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Student Stories We Love

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November 16, 2020

In the more than 30 years that IFSA has been facilitating study abroad, we have encountered so many amazing students. We’re thankful for each one of them and take pride in working with them at every step of the study abroad process. IFSA students touch the lives of so many, from our staff in Indianapolis to those in our worldwide locations. Many staff members have lasting memories of working with our exceptional students. Here are just a few stories that will make you smile:

Difficult Visa, Lasting Experience

Last year I had the opportunity to reconnect with an IFSA Chile alum from 2016. She raved about her experience abroad and commented that one of the most impactful experiences was obtaining a visa before arrival. At the time of applying, she found the process confusing and frustrating. However, she shared that she now looks back on that experience with pride at how she used problem solving skills under pressure to overcome obstacles at the consulate. She even uses it as an example in her interviews! I love seeing student experiences come full circle with their personal and professional lives, and it’s always a joy to hear from them years after their study abroad experience!

Jennifer McKibben
Assistant Director, Student Engagement

With Love from Prague

drawing of Jana with accordion

I have so many great student memories, here are some of my favorites:

A student not only volunteered to help with the planning of a fund-raising event organized by Prague College, but also donated her own art to the cause of supporting indigenous communities following disastrous wildfires in Australia. Thank you for your generosity and participating in a truly global endeavor for a better life to all.

Another student was the first IFSA Prague intern, and despite the turmoil following the program cancellation in Spring 2020 and various transitions into online learning, she excelled in both internship placements, and helped strengthen IFSA’s current partnerships with our network.

A personal thank you to the IFSA student who attended our site seminar in Prague for sending me a most touching drawing: a portrait of myself with my accordion.  I had just recently started playing the instrument, and I believe that the drawing had a clear impact on my ability to visualize myself as a real accordion player, and to believe in my ability to contribute as a musician ever since.

-Jana Žalská
Resident Director, Prague, Czech Republic

Changing a Life Forever

IFSA - ISLE students at the orphanage

Since 1983, the ISLE program participants have visited the Childrens’ Orphanage in Kandy every semester. When our students visit, they spend about one hour talking and playing with children and make donations to the orphanage, and some of our students have done volunteer work there as well.

One day in mid-May 2020, during the quarantine and with threat of COVID-19 spreading all over the world, I got a telephone call from a senior medical officer who said that he would be delighted to arrange free coronavirus tests for IFSA students. While we did not have students on site at the time, this presented the opportunity for me to get to know him.

He was a child from the orphanage in Kandy who benefited a lot from IFSA-ISLE students, not just financially, but also through building self-confidence and morale. Through this he was able to overcome the challenges of his life and he thanked IFSA-ISLE students for creating an environment of enthusiasm for learning.

-Tilak Jayatilake
Associate Director, IFSA-Intercollegiate Sri Lanka Education (ISLE)

Memorable Inaugural Program

Thank you to my fantastic students of the inaugural semester of the IFSA Rome program in Fall 2019! They were true pioneers, making the most of all the opportunities to interact with local students and families, embracing a different culture, and enjoying the Roman way of life to the fullest. Thank you!

– Francesco Burzacca
Resident Director, Rome, Italy

Amazing Alumni

I am managing the Global Ambassador Program for Fall 2020. This group of Ambassadors have already shown quite a bit of flexibility and perseverance; many studied abroad in Spring 2020 and were sent home during the start of the pandemic. However, one student stood out. I was preparing to co-host a webinar. The student emailed me the day before the webinar to let me know that she may not be able to attend, as she was in the path of a hurricane. Of course, I told her not to worry about it. In an amazing show of determination, she ended up calling in to the meeting to participate in the webinar from her phone, as she was without power. We’re truly lucky to have such dedicated Ambassadors!

-Carisa Crittendon
International Education Recruitment and Promotion Intern

Greatness During Stress

Thank you to all the Spring 2020 students who selected the Barcelona program and those who diverted from the China program. Despite the situation around the world, you were an amazing group who demonstrated solidarity, great spirit and serenity, and you made the most of your short experience abroad.

-Sandra Rodriquez Pareja
Resident Director, Barcelona, Spain

International Program, Local Input

During their time in Shanghai, we had students interning in the non-profit sector, writing grant proposals and teaching English to kids of migrant workers or individuals who are trying to re-enter the labor force after participating in job training and residency programs. Their skills, knowledge and leadership have made real and tangible impacts on the development of the local community, which in turn helps sustain community input and reciprocity. Thanks to our students for their service to local communities. We are very grateful to be part of the living narratives as they actively engage with this cross-culture experience, leading to the discovery of their internal aspirations and strengths.

-Pei Liu
Director for China Programs

To the Future-Focused Planners

2020 has been unlike any I’ve ever experienced, and the move to virtual study abroad events has felt like a huge change. But all the students continue to inspire me with their optimism and plans for future years! So many first-year students, and even some high schoolers, have reached out to talk and plan a study abroad experience for later in their college careers. We may be talking over Zoom, but I see all of you dreaming and scheming and thinking ahead with the certainty that you will go abroad while in college. Life isn’t easy for anyone right now, and I thank all of you for sharing your study abroad goals and dreams with me – I can’t wait to see you abroad!

-Lillian Read
Regional Field Director