So You’re Studying Abroad During an Election Year…

Thoughts from Peer Advisor, Alie Waller

Studying abroad is notorious for fostering cross-cultural experiences and forcing students out of their comfort zones. Spending time in a foreign country, whether it be for 2 weeks or 2 years,  bestows invaluable life lessons upon the traveler that may not be experienced had they never taken that first step out their front door.

Whether you realize it or not, as soon as you step foot into your host country, you’ve become an unofficial ambassador for the United States and will frequently be questioned as such. The people you meet on a day to day basis will want to know your thoughts on all kinds of things, some as seemingly silly as whether or not all Americans eat McDonald’s every day, and others as loaded as who do you plan on voting for in the 2016 national elections.

Can you really blame them? This election has become a topic of everyday life. What new tweet has Donald Trump posted?  What new update has come out on Hillary Clinton’s emails? The whole world has tuned into American politics at a time of tension and change, and navigating these conversations can be difficult.

Above all, it’s important to stay true to your beliefs, but be patient. The person talking to you may have multiple questions (often blunt ones), because you might be the first American they have ever had the chance to ask these questions.

You may encounter people that have strong criticisms of the United States. In these instances, it helps to remain neutral and respectful of each individual’s opinions. These moments can be critical in the cross-cultural experiences that will shape your time abroad. Hearing about the United States from the perspective of someone in your host country can change the way you think of your home country, in good ways and bad, but this is an important part of the study abroad process!

Studying abroad during an election year is truly a unique experience, and this year is no exception! Whether you’re “With Her” or trying to “Make America Great Again” (or neither!), make the most of political dialogue with the people you talk to during your time abroad.

And just because you’re abroad, don’t forget to cast your vote! If you’re 18+ and registered, your vote really counts and shouldn’t be lost just because you’re out of the country. For more information on voting while abroad, click here.

“I, Too, Am Study Abroad” Discussion Series

The Study Abroad Office and the Center for Student Diversity have partnered to provide programming specifically suited to students that are not traditionally represented in study abroad. Please join us at the following events so we can show you how truly accessible study abroad is for everyone!

Discussion Series Schedule of Events:

September 14th, 12-2pm*
Center for Student Diversity, UU 313

Representing the Underrepresented: Why Everyone Can Study Abroad
Think study abroad isn’t for you? Think again! Join your peers in a discussion about how study abroad can be a part of your TU experience! Lunch will be provided.

September 21st, 12-2pm*
Center for Student Diversity, UU 313

Funding Your Experience Abroad
Want to go abroad, but unsure about finances? Hear directly from a Gilman Scholarship recipient and get scholarship writing tips from the Writing Center. Using Financial Aid? A representative from the Financial Aid Office will be there too! Lunch will be provided.

October 27th, 3-4:30pm*
Study Abroad Office, PYSC 407

Critical Language Scholarship Information Session
Looking for a FULLY funded experience abroad? Interested in speaking another language? Learn more about this FREE opportunity abroad.

*Attend one of the above events, and be entered to win a raffle prize!

November 14-18th
Location and times vary

International Education Week
Do you LOVE everything international? Join us for a week-long celebration of all things international! Schedule to be announced soon.

Questions? Email


Meet the Office: New Associate Director and New Peer Advisors

villamarphotoPlease welcome Katie Villamar to Towson University. She joins TU as the new Associate Director for Study Abroad. Katie’s passion for the international education field stems from her own global experiences. An avid traveler, her first study abroad experience as a Student Ambassador in Western Europe in 2000 helped her to realize her life’s passion of seeing the world and experiencing its many different cultures. During her undergraduate years at Salisbury University, she worked as a community outreach volunteer for Fundación Comunitaria Oaxaca in Mexico. She also spent a semester studying, and later a minimester interning, at the Centers for Interamerican Studies (CEDEI) in Cuenca, Ecuador. After receiving her B.A. in Spanish, Katie returned to Ecuador to work as an International Programs Coordinator at CEDEI. She later served as the Assistant Director of International Education Services at UMBC for several years and earned her M.A. in their Intercultural Communications program in May 2011. Katie chose a career in this field because of her commitment to the idea that facilitating people-to-people connections can help to make the world a better place.

We also welcomed three new Peer Advisors this semester!

