Meet our Spring 2016 Ambassadors

We are excited to announce our Spring 2016 Ambassadors! Get to know them by reading their favorite memory of their time abroad and their best advice for living like a local. Our ISEP Ambassadors promote international education on their campus while demonstrating transferable career skills essential for building their résumé. ISEP Ambassadors serve in a variety of ways to help recruit study abroad participants and welcome international students to their culture.

Feel free to contact them if you have questions about their home or host university.

Alejandro Contreras

Home institution: San Diego State University, California

Host institution: Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica



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Favorite memory: My favorite memory from studying abroad was going zip-lining through the rainforest of San Jose de la Montaña.

Best advice: The best piece of advice that I have for students who want to live like a local during their study abroad program is to communicate as much as possible in their host country’s language. The more you communicate using your host country’s language, the more relationships you will form and then you will truly begin to feel like a local.


Alex Mortensen

Home institution: University of Nebraska at Omaha, Nebraska

Host institution: Universidad de Almería, Spain



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Favorite memory: Too many to pick just one. Jumping from a bridge, Friendsgiving, 35 day Eurotrip solo, just a few of the many!

Best advice: Ask questions: Where is the best place to eat? Where is the most popular market? Don’t be afraid of a language. You will make mistakes, but don’t let those slow you down. Also, jump in with your university’s exchange volunteers. I first felt like a local when my uncle visited and I wasn’t able to show him the city without running into a friend every time we went out.


Allen Riquelme

Home institution: Elmhurst College, Illinois

Host institution: Massey University, New Zealand



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Favorite memory: My favorite part about studying in New Zealand would definitely have to be exploring Milford Sound on the south island! All of the scenery was filled with breathtaking views!

Best advice: If students want to truly live like a local, then I suggest going into town and exploring the night life with the locals and soaking in every amount of the new culture around them. You have to be considerate of the language, educational system, and social norms. As long as you’re respectful and open to new experiences during your time abroad, then your experience will be truly rewarding in the long run.


Ana Cervera

Home institution: University of Kentucky, Kentucky

Host institution: Université Savoie Mont Blanc, France


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Favorite memory: Walking through the French countryside on my way to Jean Jacques Rousseau’s house. I’d already spent the morning walking to the weekly market in Chambéry and gone to my favorite cupcake shop. It was late October, so the temperature was crisp and the trees were full of color. It made me realize what a beautiful city I was living in.

Best advice: Get involved at your school! If you are assigned a group project, make sure you get in a group with the local students from the school. Talk to the locals and get to know them. I didn’t feel like a local until I was in the middle of a conversation with one of the girls from one of my classes and realized that I didn’t have to plan everyone of my responses. I could talk completely freely!


Caitlin Culp

Home institution: Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina

Host institution: Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica


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Favorite memory: I loved the simplicity of life in Costa Rica. Some of my most favorite memories surround the eight hour, non-air conditioned bus trips to the beach, my every day commutes (either with my favorite bus driver or by walking), adventuring through the streets of a new city because I was lost, stopping at the corner market for fresh mangoes on a daily basis, and buying trees, fruits, and vegetables with my Mami at the local farmer’s market.

Best advice: I felt like a Tica when I finally knew how to make it from my house to my campus and recognize everything in between. I learned about Heredia by running and walking through the streets every chance I had. I also loved to stop in the small shops and buy products or just talk to the employees because I felt like I knew what I was doing and I was able to practice the money conversion.


Callie Crabtree

Home institution: Maryville College, Tennessee

Host institution: Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy


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Favorite memory: My favorite memory is just the whole trip in general and what I received from my experience. I learned through traveling alone to be more independent, and that planning ahead doesn’t always work. Most importantly I learned who I was as a person and what I wanted to do with my experience in the future.

Best advice: Get out there and explore the town you live in. It is the best way to learn what the locals do and helps ease you into the local atmosphere. I started living like a local around the second week abroad. You learn things during the first days you are there and how to blend into the local scene after the first week in the city.


Charlotte Roulet

Home institution: Western Washington University, Washington

Host institution: Université Savoie Mont Blanc, France


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Favorite memory: My favorite memory from my time in Chambéry was the Thanksgiving dinner I shared with my international friends. Our kitchens were tiny, and we had barely any cooking utensils, but sharing my home country’s holiday meal with friends from all over the world made it my most memorable and rewarding Thanksgiving ever.

