When students visit the Global Education Office at the corner of Prices Fork and Tom's Creek roads, they are greeted by a large world map. Spanning the length of a wall, the map offers a visual array of international opportunities available to students. Peer advisors – students who themselves have studied abroad – serve as compasses to navigate the offerings.
The advisors include Cody Snyder of Boone, North Carolina, a senior double majoring in meteorology and geography in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, and a graduate of the Corps of Cadets, who traveled to Jordan in 2012 to study Arabic. Snyder also did a study abroad stint in Tanzania last summer. There, he learned Swahili and examined environmental sustainability issues in East Africa.
"These experiences offered me unique advantages, personally and academically," Snyder said. "I am able to use what I learned from my abroad experiences daily, both in the field and with my courses." After graduation, he plans to pursue a career in the U.S. Air Force.
Snyder and the other peer advisors conduct classroom presentations and hold weekly advising sessions. This year's peer advisors have studied in locations including Sri Lanka, Morocco, Egypt, Chile, Japan, and New Zealand. Here is what four other peer advisors have to say about the experience:
- Katherine Banchoff of Alexandria, Virginia, a senior double majoring in public and urban affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and Spanish in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and minoring in green engineering, attended a university in Chile last spring. "Studying abroad changed my perspective. I became more confident and independent. I perfected my Spanish and was able to find a job during the summer and after graduation."
- Marie Mack of Blacksburg, Virginia, a senior majoring in biology in the College of Science with minors in chemistry, Japanese, and medicine and society, studied abroad on the summer VT in Japan program. She extended her stay in Japan to conduct medical observation and to volunteer at local nursing homes. "Studying abroad has given me tools in communication and respect, so I may better interact with those of different backgrounds and cultures. This will be incredibly valuable as I enter the medical field."
- Kelly Schofield of Ellicott City, Maryland, a senior industrial and systems engineering major in the College of Engineering, spent a semester in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her classes included topics related to the rebuilding of the area after the devastating earthquake of 2011. "My experience abroad taught me the importance of being culturally competent. I would like to work in another country at some point in my career."
- Daniella Zelaya of Woodbridge, Virginia, a senior double majoring in international studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and economics in the College of Science, studied abroad on a faculty-led program to Morocco, Turkey, and Sri Lanka. During the five-week program, Zelaya interned with an organization involved with the development and reconstruction of Sri Lanka. "Studying abroad changed the way I viewed the world and my place in it. Going abroad pushes you out of your comfort zone, and in the process you learn how to appreciate diversity."
Becoming a peer advisor enables study-abroad alumni to continue building on their experiences after returning to Blacksburg. "Studying abroad had such an impact on my college experience. It's nice to come back to campus, be able to relive the experience, and also help other students do the same," Schofield said.
"Sifting through the countless study abroad options can be an overwhelming process for students," said William "Bill" Pruitt III, the office's assistant director for student services. "The peer advisors have the unique ability to relate and speak with fellow students. Through their experiences, they're able to address common concerns and barriers related to studying abroad.”
Walk-in advising hours are held at the Global Education Office from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. More information can be found on the Global Education website.
Written by Rommelyn Conde Coffren