Friends hug and smile for a photo

Global Ambassadors Provide Real-Time Insight into Life Abroad

  • Dec 13, 2018

While students on campus wrap up finals and projects, our study abroad students are getting ready to conclude an unforgettable semester in another country. With the help of this semester’s Global Ambassadors, we’ve been able to share their experiences as they documented their memories, reflections and valuable lessons on our social media and study abroad blog

We launched the Global Ambassadors program this past summer to give students a platform to capture and share their experiences abroad. Our Global Ambassadors post their reflections on our blog and participate in social media takeovers to give interested students real-time insight into living, learning and working in another country. 

At the end of their program, Global Ambassadors receive a certificate of global engagement for their role in helping promote internationalization at UT. Being a Global Ambassador is not only a great resume builder for students, but it’s also a way to strengthen their storytelling and writing abilities. 

The stories of our Global Ambassadors remind us that all study abroad experiences are unique, and as their time abroad ends, we decided to share some of our favorites from this semester’s Global Ambassadors. 

Katherine Velez

Aix-en-Provence, France 

Katherine Velez is an international relations major minoring in French. This fall, she studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. A first-generation college student, she is the first in her family to take on a challenge like this. After doing her own research and getting help from her advisor at Texas Global, Velez found the courage to take the next step to reach her goal of being fluent in French. 

Her motivation to study abroad was to be fluent in French and to fully experience a new culture. Her passion is to work with refugees and she believes learning French will help her achieve that goal and communicate with a larger population. 

During her semester abroad, Velez documented her experiences of dealing with culture shock, living with a host family and traveling across Europe. She also backpacked across Italy, traveling to eight cities in just 10 days.  

“I actually don’t want to leave France, or Europe at all. I have learned so many new aspects of the French culture as well as the language. It’s amazing how all my dreams have come true,” Velez shared. 

Katherine Velez eating pizza in front of the Tower of Pisa

Read Velez's stories from France on our blog


Lina Zhao 

Istanbul, Turkey 

Lina Zhao is an economics senior who studied at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey, this fall semester. Located near the Bosporus, which separates the Asian and European part of Turkey, Zhao’s university is known to be the most scenic university in Turkey. But aside from the beautiful setting, she was also impressed with Turkish hospitality. Her travels, experiences, and the people she met have taught her to say “yes to everything.” 

“I swam in a blue cave, paraglided during a sunrise, rafted down freezing waters, drove an ATV in the most picturesque hills, explored Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, eaten plenty of food, and so much more … all in all, I have been living my best life,” Zhao explained. 

But living abroad has also taught her to balance priorities. Zhao said the eagerness to explore everything can make it hard to remember priorities such as sleeping and eating. But Zhao learned that it is still important to take a step back, not only to rest but also to reflect on her experiences. 

“Think about the analogy of putting various sized rocks in a jar. You have to put the biggest rocks in before trickling in the rest of the smaller ones. If you start off with the small debris and sand, you’ll never be able to fit the large rocks in last,” she said.  

Lina Zhao in front of the Bosphorus in Istanbul

Read Zhao's stories from Turkey on our blog


Elena Pojman

Lima, Peru 

Elena Pojman, a mathematics and Latin American studies major, figured out how to make the most of her time abroad. During a regular semester at UT, Pojman would be busy volunteering and working, but Pojman said her semester at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú has been more relaxed. Given more free time, Pojman decided to regularly explore new museums every week and take spontaneous trips. 

Pojman traveled to places such as Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain and Santiago, Chile, enjoyed beautiful sceneries and learned more about Latin American history. She also tried Peruvian food including alpaca meat, which she said was surprisingly tasty. She documented her travels on our blog and through taking lots of pictures. 

“I have wanted to study abroad for as long as I can remember, and once I chose to spend this semester in Peru, I spent months anxiously obsessing over every little detail that I believed would give me problems: registering for classes, transportation, food, the language barrier, safety, the workload," Pojman said.

"Sure, at times I’ve longed for the familiarity of UT and my life in Austin, but the transition has not been impossibly hard. Shopping, trying new foods, exploring nature, and sightseeing have made Lima feel more and more like home,” she added. 

Elena Pojman sitting on a bench in Lima, Peru

Read Pojman’s stories from Peru on our blog


Mel Stack

Barcelona, Spain 

For government senior Mel Stack, studying abroad has given him a chance to grow through overcoming challenges. At first, he was nervous about not being fluent in Spanish. However, overcoming the language barrier has been “one of the most rewarding components” of his time in Barcelona. He learned that in order to succeed, he would need to allocate time to do activities such as coming to language practice meetups, frequently reading in Spanish and communicating with native speakers. He also learned to manage his time so he could go on trips and still succeed in his classes. 

Living in Barcelona also allowed him to try delicious tapas, enjoy Mediterranean views and make friends with Catalans. He attended El Clásico, a soccer match between two of the best soccer teams, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Stack watched El Clásico on TV growing up, and had planned to just watch the match with some friends at his residence hall. But after spontaneously finding a cheap ticket 20 minutes before the match, he quickly rushed to Camp Nou, the soccer stadium.  

“Although the process of purchasing a ticket, and running to the Camp Nou at world record speeds was a stressful experience, I can always say that I was part of an iconic moment in Spanish history. I will never forget this day for the rest of my life,” Stack reflected. 

Mel Stack in a soccer match in Barcelona

Read Stack’s stories from Spain on our blog


Kelsey Moreland

Singapore, Singapore 

As an exchange student in the National University of Singapore, Kelsey Moreland learned it is completely feasible to establish a routine while living on the other side of the world. She encourages other students studying abroad to not only travel and experience new things but also prioritize time for hobbies and being productive with school work. Moreland loves singing and playing guitar. Conveniently, her favorite spot in Singapore was a guitar shop that also has a little coffee shop. It became her favorite study spot. 

“My advice is to find things the way the locals would find things – the internet! And a little bit of chance. My new favorite study spot was found when I needed a new set of guitar strings and searched for shops online,” Moreland described. 

But one of the most memorable parts of Moreland’s study abroad was her trip to Vietnam. In this post, she discussed the negative side effects of a growing tourism industry, such as increasing plastic waste and water overuse. Moreland encourages everyone to stay informed and do their own research into every travel destination they go to and find more ethical and sustainable alternatives if needed. 

Kelsey Moreland wearing a flower crown in Singapore

Read Moreland's stories from Singapore on our blog


You can explore all the Global Ambassadors’ stories on the study abroad blog.