Best advice: The best way to live like a local is to go into shops, go into little restaurants, and talk to people. Check out the community groups and clubs, and find something to do outside of the university! The interactions I had with people in the park or when I was standing in line at the Christmas market were some of the most rewarding experiences of my entire time studying abroad. I felt like a local when the owner of the local cupcake shop recognized me and knew my order because I had been there so often; I was a regular!


Chrystal Messam

Home institution: Georgia Southern University, Georgia

Host institution: Université de Caen, France


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Favorite memory: My favourite memory from study abroad is all the friends that I made there. That is one of the most amazing things about studying abroad. The friends that you will meet will be friends for life and they make the experience much better.

Best advice: The best way to live like a local is to do what locals do and go where they go. It is really important that you practice your host language. There will be time when you just want to speak your native language but using your host language will make the locals see that you are trying and some of them really like to help you practice. I can not tell you how many times I was forced to order something in my host language and it helped me a lot. I felt like a local when I went to the grocery store by myself. It seems like a small task but in a foreign country, that was a big accomplishment for me!


Cindy Herrera

Home institution: Monmouth College, Illinois

Host institution: Universitat de les Illes Balears, Spain


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Favorite memory: My favorite memory studying abroad was meeting so many students from all over the world who were as nervous as I was to be living in a new country. These students became some of my closest friends and travel companions during my time abroad. The bond that was created between us was probably the most rewarding aspect of studying abroad.

Best advice: Go out and explore something new every week! Go to markets, festivals, dinner with a local or volunteer. Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to not only try new things but to live like a local in your new home. Get to know your host family or flatmates and go out on excursions with them. Familiarize yourself with customs and traditions and participate in the festivities – that’s what made me feel like a true local!


Diana Phillips

Home institution: University of Tennesee – Knoxville, Tennessee

Host institution: Massey University, New Zealand


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Favorite memory: My absolute favorite is when I went bungee jumping for the very first time with my friends. It was absolutely incredible!! The feeling of free-falling towards the river below can’t be described in words. I still can’t believe I did it!

Best advice: I think that in order to “live like a local” you need to actively be around the locals. Don’t get stuck in the easy trap of only hanging out with other students from your home country. Get out there, talk to people, and make friends with the locals! I really felt like I was living like a local when I started to pick up the slang in my everyday speech. “Sweet as!”


Eleanor Campbell

Home institution: Randolph-Macon College, Virginia

Host institution: Al Akhawayn University, Morocco


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Favorite memory: Oh.. How to pick one. I would have to say my favorite memory was staying up all night with my friends, either other study abroad students or students from my host university, and watching the sunrise from a spot on campus where you see the entire town surrounded by the mountains.

Best advice: Best advice for students who want to live like a local during their study abroad program is to go to places with a local! After going to this one fruit vendor at the marché for a while did I finally feel like a local because not only was I able to order by myself, but the vendor also recognized me and welcomed me to share some tea with him.


Emily Clark

Home institution: University of Denver, Colorado

Host institution: University of Ghana, Ghana


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Favorite memory: Falling in a puddle on a safari in Mole, Ghana because my friend said she would catch me, and did not.

Best advice: Let go of any embarrassment you have by letting yourself fall into the local culture, others might say you’re trying too hard, but you will get the most of your experience. I first felt like a local when bargaining with fruit market vendors.


Emily Edelman

Home institution: University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, Wisconsin

Host institution: Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy

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Favorite memory: The people that I met during my travels and the friends I made at my host college were my favorite memory of studying abroad. I have so many different adventures in various cities that I will always remember, but what I will never forget is that every one of these stories includes incredible people I met while studying abroad. I left for my semester abroad by myself and was so worried I would get homesick and wouldn’t make any friends. Not only did I make connections with other people on the first day at orientation, but I made friendships that will last a lifetime. I learned so much about European and American cultures and it really opened my eyes to how different people’s everyday lives are around the world. I can’t explain how I got so close so quickly with the other students I met while abroad, but it’s an incredible bonding experience that you won’t get anywhere else. The people that I met during my European adventure were definitely my favorite part of studying abroad.

