Knowledge and Empowerment at the Global Student Leadership Summit: An interview with GSLS alum, Estevan Sanchez

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story by Byron Francis

The Global Student Leadership Summit is an annual event created by Diversity Abroad, which is designed to provide a forum for students, educators, and professionals involved in study abroad and international education to network, share best practices, and resources. The upcoming summit, which will be held in Atlanta, Georgia April 3-5,2016, brings together international education professionals and diversity advocates from institutions across the country.

The summit’s purpose is to empower students, many who come from underrepresented backgrounds and are often leaders on campus and high academic achievers, understand how their study abroad experience translates into relevant job skills and how to better market those skills to potential employers. Additionally, students will engage in dialogue with both GSLS students and conference attendees to develop recommendations on how to further diversify global experiences.

GSLS is an incredible opportunity for study abroad alumni interested in engaging with other like-minded diverse leaders. Its impact can be seen long after students and professionals have returned to their home institutions. I had the opportunity to speak with Estevan Sanchez, one of the original GSLS participants in our inaugural summit held earlier this year in New Orleans, about his experience at the summit and its significance to his growth and development.

Sanchez, a history and African/African American studies major at the University of California at Davis, studied Arabic abroad in Oman during the summer of 2014 with the Critical Language Scholarship program and in Jordan with Amideast during the summer of 2015. Sanchez said he appreciated the opportunity GSLS created to connect with other students and hear about their obstacles and triumphs. Sanchez, a first generation college student whose father is an immigrant from Mexico, says the summit was also a great opportunity for reflection and personal development and appreciated how students “shared issues across borders”.

Among the highlights for Sanchez were the summit’s many themes and workshops that provided the environment for students to unpack their experiences abroad to better understand themselves, the world around them, and how they can have meaningful and positive influences on their communities going forward. Estevan also said that after the summit, he began to inform other students on the UC Davis campus about study abroad opportunities and encourage them to take advantage of them.

An important part of the summit is understanding diversity and inclusion in the realm of international education. Participants in the Global Student Leadership Summit examine challenges to increasing participation among diverse and underrepresented students in education abroad and consider possible solutions. Sanchez says he relates to many first generation college students particularly because his parents did not initially support his desire to study abroad, especially to a region of the world that is often known for its political unrest. “I began to see myself as an example”, Sanchez says of his work at his home campus.

During the upcoming summit, students will network with professionals and fellow GSLS students, participate in professional development workshops, and will also have the opportunity to present to the larger conference. Sanchez, who now serves on the planning committee for the upcoming summit in Atlanta, says that students will “receive resources to use their study abroad experience to their advantage” and develop a workable plan for their academic and professional careers.

As for what’s next, Sanchez plans to utilize his experience abroad in a career teaching Comparative Literature, History, or Arabic here in the U.S. He, and other students like him, will be well prepared to utilize their skills and experiences due in part to the resources and networking opportunities made possible by the Global Student Leadership Summit.

Universities and study abroad program providers may now nominate promising students interested in participating in the upcoming GSLS in Atlanta. If you are interested in attending, nominations are now open and you can find the registration form and more information here.

Byron Francis

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Byron Francis, a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, joined the Diversity Abroad team in 2015. While completing his MBA at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Georgia, Byron studied abroad with the Richards College of Business International Studies program. He studied International Business in Tours, France during the summer of 2012 and in Beijing and Shanghai, China during the spring of 2013.

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