I was a student at all 5 of the Alamo Colleges from 2010 through 2015. I was fortunate enough to attend many conferences throughout the country and earned many scholarships and awards. I had heard of studying abroad but hadn’t thought much about it until a unique opportunity was presented to me in January of 2013. At the time, my Alamo Colleges Student Leadership Institute instructor, Mrs. Veronica Rosas-Tatum, volunteered me for an international business competition that would change my educational experience!
I was tasked in January of 2013 to be a part of the first Alamo Community Colleges team to compete in the Free Trade Alliance Education Foundation International Business Plan Program. This competition would encompass 18 teams representing 23 countries in the Undergraduate category. Our team consisted of 5 members from 4 schools and represented 3 different countries.
My role was to be the CEO of the Global Leaders Initiative which is the company we created to provide leadership training to 34 partner schools all over the globe. This project was an 11-week process of gathering information, writing both a 1 page and a 12-page proposal and a 5-minute oral presentation. In preparation for the presentation, I had to coordinate with our mentor in Dallas, TX, our team members who were spread all over San Antonio, TX, and ensure we stayed on task weekly. Upon completion of the project, we competed amongst 18 teams in the Undergraduate category. We earned a 3rd place ranking. This was historic in nature because not only were we the first Alamo Community Colleges team, we were also the only Community College team in the nation to compete.
After completing the competition, Ms. Kahala Crayton, and Mrs. Veronica Rosas-Tatum, faculty members of the Alamo Colleges Student Leadership Institute, were impressed to the point that they decided to bring our idea to life. They adopted our overall concept and designed it to be launched as a study abroad program that would encompass the cultural aspects as they relate to learning leadership theory in a/any particular country. After two years of work in defining and refining the concept/project, it became the "Alamo Way in Asia with Student Leadership Institute Partners in Language & Leadership" study abroad program. The program began on May 18, 2015, with a 4-week study at various locations within China and a one-week study in Taiwan, ending on June 25, 2015. The study aboard program was never a goal of mine. However, being goal oriented is what helped me and my team complete the original project that birthed the study abroad program that I participated in. This was a unique opportunity because not only did I study a different culture in its originating country, I also got the opportunity to see the legacy of what I inspired my instructor to work so hard to create.
I wish I would have known how much your life does change when you study abroad. I think most students look at the cost and don’t understand that is by far the best experience you can have in higher education. I was blessed to attend conferences in California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Connecticut, and a free trip to Time Square in New York city. They were all great especially since I received scholarships to go, but to have the opportunity to climb the Great Wall, ride the world’s fastest elevator in the world’s tallest green building and to walk in New Century Global Center was life changing.
I tell all the students I speak with to at least look into studying abroad. Not only does it expose you to different cultures, but also makes you more marketable in the job market. Employers like to see students study abroad because they understand that when you are immersed in other cultures you are more apt to be culturally sensitive and a team player because of it. I also tell students to be present in the moments while overseas. They are memories you will always cherish and will change how you view the world!
I had the opportunity to study both Chinese and Advertising in Taiwan and China in 2015. Personally the experience helped me to see that the world was bigger than just the U.S. and our view of things. The people in Asia viewed the African Americans that were with us as anomalies. We would be stopped to take pictures and was an awesome experience being celebrated as a culture that wasn’t familiar to them. Personally I learned from their culture to think generationally. When you visits the museums and see just how much categorized history they have, you begin to realize that in order to be truly successful then what you are doing must live beyond you. Academically, the experience helped me to graduate faster because upon returning to the U.S. I had one semester left to complete my second degree. As far as professionally, I intend to start my on foundation to help parents and students with college readiness. I am currently an alumni ambassador for the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship and am using that platform to speak to students across my city on how to attain scholarships and the benefits of studying abroad.