Alumni Spotlight: Nicole Francis

Why did you decide to study abroad with AIFS at VUW in NZ?

Road to Mount Cook in New Zealand

Nicole: I chose to study abroad with AIFS because it is an all inclusive program. It provides me with the support I felt I would need going to a different country. They provided transportation and representatives at each country to meet me at the airport. AIFS also provided opportunities for optional excursions that I took advantage of. A lot of the students that I met in different countries that were studying abroad with different organizations didn't have as many opportunities as I did to immerse myself into the culture through these excursions. Most importantly I knew that if anything went wrong along the way that AIFS would be responsible because I paid them to make sure that everything was taken care of and that I would be safe in my travels!

What made your study abroad experience unique and special?

Nicole: This experience is unique and special for obvious reasons. I lived in a different country on my own for five months. Just proving to myself and others that I could do it successfully means a lot to me. It also proves my independence. Having studied different cultures makes me unique in my field of profession, which is Psychology. It is crucial to have multi-cultural competence in this field of work or any field that involves interacting with diverse groups people.

When applying for jobs and internships, employers are interested in my time abroad. It really makes me stand out when compared to other potential employees or interns. I think it shows a great level of commitment to go through with something like this. Leaving behind everything that I have ever known, my home and loved ones was very difficult at times, but ultimately in the end I knew I did this for myself and no one else.

I have interacted and made many friends outside of my comfort zone. It is amazing how close you can become to complete strangers in one semester. These people become your family. What is really special about this experience is the fact that you get to start a new chapter of your life. You can be whoever you want to be somewhere new with people who you have never met before. Every one of the other study abroad students that I met were also in the same position. It is chance to reinvent yourself and branch out. It allows you to distance yourself from everything you thought you knew and find out who you are and what you stand for. I knew that if I could do this, I could do anything. I am proud of myself and my experiences!

How has this experience impacted your future?

Nicole: This experience has impacted my life in ways that I cannot even begin to describe in words. When I go to talk about my experience, I become overwhelmed with emotions. I can honestly say that I am so proud of myself for this. When you go to different countries and physically see the differences with your own eyes, you begin to look at the world differently. You gain new perspectives. Everything you thought you knew becomes slightly different. You realize the things you take for granted. You realize how lucky you are to be alive and have this opportunity. You learn what it means to be alive.

Allowing yourself to meet different kinds of people and to try things you never thought you would in your entire life is the best feeling in the world. It is truly liberating. What is so special about this experience is that those memories that you made are your own. No one else can know what you saw and felt while you were doing it. Nobody else I know can tell me what it is like stand on top the Sydney Harbour Bridge looking out at that beautiful opera house when only a couple of years ago that was something I only dreamt of, or what it is like to sit on the top of a mountain in New Zealand after one of the most difficult hikes of my life and look out to nothing but the open ocean and smell freedom. That is what makes me unique.