one of the all-around best experiences you can have in your life, especially if you want to travel a lot or work abroad in the future. I was a bit on the fence about doing it, but you can really pick which program is most compelling to you based on your own interests and budget.

Meredith Depaepe

Meredith DePaepe

Email Meredith
Term Abroad: Fall 2019
Majors/Minor: Management & Political Science/TESL
Specialty: Traveling on a budget, meeting locals, hang out places.
Takeaway: Having amazing memories and friendships. Being eager to travel again.

I studied abroad because…
I have always wanted to see the world and learn about new places and cultures.

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad:
I was dreaming of studying abroad long before college, so I was certain I wanted to go. I was not worried before going, just excited.

A typical meal I had while studying abroad:
Ireland- potatoes, Irish breakfast
France- croissants and bread
Italy- pasta, pastries, and gelato

My favorite spot in my host cities:
My favorite spot was the Eiffel tower. It was a 30-minute walk from the campus and the neighborhoods we walked through to get there were so cute. We like to sit on the lawn under the tower.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad:
Paragliding in Switzerland

The strangest experience for me while abroad:
Getting spit on by someone who was trying to pickpocket my friend

A hobby I picked up while abroad:
Walking, taking buses, and having a tiny closet

What I found most challenging while abroad:
Deciding what trips to go on and which things I would have to sit out on. Money management. It was hard to say no to things. I ended up making a list of all things I was determined to do and planned accordingly.

What surprised me most about study abroad was…
how much history I was able to see and how cultures varied and were similar between countries

My last bit of advice:
Be grateful for every day, but also it is okay to take some days off and relax. Going all the time gets tiring.

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UF in London


Julia La Neve

Julia La Neve (External Affairs Co-Chair)

Email Julia
Term Abroad: Spring 2020
Major: Marketing
Specialty: Weekend trips, restaurants/food
Takeaway: My biggest takeaway was becoming independent. Studying abroad pushed me far out of my comfort zones. When you find yourself in an unfamiliar place, you’re forced to make new friends, face challenges, and explore. I built confidence and that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

I studied abroad to…
experience what it was like to fully immerse myself in another culture, as opposed to just visiting for vacation. I wanted to explore, learning about the locals and their lifestyle, while simultaneously learning about myself.

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad:
My biggest challenge before studying abroad was committing to change. I’m originally from out of state, so coming to UF was already a big adjustment for me. I was afraid to make another big leap so soon, but it definitely paid off.

A typical meal I had while studying abroad:
Often times, on the way back from class in the morning, I would stop at this little sandwich shop and get scrambled eggs on a baguette for breakfast. It was super cheap and they had the most incredible baguettes.

My favorite spot in my host city:
My favorite spot in London was Camden Market. This was a bunch of shops and stands located in what used to be stables with local vendors selling fashion, food, art, and more. Camden Market was my favorite spot because it was just a great place to wander around and there was something for everyone. I loved talking to the different vendors and seeing the different things they made or are selling.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad:
One of the coolest things I got to experience was touring Wembley Stadium with my Principles of Marketing class. We got to see the locker room, the conference room, the stadium itself, and more.

The most memorable experience for me while abroad:
Hostels were always a bit strange, but fun nonetheless! I was with some girlfriends for Valentine’s Day Weekend in Stockholm and one of the guys staying in our room at the hostel bought us cinnamon buns for Valentine’s day. It was sweet but a bit bizarre.

A habit I picked up while abroad:
A habit I picked up was trying to take trips on weekends, whether that be to other places in Europe or even day trips within the UK, such as going to the White Cliffs of Dover.

What I found most challenging while abroad:
While abroad, I found it most difficult to adjust at first. It was complex learning about how the tube and the buses work and making sure I was going to the right location. It really just took time to understand and got easier the more I used the tube and learned my way around a bit more.

What surprised me most about study abroad:
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of field trips we went on for our classes. It was really intriguing to take these trips and see things firsthand, as opposed to many of the large lecture halls at UF.

My last bit of advice:
Take advantage of every opportunity and don’t be hesitant. Some of my best experiences were due to just being spontaneous. With that being said, also do some research and make it a point to get to the places you really want to go because you never know when your program might get cut short.

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UF in Madrid


Patrick Boatman

Patrick Boatman (Internal Affairs Co-Chair)

Email Patrick
Term Abroad: Spring 2019
Major/Minors: Environmental Science/Spanish & Sustainability Studies
Specialty: Living in a homestay
Takeaway: The world is bigger than how you think of it in your head. There are so many countries, cultures, languages, customs, and people that differ in their unique, respective ways. It is important to not only be exposed to the variety of places the world has to offer, but to learn how to live in a world where you are only a tiny speck in a beautiful mixture of people.