Best advice: Take advantage of every opportunity your host university offers you. Every semester these colleges have students from all over the world come to their university and they really do want these students to assimilate into the local way of life. Universities offer lots of different ways for students to learn about the local culture. Some examples from my experience were we were given the opportunity to speak with Italian students a couple times a week so they could work on their English while we worked on our Italian. There were school organized adventures to local restaurants and nearby cities where we could learn Italian customs and traditions. We also did a city scavenger hunt where we had to stop and ask the locals questions to figure out where we were going. All of these things made us more comfortable with the city, the language, and the people which is why I think it’s the best way to feel and live like a local.

The first time I really felt like I was living like a local it was just another ordinary weekday. I walked to school, stopped in at my favorite coffee shop for breakfast, met up with my friends at class, and went to the grocery store on my way home to grab some food. I was walking home just thinking about my day and I remember having the realization of just how far I had come in two short months. The first time I walked to school it took me an hour and a half because I kept getting lost and that day it took me twenty-five minutes. My first week I just walked into a random coffee shop and couldn’t order a single thing on the menu and now the servers knew me by name and I could order all in Italian. When I went to class I was meeting up with friends that I didn’t even know two months prior, and at the grocery store I now knew where everything was. I even had a conversation in Italian with the woman that worked at the front counter. None of these things were a big deal, but I realized that things that I used to find extremely difficult and would have taken hours to complete were now part of my daily routine. That’s when I felt like I was really living like a local.


Gabriel Frascella

Home institution: Kennesaw State University, Georgia

Host institution: Université Savoie Mont Blanc, France


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Favorite memory: Early in the year I mistakenly misinterpreted a student email talking about music and a choir. I thought I was going to a concert, instead I accidentally joined a student choir at the university. It actually turned out to be a lot of fun!

Best advice: The best way to live like a local is to make local friends and spend time with them. The weird looks you will exchange are invaluable for learning cultural differences. During my second semester in Chambéry, we had a new group of ISEP students coming in. Showing them around town and telling them about how things worked there really made me feel like I’d adapted.


Gabrielle Reed

Home institution: Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania

Host institution: Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany


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Favorite memory: A group of fellow students and myself got up before the sun rose and walked to the castle located at the top of the hill the town was situated on. While there we sat on the walls of the castle and watched the sun rise. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

Best advice: Interact with the locals. The more you attempt to talk to them and get to know them, the more you can integrate into their culture. After a few weeks of really tying to speak their language and so as they suggested I do, I felt like I knew everything about the town and how to live like a local.


Kaitlin Archibald

Home institution: Utah State University, Utah

Host institution: Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy


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Favorite memory: I loved my host city, but my favorite memories from studying abroad came from the weekend adventures I went on regularly. There is a natural high that comes from booking a Friday afternoon train to Rome.

Best advice: The best way to speed up that transition between being a tourist to a local is simpler than you think. Just ask. It’s okay if your language skills aren’t great, they’ll usually love you for just trying. Ask locals about their favorite place for brunch, where the best grocery shopping is, and other must-have experiences in your host city.


Kevin Burt

Home institution: Montana State University, Montana

Host institution: Universität Bern, Switzerland


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Favorite memory: My favorite memory from studying abroad would be hiking through the Swiss Alps. The memories of the days I spent wandering through the alpine mountain towns are hands down the highlight of my trip.

Best advice: I would advise students who want to live like local to actively try to stop stressing and enjoy the moment. I first felt like thisl when I decided I would just see where each day took me, instead of constantly trying to plan my every move out.


Lynn Diep

Home institution: University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Nebraska

Host institution: Ewha Womans University, South Korea


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Favorite memory: It was a week after having arrived in Korea. I had started to memorize the direction to jump on the subway in order to get to Hongdae, a popular college student hang out area. I was meeting a new friend, a girl from the Netherlands who I had been in contact with a couple months prior to leaving for Korea. We got in touch since we would be in Seoul together at the same university. As we were speaking and just hanging out, two Korean boys approached us and asked if they could practice their English with us. The most interesting/memorable thing was that one of the boys, Yongwoo Jung (who is now a very good friend of mine), was the only one brave enough to approach us. He spoke to me because he thought I was a local. From that random encounter, I ended up making new friends who really made the rest of my Korean life memorable!