Becca Sciabarasi, Brianna James, and Lyndsi Jones have joined Alie Waller to help you tackle the needs of study abroad from a peer perspective.

beccasciabarasiBecca is a senior studying Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. She studied abroad in Florence, Italy on the TU in Italy program at Lorenzo de Medici. “Living and studying in Florence was the best decision I have ever made. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I had to immerse myself in the Italian culture, travel around Europe to cities I never imagined visiting and going completely outside of my comfort zone. I believe everyone should study abroad if they have the opportunity to because this experience is life changing!”


lyndsi_pictureLyndsi is a senior Mass Communication major with a Marketing minor. She studied abroad in Leeds, UK on the TU Exchange Program to the University of Leeds. “Leeds is a city filled with a diverse student life and amazing culture; it’s not uncommon to walk right into music festivals and art exhibits, happening right on the city streets. Being immersed in a culture that was entirely different than what I’m used to will always be the best experience of my life. Everyone should study abroad, or just travel, if given the chance, and studying in Leeds showed me how valuable travel really is.”

Brianna is a senior, double majoring in English and Electronic Media and Film. She studied abroad in London, UK with AIFS. “This past January I was fortunate enough to take my very first flight–and I do mean ever, all the way to London! My trip was completely spur of the moment but ended up being one of the most memorable experiences of my life. In a short three weeks I met amazing new friends, took an authentic British-Literature course, and even took two additional trips to Paris, and Amsterdam! Though the best part of my study abroad experience was the confidence it instilled in me. I now imagine a life for myself that I never dared dream of before; and better than that I have faith in these dreams to come true. In fact, I’m hoping to get an internship back in London next summer!”

We are so excited to have these lovely ladies join us as new members of our team!

2017 Faculty-Led Program Announcement!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

We have finalized the line-up for the 2017 faculty-led programs!

If you are unfamiliar with our faculty-led programs, they are essentially study abroad opportunities during the winter, spring, and summer breaks led by Towson faculty, ranging from 2-6 weeks.

Without further ado…




Not sure if a program is right for you? Contact an advisor at!

CIEE Global Institute Open Campus Grants

The Towson University Study Abroad Office is excited to announce that we have received $50,000 worth of grant money from CIEE, and we want to give it to you!

CIEE is back at it again with generous scholarship opportunities! As a part of their Generation Study Abroad initiative, CIEE has pledged to award $20 million in scholarships by the year 2020. In order to meet this goal, they will be awarding $2 million in scholarships for the 2016-2017 year.

Towson University has pledged to increase the number of study abroad participants by 40% by the year 2020, and CIEE has offered us 8 grants in order to help us achieve this goal! These grants are specifically for students studying abroad on a CIEE Open Campus Program at their Global Institutes in Berlin, London, Paris, and Rome.

These 18-week programs offer students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the local culture while taking courses taught in English from one of five academic tracks: Business; Communications, Journalism, and New Media; International Relations and Political Science; Language, Literature and Culture; Health Science.

Open Campus Grants:

  • One $5,000 grant to a student attending 3 blocks at CIEE’s Open Campus in Berlin
  • Two $5,000 grants to students attending 3 blocks at CIEE’s Open Campus in London
  • Two $5,000 grants to students attending 3 blocks at CIEE’s Open Campus in Paris
  • One $5,000 grant to a student attending 3 blocks on CIEE’s Open Campus in Rome

Global Scholars Grants:

  • Two $10,000 grants to students committed to living and learning in 3 of the 4 Global Institute sites in a single semester (Berlin, London, Paris, Rome)


  • Must have a 2.75 cumulative GPA for the $5,000 grants and a 3.0 cumulative GPA for the Global Scholars grants
  • Must be a sophomore by the start of the program
  • Must be studying abroad on a CIEE Open Campus Program at one of the Global Institutes in Berlin, London, Paris, or Rome for 18 weeks in the Spring 2017 semester
  • Must have completed Towson’s Horizons application, and started CIEE’s application by the nomination deadline

INTERESTED? Students should visit the Study Abroad Office website and contact the TU Study Abroad Office at as soon as possible.

Application Deadline (EXTENDED): FRIDAY, September 23, 2016

Don’t miss out on this great opportunity!



What would your life be like if you had never studied abroad?

Now, think of how different a friend’s life would be if you could just convince them to go abroad, too.

We share your passion for international education. That’s why the Institute of International Education (IIE) has joined forces with Go Overseas and other partner organizations to mobilize at least 10,000 study abroad alumni to nominate students to #GoStudyAbroad.

Some of the biggest barriers to study abroad are cost, curriculum, and culture; we are taking aim at these barriers through #GoStudyAbroad by offering scholarships and sharing resources to help more people go overseas.

The Institute of International Education needs your help.

They need people like you – mentors, campus leaders, faculty and friends – to help spread the word by nominating your friends, family, and classmates to study abroad. Nominees can win a $10,000 scholarship for study abroad!

As a way to say thanks, we will be awarding five $500 travel prizes and one $1,500 grand prize for a round trip flight back to your study abroad country to the person who nominates the most friends to study abroad.