I studied abroad because…
I wanted to find and connect to my familial roots in Spain, as well as learn the language and culture while immersed in the environment.

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad was…
my last-minute decision to study on a program. That led to difficulty getting funds together, finding someone to take over my lease in Gainesville, and making sure the program would fit into my academic schedule and plans. I wasn’t sure if I could even go until almost the last day of the program deadline!

A typical meal I had while studying abroad:
In addition to the variety of paellas and tortillas españolas I was able to try while in Spain, it was typical to go out and drink and eat tapas with friends.

My favorite spot in my host city was…
was Parque del Buen Retiro, which is a very large public park close to the city center. Retiro is always full of bikers, joggers, families, and groups of friends enjoying a relaxed time away from the fast-paced environment of the city. There are lots of places to walk, sit, read, bike, take photos, and just enjoy the scenery.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad:
I loved the Las Fallas festival in Valencia, Spain. It is a period of non-stop partying, festivities, culture, and fun that takes place annually on the streets of Valencia.

The strangest experience for me while abroad:
I got lost in Madrid! After leaving the club at close to 4a.m. with a dead phone, I accidentally got on the wrong bus that took me to the very outskirts of the city. After getting off and following a random couple, I somehow found a metro station and made it home by 7a.m. Definitely not a recommended experience, so make sure you go out at night with friends.

A habit I picked up while abroad:
I made it a habit to talk to the people who worked at the local stores and restaurants. After only a few weeks, I became very friendly with the employees at the grocery store I always went to as well as the baristas at a cafe next to school I frequently visited. It provides more opportunities to learn the language, and it makes you feel more connected to the city you’re attempting to make your home.

What I found most challenging while abroad was…
being alone at home. I chose to live in a homestay, which I definitely recommend, but it was only me by myself living with my host mother. She was absolutely amazing, kind, and welcoming, but at the end of the day I found myself wanting someone else there to be with. Of course, if plans allow for it, there’s always time for hanging with friends and discovering the city.

What surprised me most about study abroad was…
the growth of my Spanish-speaking abilities by the end of my time abroad. Being constantly immersed in the language and culture provides an excellent opportunity to develop your verbal conversation skills.

My last bit of advice:
It is wonderful to experience this trip of a lifetime with friends, but don’t forget where you are. After settling in to your new city, you might find it very easy to stay within your comfortable American (or other native nationality) bubble. For most people, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Live it to the fullest and try to live like a native.

Bella Libby

Email Bella
Term Abroad: Summer 2021
Majors: English & History
Specialty: Traveling on a budget, food, social spots, and making friends
Takeaway: My biggest takeaway from my study abroad experience is that there is just so much out there in this world.

I studied abroad because…
I wanted to learn a new language and travel.

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad was…
fear. Fear of missing my family and friends. Fear of the language barrier.

A typical meal I had while studying abroad was…
a sandwich with bread, tomato, alioli, and cheese.

My favorite spot in my host city was…
Retiro Park. So beautiful. I loved to run there and sit in the grass and read and just people watch.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad was…
a gay pride parade in Madrid!

The strangest experience for me while abroad:
My friends and I accidentally walked into a protest in Amsterdam.

A habit I picked up while abroad:
I began to love to walk after dinner. One of my favorite parts of living in a city is being able to walk everywhere, especially walking home in the evening after dinner. I just loved that.

What I found most challenging while abroad was…
probably learning the language, and keeping up good communication with my friends because the time difference made it very difficult.

What surprised me most about study abroad was…
the people. They are all so interesting.

My last bit of advice:
DO IT. Go abroad and do everything that you can because you are only there for a short amount of time. Experience everything.

Darya Molibog

Darya Molibog

Email Darya
Term Abroad: Summer 2019
Major/Minors: Marketing/Spanish, Retailing, & Digital Arts and Sciences
Specialty: Food/places to eat, exploring Madrid alone, time management
Takeaway: The biggest takeaway from my study abroad experience was definitely everything I learned, not just from classes and the city, but all of the people I encountered. I managed to find some amazing friends during this trip that I still talk to, as well as being exposed to people from all sorts of backgrounds and countries with different stories that I will remember forever.

I studied abroad because…
I am someone who absolutely adores travel and seeing the world, so there was no doubt in my mind when I started my time at UF that I would study abroad at one point or another.

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad was…
the nerves that came with the language barrier, choosing to stay in a homestay, and not knowing anyone on the program with me before I even arrived in Madrid. However, when I did arrive, all of these things ended up not being an issue, and if anything, were a learning and growing experience as an individual.