Best advice: For my host country, I would say the best way to live like a local is to eat, live and travel like a local. Around the area of my university in Seoul, public transportation is great along with the various food options. Day in and day out, my friend and I would usually opt for a Korean meal which would usually be samgyupsal or Korean pork belly grilled. I also traveled around Seoul to meet with friends and explored using Korea’s very efficient transportation system, the subway. It was maybe about a month after I arrived in Seoul that I felt like I was truly living like a local. I took language courses during my semester abroad at my host university, and all of the language practice and long hours of study definitely helped me start communicating better with locals in their native language. I was finally able to have conversations.


Madeline Smith

Home institution: East Carolina University, North Carolina

Host institution: Karlstad University, Sweden


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Favorite memory: When I went to Norway I got the opportunity to hike up the Nigard glacier! It was so beautiful and amazing, I never would have had that opportunity and I never will again!

Best advice: Take the bus! It’s a great chance to learn the town. I really felt like a local when I knew all the local brands, the bus schedule and all the local restaurants and bars.


Mary Sheppard

Home institution: Western Connecticut State University, Connecticut

Host institution: American University in Bulgaria, Bulgaria


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Favorite memory: My favorite memory would have to be backpacking through the Balkan mountains of Bulgaria, specifically around the famous Seven Rila Lakes. I set out on the excursion with seven friends, and the entire journey was filled with new discoveries and breathtaking scenery. We drank fresh spring water that was gushing straight from the rocks, and picked wild lavender by the handfuls from the mountainside. Once we arrived at the top of the cliffs, I could not believe my eyes. The seven lakes that were once so large now looked like diminutive puddles. The view was spectacular – we could see the beautiful Bulgarian landscape unfolding for miles and miles before us. When night time came, we spread our blankets out on the grass and laid together while we all talked about how lucky we were to be right there in that moment. We talked and laughed for what seemed like forever as we gazed at the Milky Way that stretched across the sky above us.

Best advice: My best advice would be to approach every situation with an open mind, and try everything at least once. Just because a food or a custom may seem strange to you at first doesn’t mean that there isn’t a chance you’ll end up enjoying it. Also, become friends with locals/natives. I became close friends with two Bulgarian students during my time abroad, and one of them took me to her grandmother’s farm and village for a weekend. It was the most interesting experience and it was also really cool to see the lifestyle of a totally self-sufficient Bulgarian villager. The first time it felt like I was truly living like a local was the day I was confident enough to walk into the city center by myself and shop at the local outdoor farmer’s market for popular and traditional Bulgarian goods.


McKennah Andrews

Home institution: University of Montana, Montana

Host institution: Karlshochschule International University, Germany


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Favorite memory: My absolute favorite memory from my study abroad here in Germany was this moment when I was on top of Mount Pilatus, right outside of the gorgeous tourist town of Lucerne, Switzerland. I had wanted to go to Switzerland for years, and visiting the alps was a big dream of mine. As a Montanan, mountains are comforting for me. So, standing on Mount Pilatus while filling my lungs with the high altitude air and absorbing the phenomenal view of the Swiss Alps in nearly every direction around me was more than achieving a life goal of mine. The moment represented the first time I felt like Mount Pilatus became my home away from home.

Best advice: The best advice I could give to a future student who wants to live like a local during their study abroad program is to be as observant as possible of specific cultural norms and behaviors. For example, I felt most like a local in Germany mimicing local food selections and wearing local fashions. This requires open-mindedness, determination, and willingness to try new things, especially things that might fall out of our comfort zones or cultural understandings.


Mihika Menon

Home institution: Louisiana State University, Louisiana

Host institution: University of Latvia, Latvia


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Favorite memory: Seeing the fireworks over the Daugava on New Year’s day with all the friends I had made over the semester.

Best advice: Learn the language and make friends with locals as well as other exchange students. Take courses that you can only take at this university, or this region of the world, even if they don’t transfer back as you would like. It was about a month and a half in when Riga truly felt like home.


Mohamed Abedalhady

Home institution: San Diego State University, California

Host institution: American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates


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Favorite memory: My favorite memory from studying abroad is sailing on an old traditional boat in Oman and snorkeling in the water of Oman Gulf. Another one is watching the Burj Khalifa on New Years Eve, one of the top cities of the largest firework shows on the tallest building in the world.

