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Meredith Meier

Meredith Meier
in Northern England

October 2006

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British Council selects St. Norbert students as its ambassadors

Meredith Meier '07 reports on a unique opportunity that is allowing her to extend the experience of her semester in Scotland.

How do you even begin to describe what it is like to travel and live in another country?

In a word, amazing.

The four months that I studied in Scotland may have been the most fantastic of my life. But the real dilemma after studying abroad is how to take all your wonderful experiences and incorporate them into everyday life in the United States.

I was lucky and found an innovative way to channel all of my enthusiasm about Scotland and the United Kingdom into a positive outlet. While in Stirling, I was given the opportunity to apply for a student ambassadorship through the British Council.

A student ambassador's job is to promote study and awareness of educational opportunities in the United Kingdom. There are only 71 British Council student ambassadors in the United States.

St. Norbert College is unique in having not only one student ambassador, but two.

Steve Braband '07 and I have the unique opportunity this year to share the ambassadorship and make the most of our dual experiences and resources.

"Homebody" travels far afield

To make my story more meaningful, you need a little background about what my college life has all involved. I am what you may call a "homebody."

Getting me to travel the two hours away from home my freshman year was the equivalent of sending me to Budapest. While I was excited to embark on the wonderful journey that is college, I was terrified of moving away from everything that I knew and loved.

You can only imagine the surprise of my family and friends when I decided to study abroad the second semester of my junior year. I kept on hearing remarks like, "Is this the girl that was kicking and screaming when she had to go to college?" or, "You do know that Scotland is more than two hours away, right?"

I welcomed these remarks because it showed me how much the college experience forces people to live outside their comfort zones. Using all the independence and confidence I had gained after three years at St. Norbert College, I boarded a plane, traveled across the Atlantic and landed in Scotland.

The rest, you could say, is history. I fell in love with Scotland. Its people. Its beauty. Its authenticity.

After returning from abroad, there is an overwhelming feeling that nobody understands what you just went through. Every fiber of your being wants to get on a plane and go back.

Many times students returning from semesters abroad suffer from reverse culture shock, an emotional and psychological state that results from re-entry and may cause symptoms of restlessness, boredom, depression, uncertainty, confusion and isolation.

After having had such a wonderful experience in Scotland, I felt it was important to give back and help others learn about the wonderful prospects the United Kingdom has to offer.

To become an ambassador through the British Council was quite the process. First, I had to be nominated by my home and study abroad university, write an essay, complete a phone interview and then, once I was accepted into the program, take part in a two-day orientation.

For the next academic year, my job, along with that of my fellow ambassador, will be to volunteer and host events at St. Norbert College to generate interest in the United Kingdom.

My hope is that students will respond enthusiastically to studying abroad and have the motivation to undertake what will certainly be a life-changing experience.
If reading this article gives you the itch for some foreign travel of your own, check out the alumni study abroad trip to Spain offered next May.

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