A typical meal I had while studying abroad:
Breakfast was pretty small with a yogurt and some fruit. As for lunch, I’d eat at home, which usually consisted of some kind of Spanish dish (lots of rice, and I definitely ate paella more than anything), veggies, and lots of fresh fruit again. For dinner, I would go out to eat and try somewhere new every night, which typically ended up being some kind of tapas bar.

My favorite spot in my host city:
Every spot that I went to and discovered was my favorite, as I most definitely fell in love with Madrid. However, during my last week, I went to a park on the outskirts of the center of Madrid called Parque del Cerro del Tío Pío. Sitting on top of a hill, being able to see the entire city of Madrid, the mountains in the background, and watching the beautiful colors of the sunset was absolutely breathtaking.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad:
I went to Pride in Madrid for the main celebration with a few friends. It was my first Pride festival I’ve ever been to, and it was one of the most welcoming and beautiful experiences to see everyone come together and celebrate.

The most memorable experience for me while abroad:
The most memorable thing that happened to me during my stay in Madrid was adjusting to the new schedule of doing things in Spain. Everything there was pushed later by a few hours compared to how we live in the U.S. For example, lunch would be at around 2-4 PM and dinner would be around 9-10 PM. They call it “living with the sun” since the sun rises earlier and sets so much later there, and it was definitely different and made it feel like there were more hours in the day.

A habit I picked up while abroad was…
not necessarily a habit or a hobby, but something I learned. As someone who’s super organized and lives a very scheduled life, I learned to live more free-flowing and in-the-moment, and the joy that comes with spontaneity.

What I found most challenging while abroad:
I actually didn’t find anything that difficult to deal with when I was abroad. I knew whatever happened, I’d be able to manage one way or another, and this mindset really helped me. However, the first few days staying in my homestay, I was learning the rules of the house, meal times, etc., day-by-day instead of all right from the start, so you could say not knowing everything concerned me a little.

What surprised me most about study abroad was…
the confidence I gained due to being thrown into speaking Spanish. I have been learning Spanish for years before I studied abroad and knew I was capable and had the knowledge to speak. However, I was always too intimidated or lacked the confidence to speak conversationally on the spot. Now, after studying abroad, I voluntarily want to speak it all the time to not lose it and keep improving.

My last bit of advice:
Living abroad and experiencing a new culture is an opportunity that you may never get again – so take this chance! Embrace all of the challenges and obstacles that you believe you may face abroad. Trust that you will overcome all of them, and learn and grow from the experience.

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UF in Paris


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UF in Rome


Kyle Erickson

Kyle Erickson

Email Kyle
Term Abroad: Summer 2019
Major: Accounting
Specialty: Traveling on a budget became my specialty while being abroad. I was able to travel to 11 countries in nine weeks, which was only possible by planning and budgeting.
Takeaway: Without a doubt, this was the most unforgettable experience of my life. I’m so happy I did it because of the great people I met and all of the memories I got to make with them.

I studied abroad because…
I had never been out of the country before going to Rome. I like challenging myself and experiencing new things, so I figured this was the perfect way for me to do both.

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad was…
not knowing anyone. It made me question if I’d enjoy it more if I was with someone I knew. I’m glad I went solo, because everyone I met was a new friend.

A typical meal I had while studying abroad:
In the afternoon, I would typically have either pizza, suppli, or a chicken and potatoes dish because there isn’t a ton of protein in Italian meals. Gelato is always an option any time of the day!

My favorite spot in my host city:
I loved sitting on the wall along the Tiber River next to Castel Sant’Angelo at night. There was a view of St. Peter’s right down the road, restaurants along the water, not to mention the incredible 2nd century castle right next to you.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad:
During a vineyard tour in Florence, we met a group from Greece. They were in Rome a couple days later, so we grabbed dinner with them. It was so cool being able to connect with people like that.

The strangest/most memorable experience for me while abroad:
There was a massive crowd outside a movie theater that was about five blocks from where we were staying. Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie were there to promote their new movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

A habit I picked up while abroad:
I learned not to stress the little things because not everything goes according to plan. Also, I got into the habit of daily gelato, often times twice a day!

What I found most challenging while abroad:
It was difficult not seeing family for over two months, but surrounding myself with a close, supportive group made things a lot easier. I FaceTimed my family when I could to hear from them and to keep them updated.

What surprised me most about study abroad:
By the fourth week, as my roommate and I were walking back from the metro after a trip, I said “I’m glad to be back home.” It stunned me that I referred to Rome as “home” after living there for only a month.

My last bit of advice:
Having an open mindset and remaining positive are the two most important things that helped me.

