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  • 26 Aug 2020 10:45 AM | Gretchen McCarthy (Administrator)

    Julia graduated in 2019 from Virginia Tech with degrees in International Public Policy, Spanish, and a minor in Arabic. During her junior year, she studied abroad at La Universidad de Murcia in Spain for six months. She now works at a nonprofit in Washington D.C. to empower those directly impacted by the United States’ broken immigration system through storytelling, as a means of driving policy change. She attributes living abroad to equipping her with some of the most vital skills she uses in her career today. Read about how she reflects on her time abroad in her own words:

    Julia hiking in Murcia.

    Why Murcia?

    Ever since I began studying Spanish in elementary school, I dreamed of going abroad. Every Spanish teacher I've ever had described full language immersion at the magical last puzzle piece to language fluency. Therefore, choosing a location with as minimal English available as possible was one of my top priorities. I forced myself to be surrounded by Spanish for six months through choosing a region with few tourists and going through ISEP, on a program where I knew no one else from my home university. Another big factor for me was deciding between a Latin American country or Spain.

    Entering college, I knew that I wanted to one day work in the U.S. immigration space, and because of that I had always planned on studying in a Latin American country. However, throughout undergrad I ended up taking many courses on Spanish culture and literature in my department at Virginia Tech, because I really admired the professors that taught those courses. During my freshman year, I was searching for extracurricular activities and my love for dance and random experiences led me to joining a flamenco dance group that I was a part of all four years of college. Naturally, this further peaked my interest in Spanish culture.

    The last deciding factor in choosing to study in Spain was when I added a minor in Arabic around my sophomore year. My love for languages continued to grow. I was also interested to learn more about the Arab world as I noticed an apparent rise of islamophobia in the U.S. around this time. Arab culture still prevails throughout most regions in Spain and particularly in the South. This truly seemed like the perfect location to continue my studies, I even ended up taking a course in Moroccan dialect at the university in Murcia.

    The beautiful cathedral, Murcia's status as a university town, its nickname as the "orchard of Europe", proximity to gorgeous beaches, and constant sunny weather were all factors that became the icing on top of the cake.

    La Catedral de Murcia during Easter celebrations.

    How to Utilize Your Network

    While in Spain, I reached out to an organization that I had interned with the previous summer. I received information about an international conference in Munich, Germany that the organization was taking part in and I let them know that I was in Spain, and asked if I would be able to attend. Without even directly asking, they offered to sponsor my trip to Munich from Murcia. The conference dates coincided with my university’s spring break and I decided to present a budget plan to see if I could extend my return trip back from Munich.

    I drafted up a budget for multiple overnight buses and trains that would allow me to stop in different countries on my way back to Spain and compared it to the cost of a flight from Munich to Spain. It actually cost less than a one way ticket back to Spain and the organization had no problem reimbursing me for this amount. I was able to stop in Austria, Hungary, and Barcelona on my way back from Germany with transportation paid for and without missing any classes.  

    I made so many unexpected professional and personal connections on this trip. My attendance at the conference ended up being an incredible opportunity to network with professors from my university and our international partners. I learned about service programs that researchers all around the world were implementing for refugees and other displaced populations. During my trip back through Austria and Hungary traveling alone, I either stayed in hostels or connected with friends of friends or family for housing. Many of them volunteered as local guides for their hometowns in Budapest and Krakow. I challenge all students going abroad to remember that your network runs deep; utilize this as much as possible, seek connections wherever you go, never be afraid to ask someone for a place to stay (you will be shocked how many people welcome you with open arms and take joy in sharing their home with you).

    When I returned to my home university the following semester, I had several professors come to me as a resource for why Virginia Tech should fund research on refugees and create more courses on these topics. Today, the conference is an experience I frequently reference in professional interviews and definitely stands out on my resume.


    Epic Growth from Epic Embarrassment

    Living abroad is an incredible addition to any resume or LinkedIn profile in any professional field. You gain a unique sense of independence, confidence, can advance language skills, learn a new language, adapt cultural humility and survive in an entirely new school system, along with countless other critical soft skills. However, what really impacted my personal and professional life forever and served as the greatest sources of pride for me were the challenges I overcame, discovering a new international network of friends and colleagues, and realizing my deep desire to live abroad again in my future.  

    No class could ever compare to my experience taking an intermediate Moroccan dialect course in Spanish. For the rest of my academic career, I truly remembered that if I passed that class I could pass any class. At Virginia Tech, I had taken Arabic classes in an entirely different dialect, I really had absolutely no idea what was going on in that classroom for several weeks. I could physically feel my brain sweating as it worked on a third language being taught in a second language. I also took a class with a professor that was not very tolerant of international students and did not understand why we took her class. I had to have difficult conversations with both of those professors about my final grades and nothing taught me more about university culture in Spain than making it through those two classes - making it through, also known as, barely passing Arabic and actually failing the other class. I had never failed a class before in my entire life, and as they say, “the most important thing in life is learning how to fall.” I had this new level of confidence after overcoming those fears of failing and embarrassment.

