Alumni Spotlight: Heather Robinette

Heather is a marketing manager for a tech start up in Dallas, TX. She graduated in 2012 with her undergrad in marketing and completed her MBA in 2018. During her undergrad, she studied abroad in London for 6 weeks during the summer of 2011.

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Why did you choose this program?

Once I decided on the location and the type of classes I wanted to take, I started looking into which programs met my criteria. What I really liked about Academic Programs International (API) is the support they provided before and after studying abroad, plus how they have it set up during the program. While they have organized events and someone there to support you, you are still able to be very independent.

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

Before going abroad, they told me what flights needed to be booked. My mom had a travel agent book the flights, which was worth it because I didn't have any issues. They provided a lot of material beforehand about what to expect, what to pack in my suitcase, what to have on me while traveling.

Once I arrived at the airport, somewhere was there to meet me. They organized transportation, lodging, and a few events. The university also organized a few events, but a majority of the trip was organized by API. I personally only had to handle the flights, as I mentioned, and whatever travel I wanted to do while I was there. That said, a lot of trips and events were already planned for me so while I didn't have a ton of time, I was able to still see what I wanted to. And we weren't required to go on any trip, but it was part of the cost, so I attended all of the events.

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

One piece of advice would be to get to know the main API people who will be there with you. We had two awesome women who were there with us and I am beyond grateful for them. Just know anything that comes up, they are there to help. So don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for suggestions. That was the one upside of the API program: it was having a safety neat, but yet the independence of studying abroad.

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

For the program I did, we attended class from about 9:30am-12pm. From there, you are free to do what you want. Classes were Monday to Thursday and we only had one class at a time. They offered one class per 3 weeks so by studying abroad for 6 weeks, I took 2 classes.

We had some homework, but I still had plenty of time for exploring. I typically used the afternoon to explore different parts of London.

We had some API events planned throughout the time and the university had weekend trips. They had overnight trips and day trips organized. This made it hard to do a lot of traveling on my own, but the trips that were planned were awesome. I was able to see things I probably wouldn't have otherwise.

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

My biggest fear was being halfway across the world from home. I had traveled to other states with groups, but never to another country. Honestly, by going out of my comfort zone and doing it, I was able to help myself overcome it. The first few days were challenging, but once I got into a routine, it was easy. By the time I was heading home, I really missed my new life, but was happy to be heading home. Overall, this helped me with getting out of my comfort zone with other things later on.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

While I am not a huge tennis fan, since I was studying abroad during the summer in London, visiting Wimbledon was something I decided to do. I had overheard some classmates talking about how easy it was to get there. It was about an hour tube ride, so I decided to go check it out. Little did I know, Wimbledon, the tennis tournament, occurs in the town of Wimbledon so when I got off the tube at the Wimbledon station, I was shocked to find a neighborhood just outside.

I just spent an hour on the tube so I decided to walk around a bit and see if I could find it. I ended up walking quite a ways with no luck. Just when I was about to give up, I came upon a bus station with buses that were shuttling people to Wimbledon. So, I got on a shuttle and went out to Wimbledon. While the tickets were too expensive to get in, I got the chance to experience the atmosphere and see the massive number of people there. It was a lot of fun to see and I'm glad I stuck with it.

I later returned after the tournament and went through the museum and got to see the tennis courts. For me, this story is not only about what I was able to see and do, but how I grew that day. I was able to gain confidence and use my problem-solving skills to find it. From that point on, I also learned how to use Google Maps to check out where I planned to go beforehand so I know what to expect. A skill I still use 8 years later.