Nicole Funk, a junior from Lexington majoring in natural resources and environmental science with a Spanish minor, participated in an Education Abroad semester-long direct exchange program at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in Quito, Ecuador. It was through a community internship that Funk received recognition for best of “Pasantía en la Comunidad” (PASEC) work at USFQ. All USFQ students must complete this program in order to graduate, and international students also have the opportunity to complete a PASEC program if they wish.
Nicole Funk (second from left) with Universidad San Francisco de Quito faculty and staff.
For Funk's PASEC service program, she completed a service-learning experience at Instituto Educativo Fiscomisional Hogar Cristo Rey, a middle/high school located about 10 minutes from USFQ's campus. It was at Cristo Rey where Funk, with no prior experience, excelled at teaching English to students.
"I think engaging in the community is important because it allows you to do something good for the community that is hosting you and welcoming you in,” Funk said. “Secondly, it gives you a more well-rounded view of the community where you are living. Volunteering at Hogar Cristo Rey showed me that even in such a seemingly wealthy area, there is poverty. There are many people who lack opportunities and resources, and those people's voices need to be heard."
Funk completed 80 hours during the semester teaching at Hogar Cristo Rey. Faculty and staff at USFQ were exceptionally impressed with Funk's service.
"We know Nicole had a great semester and made a great impact in our community," said Alexandra Velasco, director of International Programs at USFQ.
Her interest in education abroad was sparked in high school when she participated in the Lexington Sister Cities exchange program. Funk spent 10 days in Ireland with an Irish-Moldovan family, and shortly after, her host brother traveled to Lexington. Since then, she knew she wanted to participate in an education abroad program in college.
These intercultural experiences are essential in Funk's eyes.
"Beauty, kindness and happiness can be found everywhere in the world,” she said. “I love gaining wisdom from and hearing the stories of people who come from backgrounds different than my own."
Funk also maintains her involvement here at UK by participating on the International Student Leadership Team (ISLT), a program under International Student and Scholar Services. While part of ISLT, Funk assisted in planning social, cultural and academic events to support student success, wellness and belonging of international students on campus.
"Nicole is always willing to help out whenever she can and is genuine when learning more about others. I think these two qualities make her a valuable asset to any organization," said Grace Kim, member of ISLT.
Funk participated in a direct exchange program, allowing her to pay nearly the same tuition she would have paid for a semester at UK. UK Education Abroad has more than 460 programs available in over 70 countries. In addition to study abroad opportunities, students can participate in internship, service, research and teaching programs abroad. Students interested in learning more about education abroad opportunities can visit http://international.uky.edu/ea or the Advising Center in 315 Bradley Hall.