Monthly Archives: October 2015

Meet our Ambassadors: Andrew Polack


Student Ambassador, Andrew Polack


Andrew Abroad

Media & Culture Major, Minors in Creative Writing and Film Studies

Ask me a Question!

Advice for Future Study Abroad-ers:

“The quicker you learn it, the better: Everything Will Be Okay. There were a multitude of hiccups during my time abroad such as trains being late or just not arriving at all, hostel reservations going missing, and not being able to fit everything that I wanted to do into my schedule. But if you have a clear head and do some problem solving, everything honestly works out for the better and you won’t have wasted energy on stressing out about a situation you have no control over.”

Lena Wilson: Semester in Florence


Lena Wilson, a Junior Marketing major, took part in the AIFS: Richmond in Florence program during her sophomore year at Miami. Read all about her experience below!

What was your favorite experience during your time abroad?

Traveling the world with my best friends, meeting new people who do not attend Miami and building long-lasting relationships with them, eating the best food in the entire world, learning a new language, having very questionable hostel stays with random room mates and learning about myself more than I ever thought I would.

My most memorable train ride was the one from Rome (where we had our orientation) to Florence. I was so excited I could not stop smiling. Everyone on the train was sleeping because we had to wake up so early for our departure and I found myself starting and finishing my entire book on Florence and Tuscany while simultaneously looking out the window at the beauty that was surrounding me. I got chills when we finally arrived in the city. I had looked at pictures of the Duomo so many times but seeing it in real life was breathtaking.

Lena Wilson in Florence, Italy!

Lena Wilson in Florence, Italy!

Once we arrived and got settled in, I loved everything about Italy. I loved how the whole country’s economy did not run on big business or chain restaurants and stores, but instead focused on local, family-owned restaurants and stores that had hand-made, high quality leather goods for low prices. Their appreciation for the world around them and their own happiness and love of their culture made me happier and gave me motivation to bring this mindset back to America.

What classes did you enroll in? Which was your favorite and why?

I enrolled in Women in Italian Society, Italian Food and Culture, Elementary Italian Language, and Magic and Mysticism in Medieval and Renaissance Italy. I took these classes in order to fulfill my thematic sequence. My favorite classes were the Italian language course as well as Women in Italian Society.

Italian language was one of my favorites because I loved being able to learn the language from a native in the country that I was immersed in. The way language is taught abroad is very different from the teaching style here and in my opinion, much more beneficial. Our professor taught the class in Italian and this helped me learn way more than I would have had it been taught in English. I loved Women in Italian Society because I had a strong connection with the teacher and learned about how different the history as well as the modern era of women is in Italian culture as opposed to the American culture.

What were some of the biggest cultural differences you encountered? How did you overcome them?

The biggest cultural differences that I encountered varied from country to country. These differences ranged from simple things like not being able to touch the produce in a grocery store without gloves all the way to being in Morocco where women barely walked the streets and men were taken aback by seeing American women not covered head to toe in a burka. Overcoming these differences was something I embraced.

“I think, to me, it was just fascinating to be able to learn how values change throughout each culture and how respecting these values as a non-native is very important to the society.”

Another thing in Italy that my friends and I were not used to was the fact that being noisy in apartments and in stairwells of apartments after about 10PM could involve a court appearance. This was hard to get used to because my roommates and I stayed up pretty late most nights, but just being immersed in the culture helps you to figure out what is acceptable and what is not.

What was the most important thing you learned from studying abroad?

I don’t think there’s just one thing I could choose that describes what I learned studying abroad. The experience as a whole was so life-changing and made my heart so much fuller than before I went. One main thing I learned about myself is how much I love travelling, learning new languages, and meeting new, diverse groups of people.

Lena Wilson in Italy!

Lena Wilson in Italy!

Studying abroad made me realize that one of my long-term goals for my future is to be able to live and work abroad for a period of my life. In addition to this, just simply learning how independent I could be for the first time on my own immersed into an unknown world is something that helped me grow, both personally and intellectually.

Is there any advice you have for people who study in your location in the future?

Honestly, Florence is the most amazing place in the world. I have about twenty restaurants and gelato places to recommend that you will never believe are actually real because the taste of the food is so indescribable. Watch the sunset a Piazzale Michelangelo and eat cheese from the grocery store Conads, climb the Duomo, hang out on the Ponte Vecchio, go to the leather markets and bargain with the merchants, visit Boboli Gardens, see the famous artwork, explore the outskirts of Tuscany as well as other parts of Italy such as Cinque Terre. The list goes on and on.

There are so many different parts of Italy that you can visit with the train for very little money that are just amazing. As far as Florence itself, just explore everything there is to see in the city. It is full of so much life and beauty and art that no matter where you set foot, you will always be surrounded by a feeling of fulfillment. 

What about advice for younger students who are looking to study abroad?

Do not be afraid of missing out. I studied abroad my sophomore year, which at Miami, is not the norm. Most people go their junior year instead. I think no matter when you go, it is important to plan on what you want to get out of your experience before you sign up for a program.

