Keep in Touch With CEA

My CEA journey started in the winter of 2013 and has grown to include being a CEA study abroad student, MOJO (Mobile Journalist), Alumni Ambassador, and now a CEA Alumni Ambassador intern. Why did I choose to stay part of the CEA family in so many roles? More than any other institution I have ever encountered, CEA cares about its students. It is such a simple concept, but much easier said than done. In all the various endeavors throughout my entire life, I have never had the pleasure of interacting with such a cohesive team devoted to giving each and every student the opportunities to have an eye-opening experience. I feel confident making such a bold statement because I have lived it. CEA and I have a long history; one that I feel has helped us both a lot.

Macey Hallstedt during her winter 2013
San Jose study abroad program.
It all began in San Jose, Costa Rica. After many months of research, preparation, and tough decision-making, I had settled on a program and could not have been more excited. Upon arrival, I was blown away by how intentional CEA had been on its preparation to make sure the students had all the necessary information in order to feel comfortable venturing out on their own. They were always available and helpful, but still allowed students to be very independent.

After my first few weeks in San Jose, my program directors, Maggie and Leo, made us aware of an available paid position on the CEA team as a MOJO. Given my concentration in communications and predisposition toward writing, I jumped at the opportunity. Not often does an amateur undergrad stumble across a chance to get paid to write. So I wrote. And I photographed. And I recorded. And from all this, came a few tour videos, several photo essays, and even more blog entries encompassing all topics from how study abroad helps students even after graduation to what 'pura vida' means to me. All of them were published. In on fell swoop I had gotten some of my own writing posted on a platform other than my own personal blog and CEA had received blog content to help future students considering study abroad.

Fast forward five months to September 2013, as I was entering my junior year at the University of Michigan. I had accepted a position as a CEA Alumni Ambassador intern. Such a position includes things like giving presentations encouraging students to study abroad, creating and distributing flyers, working the CEA table at study abroad fairs, making contacts within relevant offices like International and Advising centers, and the like. The experience fit in so well with my communications concentration. Plus, I am so passionate about study abroad that I wanted to share it with everyone I met.

A year and a half later, my experience with CEA has come full circle. Due to my hard work as an Alumni Ambassador and an intense craving to go abroad again, CEA invited me back to San Jose, Costa Rica as one of the first to participate in the Alumni Ambassador Internship program. So here I am, starting my CEA San Jose internship and seeing study abroad from a new angle.

Macey Hallstedt (center) with CEA San Jose Academic
Director, Leo Duran (left), and Program Director,
Maggie Banchs (right).
My job is to plan cultural activities and meaningful excursions, and do pretty much anything else necessary for the international students to feel safe and comfortable here. That can include anything from showing them how to plan a great vacation, to where to buy the delicious Costa Rican fruits for cheap and how to avoid tourist traps to helping them with Spanish homework. The best part? I enjoy all of it.

I am not only here to serve CEA and its students, but I am also selfishly gaining invaluable experience in how to navigate international workplaces, how to help others feel welcome when all they feel is different, and improving my Spanish the entire time. I am having fun learning by doing and simultaneously providing a very important service to the international students; I am a student who has lived it, worked hard, succeeded, and returned to put my new skills to use. I am a living testimonial about how hard CEA works in order to ensure the best experiences for the students - both present and past.

Macey Hallstedt is a Winter 2013 CEA San Jose alumna, current CEA Senior Alumni Ambassador at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, former CEA MOJO, and currently a Summer 2014 CEA Alumni Ambassador intern in San Jose. Don't miss her next post about what goes on behind the scenes at CEA San Jose!

It’s been a great summer on the blog keeping up with our CEA Alumni Ambassador team. Since they’ve “been there, done that” when it comes to knowing the ins and outs of study abroad, it’s been fun hearing about their experiences in Barcelona, Prague, Aix-en-Provence, Alicante, Paris, Port Elizabeth, Seville, and San Jose. We love hearing their feedback and want to thank them for their help on the blog covering topics such as  debunking study abroad myths and sharing their insights about the CEA Alumni Ambassador program.
Patrick Gradus (top left), Josh Lagunez (top right), & Taylor
Stoeckler (bottom, far left)

If you’ve been busy working or hanging out with friends this summer, here’s a quick recap of what you missed:

Intern Abroad in Alicante: Did you hear about Taylor’s summer interning with the CEA Alicante team? As one of the first CEA Alumni Ambassador Interns abroad, Taylor got to experience study abroad from the other side. (Plus, she was already an expert at study abroad with four programs behind her.)

