The students and faculty of Samford’s Global Engagement Office, or GEO, work tirelessly to promote international opportunities and connect with international students. Through study abroad mentorship, International Club and preview days, Samford’s International Ambassadors serve the campus by encouraging students to engage with the world around them.
Ten students serve as International Ambassadors through the GEO, split between Study Abroad Ambassadors and International Student Services, or ISS, Ambassadors. Both groups help promote global activities and cultural awareness around campus, but their specific roles are more distinct.
Senior psychology major, Kayla Milner, serves on the study abroad team. She studied abroad at the Daniel House in London during the spring 2022 semester. Her experience during this semester helped her become comfortable with traveling and entering new cultures.
“It was one of the most life-changing events and my favorite Samford experience ever,” Milner said. “It challenged me in a lot of different ways. Dealing with culture shock and a new set of routines was difficult at first, but I would not change it. It has made me a more resilient and confident person.”
This led Milner to apply to be a Study Abroad Ambassador, so that she can help other students walk through the study abroad process and come out the other side just as confident as she did.
“I think that if everyone can study abroad, they should study abroad,” Milner said. “Traveling has helped me see what other cultures value and how that is different from American values. I think that this is so important for students to experience.”
Likewise, Payton Wemert, a senior marketing major, enjoys sharing her study abroad experience with other students in the hopes that she can encourage them to take the step themselves.
“I did a semester abroad in London at the Daniel House,” Wemert said. “As cliché as it is, it truly was a life changing experience, and sometimes I think I dreamed it all up. The people that were in my group became my best friends and we did not take each day for granted, which I am so thankful for. Of course, not every day was sunshine and rainbows, but I learned a lot about myself and the world around me.”
Study Abroad Ambassadors like Milner and Wemert are a crucial part of the study abroad application process. Each student going through the process is required to meet with an ambassador to discuss the different programs and ask any questions they may have. The Study Abroad Ambassadors also serve at preview days and study abroad fairs to promote the programs.
Along with these duties, the Study Abroad Ambassadors partner with the ISS Ambassadors to connect with Samford’s international students.
“At the beginning of each school year, both ISS and SA ambassadors meet a week before school starts to host orientation for our international students coming in from around the world and plan for the year ahead,” Wemert shared. “We help them get checked into Samford and then host ‘live like a local’ where we take all the new international students around their new home of Birmingham. It is one of my favorite weeks of the school year.”
Abbey Hollingsworth, a senior psychology major, serves as one of the ISS Ambassadors. She works alongside the International Club to plan events, such as the fall cultural retreat. Hollingsworth’s extensive travel experience ignited her desire to intentionally connect with students across cultures, and this is why she loves serving as an ISS Ambassador.
“Traveling to different places, dwelling with those from around the world and hearing these people’s stories is one of the ways that helps an individual grow the most in life,” Hollingsworth said. “It increases understanding, kindness, and open-mindedness.”
Hollingsworth, Wemert and Milner are all passionate about bridging the gap between U.S.-born Samford students and international students.
“I believe forming relationships with individuals from cultures outside of our own is one of the most fulfilling things one can do,” Hollingsworth said. “There is so much we can learn from each other. I applied for this role because I wanted to help international students not just feel at home here at Samford, but also feel like an integral part of our community.”
Samford’s International Ambassadors encourage all students to get involved with the globally minded opportunities that Samford offers, whether that be by stopping by the GEO office, applying to study abroad or going to an event hosted by the International Club.