Sean Schelling

Email Sean
Term Abroad: Summer 2019
Major: Finance
Specialty: I made it a personal goal of mine to travel to a new country every weekend while I was abroad. I did so on a relatively small budget, and was successful in accomplishing this goal. Seeing and doing a lot of things, I think I can provide great insight on traveling throughout most of Europe on a budget and taking advantage of the opportunities that are in so many different places.
Takeaway: One of the biggest takeaways from my study abroad experience was planning, organization, and budgeting. I had never planned a trip before in my life, and I quickly realized that it is a necessity to develop those skills while abroad.

I studied abroad because…
my father and both of my brothers studied abroad while they went to their respective colleges. Hearing about their experiences sparked my interest and excitement about the idea of studying abroad myself.

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad:
Being financially independent while abroad, I definitely had to make some considerations about where I would be located and interested in traveling to.
A typical meal I had while studying abroad:
Studying in Rome, pasta, pizza, and gelato were definitely in my regular rotation for meals while in Italy. While travelling, I always did my best to try new things and get a taste of the culture.

My favorite spot in my host city:
St. Peter’s Basilica was definitely my favorite place to hang out while in Rome. As a central point of Rome, my study abroad group would watch the sunset there and hang out in the area to appreciate the city and culture of Italy and Rome.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad:
I had the privilege of attending the Papal Audience while in Rome. This was a really special experience coming from a Catholic background, as I got to stand a few arm-lengths away from the Pope himself and watch him perform a weekly service.

The strangest/most memorable experience for me while abroad:
On a trip from Amsterdam to Switzerland, the first train I was on broke down, and I ended up missing the rest of my scheduled trains, using maps in different languages and conversations with locals to navigate my way back. This led to me and my friend having to sleep on a train station bench in Germany, waiting for a train (that we weren’t even 100% sure was going to the right place) to come rescue us.

A habit I picked up while abroad:
Going on long runs throughout Rome was a hobby that I picked back up from my childhood to burn off all of the carbs I was consuming from pizza and pasta!

What I found most challenging while abroad:
Budgeting and saving money was the biggest challenge that I had to overcome. I spent the first week or two eating at expensive restaurants and traveling, and I quickly learned my lesson to budget properly to make sure I didn’t waste my savings on unnecessary things.

What surprised me most about study abroad:
Traveling to a majority of the countries in Western Europe, I never really ran into too many issues with a language barrier. One of the things that surprised me most was realizing how many people in Europe speak English understandably.

My last bit of advice:
Traveling teaches you a lot of lessons about the rest of the world as well as about yourself. There are no other experiences in life that can teach you these things, so it is important to take advantage of the opportunity while you can.

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UF in Vietnam


Lindsey Echtermeyer

Lindsey Echtermeyer

Email Lindsey
Term Abroad: Summer 2019
Major/Minor: MIB; Economics/Business Administration
Specialty: Traveling, cultural experiences
Takeaway: My biggest takeaway is to push yourself outside your comfort zone and to always seek a new experience.

I studied abroad…
for the experiences and for the chance to learn something new. In the modern world, understanding and acceptance of different people and cultures is so vital, and it is this principle of understanding that drove my desire to study and work abroad.

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad was…
my concern on the language barrier. I was worried that my lack of Vietnamese would prevent me from interacting with people from my host country, but I learned that even with the language barrier I could still find ways to make meaningful connections.

A typical meal I had while studying abroad:
Most of our meals came from street vendors, which can be found on any street corner. These meals turned out to be some of the best dishes I ever had. One snack that we ate a lot is called Banh Mi, which is a French-Vietnamese fusion. Vietnamese food is a blend of many different cultures, which made trying new food very intriguing.

My favorite spot in my host city:
I don’t think there was one specific spot that I enjoyed, but I always enjoyed walking through the many parks the city had. These parks gave a glimpse into the daily life of the Vietnamese people. There was always something going on in the park, whether it was a soccer game, a workout class, a dance class, or just people sitting around having a good time.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad:
One event that I particularly enjoyed was a networking event I attended. The event was hosted through the American Chamber of Commerce. At the event, I was able to network with high up individuals in all kind of companies and make connections with people I would have probably never gotten the chance to meet. It reinforced the idea that networking is everything and allowed me to meet new people from around the world.

The strangest/most memorable experience for me while abroad was…
when my co-workers took me out to lunch. They took me to a local Vietnamese restaurant. The restaurants specialty was called Balut, which is a duck embryo that is almost fully formed. It is a Vietnamese specialty. I decided to give it a try, and it had one of the most interesting tastes I have ever experienced. I don’t think I will be having it again any time soon, but it was exciting to try something so different.

