AIFS Alumni Visit Capitol Hill for NAFSA Advocacy Day

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We are beaming with pride! Some of our AIFS Alumni Ambassadors attended the 2019 NAFSA Advocacy Day with other members of the AIFS Study Abroad team.

Advocacy Day is dedicated time for members of the international education community to head to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to advocate for students, scholars, and policies pertaining to all things international education — in our case, study abroad! By meeting with members of Congress and their staff, Advocacy Day attendees are able to provide feedback on how international education makes an impact on their state and district, and why global education is crucial to a more welcoming nation.

Below are reflections from Alumni Ambassadors, Katrina Hanson and Xenia Vidal, about this impactful and meaningful experience.

Katrina Hanson — AIFS in Hyderabad, India
Bethel University

Before I came back to the States, I knew I wanted to do something more with my international experience. At the end of my time in India, I would have spent five transformative months in India studying and learning about the local South Indian culture. I applied to be an AIFS Alumni Ambassador with the intentions of promoting studying abroad on my campus and never saw myself traveling to Capitol Hill to talk about the significance of American college students going abroad.

This past week I was able to attend NAFSA Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. to with Congress the importance of welcoming international students and scholars and also encouraging American students to spend a semester abroad. The first day in D.C. was spent training for the Hill meetings, which included a session on the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act, which seeks to ensure that U.S. graduates are globally competent amongst their international peers. This session was critical for any study abroad alum, as it was a time to critically think about the ways in which study abroad shapes one into a cross-cultural learner through experiences of problem-solving day-to-day, living in a high level of ambiguity, and empathy for other cultures. For me, this Act was a way for our nation to tangibly live out the goals of myself and my peers who had previously gone abroad, while connecting with higher education institutions who hopefully would include study abroad in their curriculum and advise students from all backgrounds of study to participate.

The second day, 200+ advocates of international education headed to Capitol Hill and met with Congress. Myself and two other high education professionals met with the staffers of the Minnesota Senators and Representatives. I was selected to my personal story with the staffers, which meant I was able to just how important my time in South India was to me and why other students should be encouraged to have a similar opportunity.

Upon returning back to Minnesota, I was inspired to become more involved in these issues on a local level. Getting the opportunity to advocate for other young adults to go abroad was incredible and I believe that it benefits so many people.  

Xenia Vidal — AIFS in Barcelona, Spain
Mount St. Mary’s University, Los Angeles

This past weekend I successfully exercised my power as an American and made my voice heard on Capitol Hill. I had the opportunity to attend NAFSA Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. and lobby on behalf of international students and scholars and study abroad.

As a person of color studying abroad in Western Europe, I was acutely aware of the lack of diversity within study abroad. This weekend I was able to talk about how profoundly impactful studying abroad was towards my personal and professional development while highlighting the many obstacles I faced as an American minority student abroad.

I was lobbying to some of the most powerful offices in American government for a bill that would help combat the issues I faced and could have the power to positively influence future students that would like to participate in global education. Overall, I am incredibly thankful for this fantastic and unforgettable experience. 

Do you believe international education and study abroad are important to our nation? Tell us why in the comments below — and be sure to be an advocate! 

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