Best advice: The best advice for students who want to live like a local during their study abroad is being open minded and friendly to the culture that you are studying abroad in. By trying a new cultures’ food/drinks, clothing, or meeting other students from that country, you will find it easier to assimilate. I signed up for a local club on campus (UAE Club) and attended events and their basketball team. The club had local members that were very friendly with useful tips and advice. I first felt like a local once I started wearing traditional clothing and using words only locals would say.


Nicole Conflenti

Home institution: Ball State University, Indiana

Host institution: Edinburgh Napier University, United Kingdom


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Favorite memory: My favorite memory from my study abroad experience was swimming in Loch Ness. We were on a three-day tour of the Highlands with a Scottish tour guide named Nory. He was an amazing storyteller and told us about the Loch Ness monster and all of the strange occurrences at the loch. I had heard that he sometimes let students swim in the loch, so I asked if I could. It was mid-October and the water was 40 degrees Fahrenheit. A strong believer in Scottish folklore, Nory refused to even dip in a toe. My whole group of 16 fellow American exchange students cheered me on as they watched me submerge myself in the freezing water, wearing only shorts and a Ball State t-shirt. The loch was so cold it made my heart skip and I forgot how to breathe, but I surfaced from the black water feeling the most alive I have ever felt in my life. It was exhilarating and unforgettable. Afterwards we celebrated with fish and chips, and continued our tour of the beautiful Scottish highlands.

Best advice: My best advice for students who want to live like a local during their study abroad program is to be completely open to everything. Things will feel strange and unfamiliar, but you have to learn to take everything in stride as part of the experience. The first time I felt like a local was when I could listen to my iPod on the bus without having to navigate. Adjusting to the public transportation system was challenging for me, and I usually spent my bus rides around the city nervously staring at the bus route map on my phone and making sure I got off at the right stop. It felt great when I had rode the buses long enough to memorize the routes. It was then that I realized that I could navigate my way around the city with confidence.


Nicole Scott

Home institution: Marshall University, West Virginia

Host institution: University of Helsinki, Finland

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Favorite memory: My favorite memory from my time in Finland was cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for all of my friends in Helsinki; this was one of the many moments were I felt cultures crossed. I was so thankful to be in a place where there weren’t many people from America. I could be totally immersed in something new. Having my friends tell me what they’re thankful for, over turkey and stuffing (which some of them had not even heard of before), made me thankful to have the chance to share my traditions but also be shared traditions by others along the way.

Best advice: I first felt like I lived like a local when I no longer went on the wrong trains to get around the city. The first hurdle in integrating yourself into a new locale is very basic – learn to read an actual map, learn the public transport lines. This alleviated almost all of my stress and made me feel like I belonged when I showed up at the right train or bus at the right time (or sometimes running to it, which is okay)!


Rebecca Wood

Home institution: Austin Peay State University, Tennessee

Host institution: University of Roehampton, United Kingdom


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Favorite memory: It is impossible to pick just one – I had so much fun not only in London, but in all of my travels during my semester abroad (not to mention all of the concerts I went to, shows I saw, and Cadbury chocolate I ate). I will say that I think back to my final day in the city with extra fondness. A friend and I spent all day walking through the city, getting one last look at all of my favorite landmarks and reflecting on the previous five months across the pond.

Best advice: Don’t be afraid, and embrace every opportunity. It is the only way to really get to known your city. I first felt like I was truly living like a local when I was able to navigate my way through London on my own and establish my personal favorite spots.


Rosie Macqueen

Home institution: Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Indiana

Host institution: University of Tartu, Estonia


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Favorite memory: Getting to visit important historical sites in the region, specifically the trip to Trakai, Lithuania, where I got to explore the castle and the main island, plus the surrounding town, and learn about the unique local culture and history. In general, since I was traveling specifically to learn Baltic history, the tours, museums, and even history classes tended to be my favorite parts.

Best advice: Learning the local language is important, at least make sure you know how to say “Do you speak English?” and “I’m sorry, I don’t speak X” before you go. Other basic things like, “Help,” “Bathroom,” “Police,” etc. are also a good idea. Getting to know other students, both local and international, can help you ease into the culture. There’s never any shame in asking for help, either from your host coordinator, a professor, another student, or even someone on the street. I felt more like a local the more I interacted with the other students, both in and out of class. The local Estonian students were more than happy to recommend places to visit and eat, and explain local customs, and all of us international students helped each other to adapt.



Want to know what it’s like to be an ISEP Ambassador? Read about their activities here.