A habit I picked up while abroad was…
family-style dinners. We would go to restaurants and order lots of different things for the table, and everyone would share. It is a habit I hope to continue here in the U.S.

What I found most challenging while abroad was…
the language barrier. It was frustrating at times to not be able to correctly communicate with someone, but through Google Translate and the help of others, we would always find a solution.

What surprised me most about study abroad:
I had heard from many people about the friendless of the people in our host country, but I was not prepared for how friendly Vietnamese people actually were. They were always willing to help us and made us feel so welcome into their home.

My last bit of advice:
My advice would be don’t let the cost or distance discourage you from this opportunity. There are resources to help you financially and help you prepare for your actual time abroad.

Alice Fatula

Alice Fatula

Email Alice
Term Abroad: Summer 2019
Major/Minor: Marketing/Spanish
Specialty: Weekend trips, cultural events, meeting locals
Takeaway: Studying abroad always comes with some challenges, but the challenges you face end up being the most unforgettable parts of your trip and the lessons you learn the most from!

I studied abroad because…
I wanted to break out of my comfort zone while expanding my cultural agility, gaining business acumen, and discovering a different part of the world!

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad was…
deciding which program to participate in because there are so many options to choose from. It was also difficult to convince my parents that I was capable of interning abroad for two months.

A typical meal I had while studying abroad:
At work we would be served traditional Vietnamese food, which varied every day of the week. One of my favorite lunch meals was the pork-stuffed fried tofu with rice.

My favorite spot in my host city:
District one in Ho Chi Minh City was my favorite spot to wander around in because of the exciting contrasts. There are colonial era buildings right next to modern skyscrapers and the hectic streets make it a great place for people watching.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad:
Attending a Heineken factory tour was a memorable experience because we got access to the production facilities and sat in on presentations given by a few executives of the company!

The most memorable experience for me while abroad was…
I lost my Vietnamese SIM card in Malaysia so when I got back to Saigon, I set out on a mission to find a shop where I could buy a new one. I ended up getting lost in some alleyways by myself without any phone service. Not a single person spoke English but by using hand gestures, I was able to borrow someone’s phone and book a taxi a few hours later.

A habit I picked up while abroad was…
drinking either milk tea or cà phê sữa (Vietnamese iced coffee) every day.

What I found most challenging while abroad was…
finding a balance between work and travel. I would often see myself giving up free time to continue working on my internship tasks. I was able to overcome this by pushing myself to spend only a few hours per weekend on my assignments.

What surprised me most about study abroad was…
how fast I was able to feel at home in Vietnam. I thought it would be difficult to transition to the way of life in Saigon, but I quickly felt very comfortable there and did not want to leave.

My last bit of advice:
Meet people outside of your group from UF and don’t be afraid to network with the locals.

Sydney Patterson

Sydney Patterson (External Affairs Co-Chair)

Email Sydney
Terms Abroad: Spring 2020 (Business Exchange at Hochschule Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences), Fall 2019 (CALS Exchange at Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität Bonn), & Summer 2019 (UF in Vietnam)
Major/Minors: International Studies (Europe)/Business Administration, Spanish, & German
Specialty: Learning a new language, meeting locals and budget travel, especially when it comes to travel points.
Takeaway: My biggest take away from my study abroad experience is that people, even though they make come from drastically different cultures and societies, are more similar than you think.

I studied abroad because…
I wanted to study abroad to seek new opportunities and experience new cultures.

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad was…
coordinating my academic schedule between UF and my host universities.

A typical meal I had while studying abroad:
I ate dumplings and pho almost every day in Vietnam, and in Germany I became infatuated with falafel and Dönner, so much so, that the woman working at the falafel restaurant knew my order.

My favorite spot in my host city:
My favorite spot in my host city in Bonn, Germany was Marktplatz, because there was always a fresh farmers market in the plaza every day of the week. In Ho Chi Minh City my favorite place was district one, because there’s a beautiful mixture of traditional vs. modern life. One can find skyscrapers next to street food carts.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad:
While studying abroad in Vietnam I was able to not only experience, but be in my boss’s traditional Vietnamese wedding.

The strangest/most memorable experience for me while abroad was…
eating a duck embryo,”Balut”, in Vietnam.

A habit I picked up while abroad:
I picked up cooking while abroad, as well as drinking coffee in the afternoon, which is very typical in Germany.

What I found most challenging while abroad:
I would say the cultural barrier and language barriers were the hardest challenge. I overcame the German cultural barrier as time went on. I really overcame the language barrier by trying to study and learn the language.

