Life as a GA: My Experience as an ISA Global Ambassador

Upon returning home from my semester abroad in Meknes, Morocco in the Fall of 2019, I felt like a whole new person. Endowed not only with a great deal of linguistic and cultural knowledge from my time abroad, but with a renewed understanding of my identity as a first-generation Moroccan-American and a new sense of pride and self-confidence. I was excited to see what the upcoming Spring semester would bring. At that point, I didn’t expect much; I foresaw myself as taking more classes for my major, spending more weekends working in retail, all in addition to getting back into daily life on campus at my home university, Rowan University. But then, an amazing opportunity came along.

During my winter break that year, I received an email from ISA’s Alumni Relations team asking if I’d like to be considered for a position as an ISA Global Ambassador (GA). Prior to going abroad, I actually met two Global Ambassadors, as well as one of ISA’s Regional Directors on my campus who told me more about the position and how to get involved upon completing my program. I went ahead and applied, and, soon, I had an interview!

Then, much to my surprise, I got the job! With a month until I moved back onto campus, I went through a quick orientation process and was sent my first GA Box, which was a package full of program guides, stickers, posters, even business cards, and a bunch of other neat stuff I could share with students on my campus at future events. Yet, despite all this preparation, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. Was I going to have enough time in my schedule? Was I going to be a successful GA? And how would I readjust to life at Rowan University?

Regardless, as the semester started up and I returned to campus, I got to work, making time to meet with Rowan’s Education Abroad Advisor and starting to brainstorm ideas for upcoming events. Soon after, I found myself not only surviving my first semester back on campus, but I was thriving and enjoying being back home, due largely in part to the fact that I began to get into the swing of things as a GA! The first half of the spring semester flew by, with me and the other GA’s at Rowan holding tabling events at the student center, hosting one-on-one advising sessions at our campus’s Barnes and Noble, and sharing our experiences abroad during info nights with various classes and campus departments. During this whirlwind of weeks, I was truly having a blast!

ISA Tabling Session with fellow Rowan GA, Dominique!

During the second half of the spring semester, even after the COVID-19 pandemic sent us all home, I still found ways to connect with my fellow Rowan GA’s, as well as GA’s from other campuses. We still held meetings with our Regional Director and the AR Team remotely, and the AR Team even matched us up with other GA’s at various colleges across the U.S. via a virtual pen pals program. They also held a series of webinars during the summer to help us further adjust to remote learning/working and to prepare us for the upcoming fall semester.

Thus, once September rolled around, I was not only looking forward to starting up school again, but I was especially eager to continue to host the meetings and events with my fellow GA’s and prospective study abroad students (albeit remotely, as I did not end up moving back onto campus) that left me feeling so empowered last spring.

As for this semester – so far, so good! While getting used to remote learning and working from home in general was a bit of an adjustment, I’m happy to report that I’m thoroughly enjoying my role as a Rowan GA. I still meet regularly with my fellow GA’s, our Regional Director, and Rowan’s Education Abroad Advisor. I’ve managed to host some one-on-one advising sessions with students and we’ve also held info sessions with several classes and campus organizations. We even did a week of Instagram Takeovers on Rowan University’s official study abroad page (@RowanAbroad), and I was invited to share my experience as a first-generation college student and a first-generation Moroccan-American on several virtual panels regarding navigating identity abroad. All in all, this semester’s gone so much better than I’d ever expected!

Most importantly, I’m beyond grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a GA. Not only did it give me the chance to meet other study abroad alumni and to share our stories from our time abroad in order to inspire students to take the plunge and go abroad, but it has truly been inspiring for me. It helped me discover my passion for international education; something I never knew I had until I’d gotten the position. It’s also given me a lot of great resources in regards to professional development, as I not only was given a lot of help with writing my resume, creating a LinkedIn account, and received tips that helped me make my time abroad stand out, but I’ve been able to work on plenty of professional skills that will follow me into my future career.

And finally, the support from the AR team, my fellow GA’s, and the Education Abroad Advisor at Rowan University have been instrumental in keeping me going, especially with all of the disruptions to our daily lives stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. If not for the resources they have provided me and their consideration, I don’t think I would’ve adapted as well as I have to online learning and remote working. And, besides, I don’t think my semester would be as fun as it has been! Because let’s be honest, after a week of Canvas quizzes and Zoom lettuces, being able to relive and reminiscence upon my time abroad gives me the pick-me-up and hope I need to power through the semester and keep my eye on the prize of looking forward to being able to go abroad again.

All in all, if you’re considering going abroad, or if you’re an ISA alum, consider applying to be a Global Ambassador! Of all the jobs I could have had as a student at my university, I think this is definitely one of the most fun and rewarding opportunities I’ve ever had, especially as it has afforded me the ability to keep my study experience abroad alive, even during the pandemic. I’ve met a lot of fantastic people, I’ve developed my professional skills, and I got to put the self-confidence, resilience, and cultural competency I built up while abroad to the test. Through my position as a GA, I feel empowered not only as a student, but as a study abroad alumna as I am given so many opportunities to learn from others’ experiences abroad, as well as share my own. Plus, seeing students get excited at the thought of someday going abroad really puts a smile on my face, especially as I felt pretty nervous leading up to my own departure, only to wish I could go back as soon as I returned!

So if you’re ever given the chance to rep study abroad as a Global Ambassador, do it! I promise you, it’s a lot of fun. And after you land the job, if you need any help coming up with ideas, planning events, or just want to make some friends, you can turn to me, the AR Team, or any of the other GA’s from around the country for suggestions. We even have a Facebook group and a LinkedIn page, so you’ll always know where to go for some extra support.

Nadine El Maleem is an ISA Global Ambassador at Rowan University and studied abroad with ISA in Meknes, Morocco in Fall 2019.

Inspired by Nadine’s journey and want to discover your own while immersing yourself in an abroad experience? Fill out your details below to let our team know and we’ll help you find your adventure today!

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