That’s a Wrap! We thought the CEA blog would be a little quiet without our MOJOs over the summer, but our “Males in Study Abroad” series kept us checking back for more. We went back in time with Tanner, Shane, Josh, Patrick, Tarek, and David as they shared why they studied abroad, what they learned from their time abroad and why they encourage you to study abroad.

The end of this series also means we’re saying “adios” to Patrick, a Prague alum and Associate Alumni Ambassador, who contributed several blog posts recapping his time in Prague. We’re excited for where the next step in your post-study abroad journey takes you, Patrick!

Monique Martinez (top left), Tarek Dahdul (bottom left),
David Sperling (top right), & Shane Heckman (bottom right)
But wait, there’s more! Before we start crying in our melted gelato that the summer is over, we’re excited for one more summer treat: Our second Alumni Ambassador intern, Macey Hallstedt, a San Jose Winter ‘13 alumna and student at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, is about to share her summer CEA San Jose internship recap. Get ready for updates about living life “pura vida” style.

Psst: Even though we love summer, we’re psyched for the Fall semester to roll around so we can meet our new Alumni Ambassador team members and catch up with returning Ambassadors!

Psst (again!): How can you join the CEA Alumni Ambassador team? Study abroad with CEA

Study Abroad Myth: You can’t study abroad your last semester of college. 

Reality: Patrick, a Fall 2013 CEA Prague study abroad alum and Associate Alumni Ambassador, shares how he ended his undergraduate career in Prague learning more about himself and more about his political science focus.

Patrick Gradus is a recent grad from St. Norbert College
and an Associate Alumni Ambassador (Prague Fall '13).
CEA: Why did you choose to study abroad?

Patrick: I always knew it was something I wanted to do - living and studying in a foreign country has never been as easy and accessible as it is today. I also double majored in International Studies and Political Science, so I was required to choose an area of focus and study in that region.

CEA: How have you changed because of your abroad experience? 

Patrick: It is impossible to go abroad and not come back a changed person. The experience overseas was the first time away from my family, and it allowed me to assert myself independently.

CEA: What classes did you find useful or applicable to your field of study or career interest?

Patrick: The political science classes were extremely helpful and informative to Czech political history and integration within the European Union. I found that the art classes I took forced a different approach to learning about the political development of a nation. Never taking an art class in college, I was not sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was interesting to see how approachable political history became through an artistic lens. Art and architecture are the physical manifestations of a society's value system. Lectures on architectural design as a symbol of royal wealth and power provided a different vantage point to source material. Plus, standing in front a Prague castle and looking at the Bohemian kingdom on a map are very different things.

CEA: How has your study abroad experience impacted your life, academics, and/or future career goals?

Patrick: Study abroad was my final undergraduate semester and reinforced my focus for a career involving international affairs.
Patrick Gradus (left) with brother, Mike (right) in Prague.

CEA: How has the ambassador experience helped you when you returned and with your future career goals?

Patrick: One of the best decisions I’ve made since returning home was applying to the Ambassador program. It has helped encourage professional writing and accountability, while allowing me an opportunity to connect with people who loved study abroad as well.

Patrick Gradus presenting at St. Norbert College.
CEA: In your opinion, why don’t more male students study abroad?

Patrick: There are a number of reasons why more male students choose to not study abroad. Financial, pragmatic, social, even professional reasons are among the first that come to mind. Financial reasons are understandable—student loan debt is rising and adding to the load is a natural deterrent. However, never before in human history have opportunities for international education been this cost effective.
Patrick Gradus (center in blue) with his Czech
junior football team.

CEA: Why do you think it’s important for male students/all students to study abroad?

Patrick: I think that international education is extremely important in the development of young professionals. Men and women can both benefit from study abroad opportunities. However, there is a growing trend of fewer men taking advantage of study abroad than women. Men, close the gap and study abroad!

CEA: If you could give any piece of advice to other male students considering study abroad, what would it be?

1. Do not miss the forest for the trees. Explore your own city and learn what your home country has to offer.
2. Volunteer. Leave a longer lasting impact with the people in your host city.
3. Go!

Patrick Gradus is a CEA Associate Alumni Ambassador and a recent graduate from St. Norbert College. Patrick studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, during the Fall 2013 semester.