I chose GVSU for its strong study abroad program and vibrant international student culture. Desiring a deeper understanding of cross-cultural narratives and human rights, I knew that studying abroad would be an essential component to my undergraduate education and career pursuits. I was able to fulfill this goal by participating in the 2012-2013 Studies in Trans-Atlantic International Relations (STAIR) exchange program through GVSU. Through this program, I spent five months studying at the University of Debrecen, Hungary, and 6 months at Cracow University of Economics, Poland. By the end of the program, I had earned a second degree in international economic affairs from CUE. I was later invited to present my undergraduate thesis, a requirement for completion of the STAIR program, at the International Studies Association Midwest Conference in November 2013. This opportunity was made possible by Dr. Polly Diven, Director of the International Relations Program at GVSU.
After serving a year as an AmeriCorps State member at Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and began an internship with a local refugee resettlement agency. In July 2015, I was selected to serve as the Nashville Community Engagement Fellow with the Global Citizenship Fellows program at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. One of 18 Fellows across the United States, I worked to build a network of UNICEF supporters across the Middle Tennessee region through advocacy, education, and fundraising. In addition to my work with UNICEF USA, I continue to advocate for refugee rights in my free time and assisted in planning the Nashville World Refugee Day event in June 2016.
From engaging professors in the classroom to interacting with students from various backgrounds and cultures, my experience at Grand Valley prepared me for a lifetime of stepping outside my comfort zone in order build relationships and achieve my professional goals.