Start nominating friends to study abroad here: The deadline to nominate your friends is March 31, 2016!


Pack for Success, No Stress!

With the upcoming departure of our minimester and spring semester study abroaders, everyone is scrambling to figure out what to pack! Check out Amanda Reid’s blog about how she packed for nine months of living in Spain.

If you’d like to hear more from our current students abroad, check out the “Letters from Abroad” feature in the Towerlight. You’ll read letters from three of our students abroad in France, Spain, and the U.K. sharing their thoughts on the fall semester overseas.

More on this feature on The Towerlight website..

Alumni spotlight: Chelsea Herskovitz

We’re always happy to hear from Towson Abroad alumni and Chelsea is no different. As you’ll see Chelsea is now working in the field of international education in nearby D.C. and we are excited to share her story!

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My name is Chelsea Herskovitz. I graduated from Towson in 2012 with a BS in Mass Communication with a Marketing Certificate. I’m originally from a small town in Pennsylvania that few people have heard of. During my junior year, I studied abroad in London over the winter mini-mester.

Q: What (or who) got you started on study abroad and how did you choose your program?

I always knew I wanted to study abroad but was skeptical because none of my friends were doing it. While my parents were supportive, they felt more comfortable if I somewhere where they spoke English. England was the obvious choice. I also knew I wanted to go over the mini-mester because I always found myself bored during the long winter breaks and this was a productive way to fill my time while also earning credits towards my degree.

Q: Did your experiences abroad met your expectations? Exceeded them?

My experience abroad, as cheesy as it sounds, was life altering. Prior to studying abroad, while I had some travel experience, I was always intimidated by being so far away, missing experiences here in the US and whatnot. But the adventure was eye opening. I was able to experience freedom and a new culture without the pressures of home. It gave me the opportunity to interact with other students at Towson I had never met and felt I could truly be myself. I was pushed to try things outside of my comfort zone and ended up loving (most of them).

Q: Your study abroad experiences were a large part of your time at TU. How have they affected your career path?

Once I graduated from college, I immediately was offered an internship that eventually turned in to a job offer. However, I hated the job so much and it had me living at home with my parents. I would go to work every day and be bored out of my mind. Eventually, I thanked them for the job offer and was happy to accept if they would allow me to take a month off to travel. With their permission, I booked my trip to Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. On my 3rd day in Cambodia, I wrote to my boss requesting an additional 2 months off. Oddly enough, he gave me his blessing. I eventually ended up quitting the job and spending 6 months in Southeast Asia. While in Thailand, I interviewed and was offered a job a non-profit working with high school students interested in studying abroad. Without the experience with Towson in London, I never would have been motivated to go to SE Asia and eventually work for this company.

Q: Of all the places you’ve been, both study abroad and in your life after TU, do you have a favorite? Where and why?

Choosing a favorite travel destination is like choosing a favorite child. But I certainly have destinations I prefer but for different reasons. Vietnam makes it to the top of the list because of the history. I don’t remember ever learning about the Vietnam War in school, so it was very eye opening. Spain and Peru by far had some of the best and most creative foods I’ve ever eaten. But London always has a special place in my heart since I lived in a flat there and had the opportunity to live like a local.

Q: Many returned study abroad alumni speak about an “ah ha” moment or a particularly powerful memory. What’s yours?

I wouldn’t say there was one specific moment. During one of our free weekends, me and a couple friends booked a trip to Barcelona. I think the entire experience of going from one place where I didn’t know anyone to another, staying in a hostel, trying to use my absolutely terrible Spanish, and trying to maneuver the city was very eye opening to all the things I am capable of.

Q: What would you say to students about studying abroad?

I’m not going to lie, it’s an intimidating experience. To think about being so far away from your friends and family, the finances, the planning, lots of  new words and processes you’re not familiar with etc. etc. But you would have to search far and wide to find someone who either regrets their time abroad or wishes they didn’t do it. It is worth all of the preparation and work. In my job, I hear from students all the time about the cost of studying abroad and surely, it can be costly. However, you cannot measure the financial benefits you will receive from an experience abroad. Students gain confidence, intercultural experience, and knowledge some of their peers do not have; all items which potential future employers are looking for.

España & Spain: A blog in two languages

The Towson University Foreign Language Department has several faculty-led study abroad opportunities for students who are studying a foreign language. Currently, Dr. Colleen Ebacher is abroad in Spain with a group of Spanish students. Lucky for us they are blogging about their adventures and even better: it’s in two languages!

Enjoy the blog!


If you’re looking for a Spanish study abroad opportunity with a Towson faculty member, check out the Minimester 2016 program in Guatemala or the Summer 2016 program in Spain, following a similar itinerary to our students on site right now.