What surprised me most about study abroad:
The affordability of study abroad surprised me the most. There are so many different options out there when it comes to funding your study abroad and the cost of living in many countries is less than living here in the U.S. So I ended up saving money from studying abroad.

My last bit of advice:
I would say just go for it, what do you have to lose. There is a world of opportunities that become open to you once you study abroad or while you study abroad, so don’t limit yourself, just go for it.

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Business Exchanges


Max Izquierdo

Email Max
Exchange: University of Manchester – Alliance Manchester Business School
Term Abroad: Spring 2020
Major: Business Administration – General Studies
Specialty: I would say my “specialty area” is traveling on a budget and academics
Takeaway: The main takeaway I want prospective students to know about me is that I am going to give you the honest truth about my experiences and what they may expect. Whether that’s academics, traveling, budgeting, (anything!), I will tell you the positives and negatives I experienced. I came back a better person after this program. I became better academically, socially, culturally. It was a time for me to grow further into the professional we all strive to be!

I studied abroad because…
For many, the opportunity to study abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I had to take advantage of that. It gives you a chance to immerse yourself in a foreign culture and truly experience what that country is like.

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad was…
the timing of my decision. Traditionally, students plan out this opportunity at least 6-9 months in advance. I was informed of the opportunity in my transfer success class on Monday, the week of the deadline. I had to make a decision and submit all paperwork by Wednesday.

A typical meal I had while studying abroad:
Every morning I either made my own breakfast sandwich (egg, ham, and cheese) or went around the corner of my building to the local family owned cafe for a fresh latte/cappuccino and breakfast. For lunch, I discovered various places around the city that offer student discounts (£1.50 pizza slices, £3 for 10 wings, £4 burrito). I would either hold off on lunch until a little later so that it could be lunch/dinner or I would make myself some dinner with groceries I bought at the local market (spaghetti and meatballs, chicken salad, chicken rice and beans).

My favorite spot in my host city was…
the local pub called “Turing Tap”. It was very close to the school and my student living. I was able to share many memories with friends while enjoying cheap pub food (wings, pizza, nachos).

One cool event I got to experience while abroad was…
being able to fulfill a lifelong dream and see my favorite football team live in person. It is a memory that I will remember and treasure forever!

The strangest/most memorable experience for me while abroad was…
the first time I looked up travel prices to European countries. A round-trip to Portugal, Belgium, Germany were all under £50! It truly caught me off guard.

A hobby I picked up while abroad was…
traveling. It’s something that is an eye-opening experience and that I want to continue in the future.

What I found most challenging while abroad was…
having random roommates and sharing a kitchen with them. I personally had not experienced that before and, although I had my own room and bathroom, it was a unique experience sharing a kitchen with others. This is especially difficult if others are not as clean as you are. To deal with this, I had to bite the bullet and just clean things that were not necessarily my responsibility but if not done I would suffer the consequences.

What surprised me most about study abroad:
My intention going into this program was to focus on my academics and do extremely well in school. It was meant to be all business, but as time went on, I met so many incredible people. I did not expect to make as many friendships as I did, and I even made lifelong friends that we still keep in touch today.

My last bit of advice:
Just do it! (If you can, of course). It is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you may later regret if you do not take advantage of it now.

Sandra Markovic

Sandra Markovic

Email Sandra
Exchange: Hochschule Osnabrück – University of Applied Sciences
Term Abroad:
Spring 2020
Major: Information Systems
Specialty: Traveling on a budget, cute cafés
Takeaway: It was such a great and an unforgettable experience that challenged me on so many levels but also helped me immensely become a more mature and independent person. I improved my German, met some great friends from all over the world, did an internship, and all of these during a global pandemic.

I studied abroad because…
I wanted to really challenge myself by living in a country whose language I was barely speaking but I wanted to improve badly in. I was also curious about how different is a college life in other countries.

One of my biggest challenges before studying abroad was…
the idea that I’ll go to a place where I know no one. However, I did realize that all other exchange students will be in the same boat as me and that I will eventually make friends.

A typical meal I had while studying abroad was…
Spätzle which is a typical German pasta made out of eggs

My favorite spot in my host city was…
Schlossgarten which is a park next to the university castle. It’s a very lively place, filled with students and other young people sitting on the grass and hanging out with their friends. I often went there to meet up with my friends, to read a book or to just have a picnic there. That’s where I also spent my last day in Osnabrück and it’s such a fun and memory filled place for me.

One cool event I got to experience while abroad was…
culinary night organized during the Winter Language School where I had a chance to try various traditional international food prepared by other exchange students from all over the world.