Going for a semester is certainly very different from going for just a summer or J-term. It is not a semester-long vacation, although it may seem like it based on everyone’s photos. It comes with pros and cons and I think these are all part of the experience. The good times are what I remember from abroad, but the bad times are what shaped who I am and what made the good times even more meaningful.


Meet our Ambassadors: Emily Paxson


Emily Paxson, Studied in Chiang Mai, Thailand with USAC

Emily Paxson holding a monkey in Bali!

Get out of your comfort zone! You will learn so much about yourself when you challenge yourself to go beyond your comfort zone. Go to a country out of the ordinary, go abroad with no one that you know, or maybe just going abroad is going beyond that level of comfort. Whatever it is, go beyond it. 

Have a Question?

Meet our Ambassadors: Jake Peters


Study Abroad Ambassador, Jake Peters

Jake in Greece

Political Science

Miami University Luxembourg (MUDEC)

Have a Question?

Advice for Future MUDEC-ers: For people that go to Luxembourg, make sure you really take the time to get to know the country.  My host would always give us cool places to go explore in Luxembourg City or even in Differdange.

Advice for Underclassman wanted to go Abroad: Go abroad!!  Even if it isn’t to Luxembourg, Miami offers many programs which will suit your wants and needs, whether it is a cost affordable option or one which advocates for travel!!  And make sure to always be adventurous!!  There is always a story waiting to be told!!


Meet our Ambassadors: Madison Kawiecki


Madison Kawiecki, MUDEC (Luxembourg)

Study Abroad AmbassadorAbroad

Majors: Business Economics/Data Analytics

Ask Me a Question!

For students who are interested in studying abroad in Luxembourg I would say to do something throughout the semester that makes the experience truly your own.  Since all of the students you are with are from Miami it is easy to follow the crowd, whether that is a certain class you enroll in or a weekend trip everyone seems to be taking.  Don’t be afraid to do something out of the box, or different from the other ~100 students on your trip.  It is those experiences that will make your study abroad trip truly unique and one-of-a-kind.

To younger students looking to study abroad in general I would start with a list of the top 5 or top 10 things you’d want out of a study abroad experience.  Whether that is a host family experience, class credit towards your major, or getting to as many countries as possible, once you figure out what you’re looking for the most, finding a program will be a lot easier!  This way you’ll know ahead of time that what you were looking for in your experience will become a reality.

Jackie Heikes | Germany


Study Abroad Program: Miami University Intensive German Summer 2015

Major: German & Sociology

Minor: Philosophy

Hometown: Oxford, OH

Class: Junior

Campus Involvement: Spectrum President, Miami Swing Syndicate, F-Word, Secular Students of Miami




When did you know you wanted to go abroad and how did you pick your program?

I wanted to study abroad before I ever came to college. I actually picked Miami partially for the Summer German program, as I knew I wanted to study German.

What challenges did you face leading up to/during/after your program? How did you overcome these challenges?

I didn’t feel prepared enough before I left, but I had been to Germany before, and it didn’t take too long to get a good grasp on speaking German daily. During the program I always felt that I wasn’t trying hard enough or speaking enough German since many of the other students had not been learning German as long as I had and spoke mostly English during the trip. I did what I could and had a lot of great interactions with native speakers during the trip, and I think that helped me get over my personal guilt for “not doing my best.” I just had to come to truly appreciate the experiences I was given by the trip and the opportunities I had to expand my vocabulary and better my grammar.

What were your accommodations like?

We stayed in four different cities. In Heidelberg, I shared a vacationer’s apartment with two girls on the trip, and it was very nice and private. In Jena, I stayed with a single host mom, and she was so incredible that by the end of the week she really felt like my honorary mother. In Dessau, we stayed in a student housing apartment from the times of the GDR, which, if I’m being honest, was rather dingy and beat up. In Berlin, we stayed at a wonderful youth hostel that functioned more as a hotel than a hostel by any means.

What is your favorite memory from your time abroad?

Probably spending long evenings talking to my host mom in Jena, as she sat with her cat and watched bad dramas. We had some great conversations about life in the GDR, German film, her views on American politics, and so on.

What did you learn while abroad? Has your experience changed you or your perspective?

I learned a LOT about German and European culture. Also I really learned what it felt like to truly be an outsider– I think I’ve come to appreciate learning in my mother language more than I would ever imagine. I have so much more respect for the students at Miami who did not learn English as their first language. Even though I’ve been learning German for 8 years, moving to a foreign land and having instruction only in your second language is seriously difficult!

Have you been able to use the experience since your return? How?

Not yet, I wouldn’t say. I’m taking my German capstone this semester and I can’t imagine a better way to become more prepared for that class than the Summer German Program.

How did you finance your time abroad? (Financial aid, scholarships, loans, etc.)

I had a scholarship that I was randomly selected for from GRAMELAC that paid for the vast majority of my study abroad. I’m incredibly lucky to have received that.

What advice would you give to other students considering going abroad?

Do it! Go out, find where your comfort zone ends and expand it. There’s a whole huge world out there to explore just waiting for you. If you can find a way to study abroad, do it.