    Other challenges included interactions with locals where my Spanish failed me. At the beginning of my time abroad, and on random bad days throughout, I would have a hard time registering for classes, negotiating bills with landlords, completing necessary forms, understanding lectures and speaking with impatient store clerks that thought I was stupid. When this would happen, I truly wanted to curl into a ball under a blanket where English was the only language that existed. However, I had no choice but to learn how to stop someone and confess when I didn’t understand something (no nodding my head yes and pretending). Doing this to shake off someone thinking that I was not intelligent, and developing unique ways to communicate my needs, very quickly helped mlearn to communicate better in Spanish.  

    While many of these experiences were mortifying, humiliating, and anxiety inducing - I have forever become better equipped to handle these kinds of situations in my career, and life in general, as life is full of these moments. These moments are my favorite stories to tell friends, as I have so much pride in accomplishing what seemed impossible. I gained a new level of empathy for what so many immigrant populations that I work with can go through in the U.S.

    I always knew that I was passionate about traveling and experiencing cultures different from my own. However, before living in Spain, I had never lived in a country besides the U.S. for more than two weeks. Being in Spain was a test for myself and solidified those dreams of living abroad in the future. Even when I returned from Spain, I was able to more deeply connect with international students in the U.S. and further understand their experiences. I connected with networks, like the ISEP alumni network, to continue my involvement and passion for international education as a tool to create more globally conscious and compassionate humans in this world.

    Erasmus students together during orientation.

  • 19 Aug 2020 10:00 AM | Gretchen McCarthy (Administrator)

    Yulenda Timothy studies Strategic Communication at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. She studied at Loyola University New Orleans in the fall of 2019. Read about her ISEP experience and the skills she developed abroad in her own words:

    STUDYING ABROAD, I HAD TO LOSE MYSELF TO FIND MYSELF

    Travelled to New York for the first time.

    From a young age, I have always been fascinated with the world. Be it from the people, the vast variety of food and flavours or even hearing different languages and seeing different cultures. I have always been one that shares with my friends and family the importance of expanding your borders and learning to become a better person every day. Being awarded an opportunity to participate in an ISEP Study Abroad program came at a time when I knew I was destined for change, and I was ready. Ready to take on a new challenge. Ready to explore the world, but most importantly, ready to find myself.

    Being put in a new city, new environment and new culture can be quite an overwhelming experience, but it was one that I would not change. For very long I always claimed I knew what independence was, but it was only when I had to do everything for myself and by myself that I saw what true independence meant. With true independence comes true responsibility. I had to look at myself and realise that study abroad was not only teaching me how to navigate university, but it was also granting me a life skill. It taught me how to be a responsible adult. This goes to show the expected and unexpected revelations which studying abroad exposes you to.

    The opportunity to look at modules I had been learning about from a completely different perspective was one of the most valuable skills from my entire experience. Allowing myself to see the world from various viewpoints is so important. To have a clear understanding of a diverse world, which has different voices and opinions is a skill I will not take for granted. Having advanced technology available to me on my campus allowed me to develop skills that I never would have been able to, if I hadn’t taken the leap to study abroad. The difference between many people reaching their full potential is access, and the access I received changed my life. This is one of the reasons I believe study abroad improved my life far beyond the classroom. These are skills I can now take into a professional environment and begin making a change in the world.

    Walking the streets of the historic Treme in New Orleans.

    One of the biggest takeaways I have from studying abroad is that you will learn just as much outside the classroom as you will inside it. There are simple experiences I had with locals in my city that impacted my life in many ways. Whether it be from a simple conversation at the bus stop to people you speak to while volunteering. Never take for granted the people that are put in your life by accident, or for a specific reason. As much as study abroad is for you to educate yourself it is also a chance to find yourself. Where you put yourself in your spare time can really make a difference in the person you become. Do not be afraid to be open, try new things, go to new places, speak to different people, make new friends and just live!

    You cannot grow if you are comfortable. It takes you pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to be a better you. This is what studying abroad did for me. I knew that with studying abroad, I had to lose myself to find myself. It exposed me to the version of myself I always knew I would be and now, I am every day.

    Watching the Zulu Indian Tradition of New Orleans was one of the best experiences of my life.

  • 13 Dec 2019 2:28 PM | Michael Alijewicz (Administrator)


    Joseph Brenyah studied with ISEP on a program at University of in 2018 from his program at the University of Ghana in 2015. He just graduated with his PhD from the University of Ghana in the Social Work Program and we are extremely proud of what he’s accomplished. ISEP’s program in Ghana has been going strong for more than a decade and helps fund a PhD student’s in the United States.

    In his own words, here is what the ISEP program meant to him:


    "As a research centre student, i needed research skills to be able to move forward in my Ph.D. career.