The strangest/most memorable experience for me while abroad:
After the semester ended, I did a backpacking trip throughout Central Europe with a couple of friends I met in Osnabrueck, and one of our stops was Bratislava, Slovakia, where we met a group of PhD students from Canada that were studying in Bulgaria. After talking to them, we realized that last night while we were in Budapest, they were at the exact same place and at the exact same time. They even found themselves on a random picture on of my friends took!

A habit I picked up while abroad was…
running, baking and bringing a reusable bag whenever I’m going out for groceries

What I found most challenging while abroad was…
meeting locals as my classes were moved online after 2 weeks due to COVID-19. However, I am still really close with my German buddy who decided to do her study abroad semester at UF.

What surprised me most about study abroad was…
how hard it was to leave the place and people I met a couple of months ago

My last bit of advice:
Do as much research as possible before choosing the right study abroad as there are so many cool options offered at UF! Check the Heavener Study Abroad website and use all the resources available to you such as IPSAs and study abroad advisors.

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Global Remote Internships


Ginny Dezern

Ginny Dezern

Email Ginny
Term: Summer 2020
Major/Minors: Marketing/Environmental Science & Leadership
Takeaway: Every situation presented to you is an opportunity to grow! Although my summer was far different than I thought it would be, I still was able to meet great people and learn about their lives and culture!

I completed a Global Remote Internship because…
I’ve always loved to travel and was excited by the idea of taking classes and participating in an internship at the same time! I also knew that London would be a great “home base” for traveling around Europe during my time there.

One of my biggest challenges before the internship:
All the prep work leading up to the actual trip seemed more daunting to me than the trip itself. Of course, when COVID hit I was then more focused on if I would even be able to study abroad. And while I was unable to actually go to London, I am thankful that I was still able to participate in a remote internship with the company I most likely would have interned with had I been overseas. This presented its own set of obstacles, but I would still say that the planning and figuring out how a remote internship was going to work was the biggest challenge I faced.

One cool event I got to experience while interning:
In order to make the remote internship experience as close as possible to the real deal, FIE had weekly Zoom calls with different activities. There was a Harry Potter tour, pub nights, and plenty of coffee dates.

A habit I picked up while working:
I think the habit I picked up most from working remotely was changing my spelling of certain words. Because most of my work was through the computer, I spent most of my time typing curriculum and therefore had to spell words different (like organization vs. organisation). I sometimes still spell words the UK way!

What I found most challenging while interning:
The 5-hour time difference was definitely the most challenging part of the internship. But, after talking with my supervisor about work hours it didn’t turn out to be that bad! We made sure that the start of my workday was during the last couple hours of their workday so that I was able to contact the team if I had any questions.

What surprised me most about interning:
The level of comfort I had with my supervisor and communications lead. I did not think that we would be as close as we were and it was such a nice relationship to have amidst all the crazy that COVID had caused.

My last bit of advice:
Be open and willing to adapt! Things can change so quickly and being able to adapt to new circumstances will give you so many more opportunities to learn and grow!


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Recent IPSA Alumni

Lauren Fiori

Lauren Fiori - UF in London

Term Abroad: Spring 2020
Major/Minor: Finance/Real Estate
Specialty: Planning weekend trips, UK culture, and shopping!
Takeaway: Studying abroad, even with the unprecedented pandemic, was the best experience of my life. Adapting to a new culture and stepping out of my comfort zone helped me gain a better understanding of myself and the world around me!

Sarah Pollock

Sarah Pollock - UF in London

Term Abroad: Spring 2020
Major/Minor: Information Systems/Sustainability Studies
Specialty: Restaurants/food, planning trips and itineraries, traveling on a budget
Takeaway: My study abroad experience made me a lot more independent, resourceful, and confident in myself than ever before. It taught me a lot of really essential life skills like how to problem solve, communicate, make friends, navigate, plan things for myself, and budget. I also learned that your experience will be exactly what you make of it, and a positive, adaptable, and even spontaneous mindset even in difficulties can make a huge difference in how you perceive your own time abroad.

Omar Howard

Omar Howard - UF in London & UF in Madrid

Terms Abroad: Spring 2020 & Spring 2018
Major/Minor: Public Relations/Spanish
Specialty: Traveling on a budget, meeting locals, hip cafés and restaurants
Takeaway: My biggest takeaway from my time abroad is to travel more and learn more. That is how the world becomes more interconnected and understanding; by traveling to other countries, learning their customs, and accepting what differences there may be, we are able to grow and become more open-minded.

Isabel Espinal

Isabel Espinal - UF in Madrid

Term Abroad: Spring 2020
Major/Minor: Business Administration – General Studies/Entrepreneurship
Specialty: Cultural events and meeting locals.
Takeaway: My biggest take-away was the people I met and the places I visited.

