Alumni Spotlight: Jess Mercier ’16

While a junior at the College of Charleston I studied abroad with Semester at Sea, a multi-destination program that’s comparative nature was perfect for my studies in Sociology and Political Science. Having been abroad just once before this, I could never have imagined how immersing myself in so many cultures would change my perspectives both academically and personally. While traveling through Asia and Africa, I had unique opportunities to interact with local people, visit both modern and historic cities, experience traditional ceremonies and customs, and actively reflect on what I was learning in class.

Prior to studying abroad, I knew I wanted to devote my professional career to helping people in some way. After studying abroad, and consequently working in the Center for International Education, I knew I wanted to help other students have an experience like I did. Fast-forward six years and I am now a Study Abroad Advisor myself, where everyday it’s rewarding and nostalgic to watch young people grow.

Studying abroad is all of the things that you’ve heard it is – “amazing”, “once-in-a-lifetime”, and “one of the best parts of college”. But it’s also so much more than that. It turns students into social advocates and provides them with skills like global awareness, cross-cultural sensitivity, and critical thinking. It replaces ignorance with information that’s learned first-hand, not from a textbook or a PowerPoint slide. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, it changes the trajectory of your entire life – as it did mine.

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