    I was the leading student in the maiden Ph.D. course in social policy studies and so my department gave me the slot. ISEP’s program at the University of Ghana gave a slot to centre of social policy studies, University of Ghana to produce 1 brilliant student for sponsorship in 2017. Unfortunately ISEP could not get placement for me in fall so I had the opportunity in Spring at university of Wyoming, social work department from 17th january-31st may, 2018.  I was warmly welcomed and at Wyoming. Academic works were excellent, and the people have time to take international students through every step of what they are to do

    Orientation was very detailed. Lectures were very practical and interactive. Assignments were also very frequent and presentations were the order in each day. Residence life was good except the very chilly weather of which I became used to after some time. The University of Wyoming Chinery International house checked on our activities and helped us in our academic paths. Even though all activities were very tight, I still had some time to explore the Wyoming state and this was very enjoyable

    By the sponsorship of ISEP, I had travelled for the first time to USA. I have confidence in presentations. I have worked on my accents. I have developed team work skills. I have an added research skills especially in the area of qualitative analysis and moderate quantitative analysis. I have planned of establishing a research consultancy of which I have registered the company.

    I have met different people with different background and i adopted some good practices (diversity). Through ISEP, I have had a certificated course in sexual harassment at the University of Wyoming and so good knowledge of to the right way to interact with the opposite sex. I also had a Citi certificated research course and that has given me strong research ethical consideration skills

    At Wyoming, i have able to work on four (4) papers and I have been able to publish them in journals. I have almost finished with five (5) manuscripts out of my Ph.D. research

    Currently, am a health service administrator at Komfo Anokye teaching hospital in Kumasi, Ghana. I have lecturing experience at Dominion University and a nurse’s anesthetic training school in Ghana. I have developed interest in lecturing at the university and so i will want to be in academia. Currently, am always on the USA universities websites looking for post-doctoral opportunities and lectureship vacancies in social sciences. I will also be grateful to partner ISEP in any role so that ISEP can mobilize more resources to help others

    LONG LIVE ISEP GHANA

    LONG LIVE ISEP VIRGINIA"


    Long live Dr. Joseph Brenyah!


  • 6 Sep 2019 11:46 AM | Michael Alijewicz (Administrator)

    ISEP Alumni Association Member Simone Douglas has won the Linde Engineers of Tomorrow Scholarship! Simone studied in Ghana from NC A&T and she was a Google scholar. She also presented an ISEP Alumni Association webinar for engineers in study abroad!

    Congrats Simone!



  • 4 Sep 2019 5:08 PM | Michael Alijewicz (Administrator)

    This month we are profiling Kasey Johnson (2017-2018, ISEP Exchange Urbino from San Diego State). She conducted psychological research on her program and has been admitted to conduct graduate research at the University of Milan Statale. Here are some photos from her time abroad.



  • 20 Aug 2019 9:09 AM | Michael Alijewicz (Administrator)

    This Wednesday, August 21, we will have alumni events in both Melbourne, Australia and Washington, D.C. The scope shows the reach of the ISEP Alumni Association and precedes the official launch of the ISEP Alumni Portal. Now the portal will be your official point of entry for all your exclusive resources and your ISEP community. Look for new webinars, new podcasts, new stories, new chapters and new events in the coming year! And thank you to all alumni who participate.

  • 4 Jun 2019 11:28 AM | Michael Alijewicz (Administrator)

    ISEP Alumni from programs around the world spanning 15 years met up at ISEP's 40th Anniversary Reception at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington D.C. on May 28. They listened to remarks by Martha Bárcena Coqui on the importance of international education. They drank traditional palomas and ate a collection of foods from regions in Mexico where ISEP has member universities. Many were able to have conversations with diplomats, international educators and representatives of the US government. Look for more events in the coming year as ISEP celebrates its 40th Anniversary!

  • 27 May 2019 10:44 AM | Michael Alijewicz (Administrator)

    A warm welcome to Caylie on the ISEP Council of Advisers! She will be advising other ISEP students on study abroad in her position at ISEP member UMBC. She joins Sarah Barr, an established member. ISEP Alumni are leaders in International Education!

  • 16 May 2019 10:42 AM | Michael Alijewicz (Administrator)

    Are you an studying in the US? Are you still in school or a recent graduate? Are you looking for a PAID internship with incredible global companies? Do you want to live abroad again? Consider applying for the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce Internships. Positions range from marketing to coding at small companies to huge multinationals.



  • 9 May 2019 9:09 AM | Michael Alijewicz (Administrator)


    Our ISEP Alumni Association Korea Chapter had an incredible meetup to picnic and watch the Cherry Blossoms in April. Are you interested in starting a chapter or club near you? Email us any time!

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ISEP Alumni Association 

Address: 1655 N. Fort Myer Drive, Suite 400, Arlington, Virginia, U.S. 22209

+1 (703) 504-9995, Michael Alijewicz, [email protected]

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