Jonny Sekula

Jonny Sekula - UF in Madrid

Term Abroad: Spring 2020
Major/Minor: Public Relations/Business Administration
Specialty: Traveling on a budget, nightlife and transportation.
Takeaway: Savor and enjoy absolutely every moment. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience so push yourself outside your comfort zone. While every country’s culture is different from the next, there is so much you can learn by immersing yourself into that culture even if it’s only for a couple of days on a weekend getaway. The world is such a beautiful place with so much to see, so go out there see as much as you can.

Valerie Jones

Valerie Jones - UF in Europe

Term Abroad: Fall 2019
Major/Minors: Marketing/Innovation & Digital Arts and Sciences
Specialty: I’m really good at creating fun itineraries for students on a budget! Whether it’s finding cheap and effective methods of transportation or cool and inexpensive places to stay or just activities in general.
Takeaway: To take every change that comes your way and to never be embarrassed to be outgoing.

Samantha Lee

Samantha Lee - Business Exchange

Exchange: Korea University Business School
Term Abroad:
Fall 2019
Major: Information Systems
Specialty: Traveling on a budget, meeting locals, and food.
Takeaway: My biggest take away from studying abroad was to never be afraid to take a chance and it’ll always be difficult no matter where you go. However, I feel like I learned how to get over obstacles with less anxiety and being more confident in the decisions that I make.

Brooke Lynch

Brooke Lynch - UF in London

Term Abroad: Summer 2019
Major/Minor: Marketing/Economics
Specialty: Theatre, traveling on a budget, cultural events
Takeaway: I am so grateful that I didn’t let my fears and “what-ifs” about studying abroad keep me from pursuing this incredible opportunity. Not only am I coming back to Gainesville with treasured friends and memories, but I am also a much more confident and independent person who is entering the workforce with a unique perspective that I would not have had before.

Camila Cardenas

Camila Cardenas - UF in Paris

Term Abroad: Summer 2019
Major/Minor: Finance/French and Francophone Studies
Specialty: Nightlife, cultural events, food, language immersion, museums/art
My take away: My biggest takeaway is the importance of fully living in the moment and taking in those experiences while being abroad. By living in the moment, I was learning and growing independently, becoming more confident in myself as time progressed. Taking risks and pushing my comfort zone allowed me to become the best version of myself today.

Victoria Lageyre

Victoria Lageyre - UF in Rome

Term Abroad: Summer 2019
Major/Minor: Economics/Business Administration
Specialty: Finding unique places around Rome
Takeaway: My biggest take away was the confidence I gained throughout studying abroad. If you can go to a foreign country and successfully immerse yourself into the culture and have an amazing experience, you can pretty much conquer whatever life throws at you. It’s an opportunity like no other that developed me personally and professionally!

Priscilla Louis

Priscilla Louis - UF in Rome

Term Abroad: Summer 2019
Major/Minor: Management/Economics
Specialty: Traveling on a budget
Takeaway: There are many ways of living life and defining success – no one way is better or worse, just different.

 

Tara McCormick

Tara McCormick - UF in Vietnam

Term Abroad: Summer 2019
Major/Minor: Finance/Real Estate
Specialty: Traveling on a budget, cultural events, food/restaurants
Takeaway: The people of Vietnam taught me that you do not need things to be happy. The Vietnamese and other people of Southeast Asia were the kindest, most humble, and most welcoming people I have ever met. They made a huge impact on me and showed me that Asia is a beautiful place worth the 36-hour travel time. Everyone should study abroad. It humbles you and teaches you about not only different cultures, but mostly about yourself.

Cameron Davidson

J. Cameron Davidson - UF in London

Term Abroad: Spring 2019
Major: Public Relations
Specialty: Organizing weekend trips, thrift shopping through local markets, mental health tips
Takeaway: My time in London was a glimpse into my ideal life and self. I am now motivated to show up as the best version of myself and move abroad after graduation.

Cameron Padgett

Cameron Padgett - UF in Madrid

Term Abroad: Spring 2019
Major/Minor: Management/Real Estate
Specialty: Traveling on a budget, food/places to eat
Takeaway: Step out of your comfort zone and find individuals that you can travel around with. Do not try to travel with extremely large numbers but instead find a group of three or four people that you know would love to travel where you want to go.

JC Demont

Jean-Claude (JC) Demont - Business Exchange

Exchange: Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Term Abroad: Spring 2019
Major: Information Systems
Specialty: Traveling on a budget, social events
Takeaway: The people that I know now I would have never met if I did not go abroad. They are some of the most outgoing, positive, and fun to be around people I have ever met, and I can’t wait to see them again all around the world.