Alumni Spotlight: Amber Marinko

Amber is a student at Concordia University Wisconsin studying Marketing. During her senior year, she traveled abroad to Florianopolis, Brazil for a semester. After graduating Amber plans to work at her university's International Center as a Global Leader.

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Why did you choose this program?

When I looked back over my college career, I realized that there were so many things I wanted to experience, but school and work always took up so much time. So why not finish off my education while traveling abroad? Through my university, I met several exchange students from Brazil. They told me a bit what it was like to live there, and it seemed to be the perfect place to study abroad.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

International Studies Abroad (ISA) guided me through each step of studying abroad. They helped me with travel arrangements, cultural adjustments, and answered any questions that I had. ISA gave me the freedom to make my own plans but offered all of the tools I needed to execute them.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Have a relaxed mindset about the whole experience. It's likely that not everything will go as planned, and you just have to remember that challenges are learning experiences, not permanent setbacks.

Brazil, in particular, has a very laid-back society, and plans aren't always followed to a T. It takes a while to get used to, but once you do, it's a pretty nice way to live!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Every day brings a new and exciting experience on the streets of Brazil. There are venders selling colorful fabrics and homemade bracelets, people laughing and dancing, and samba drums echoing down the alleys.

On the way to class, street markets come alive in the city center. The smells of fresh food and spices waft down the streets. It's rare to not meet someone new every day, and every time you set foot out the door you can expect to find a new adventure.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was terrified of making friends with the locals because I didn't know the language very well. However, when I arrived in Brazil, I found that the people are very welcoming and willing to talk to everyone no matter their language proficiency. I started taking a Portuguese class to learn the language better and eventually was able to have conversations and form new friendships with many of the locals.

What's your unforgettable experience in the program?

One of the best times I ever had was an all-day hike that I went on with one of my Brazilian friends. We hiked for about 2 hours over a mountain through jungle terrain. Once we made it to the other side, we found ourselves in a giant cove with a steep overlook of rocks looming above us.

We climbed to the top of the overlook, which took us nearly a half an hour since it was so high up. The view was absolutely incredible, and we stayed on the rocky overlook until daylight started to fade. Then we climbed back down, and made our way back out of the cove and over the mountain. Never had I seen such incredible views!