The University of Kentucky provides a variety of diverse and inclusive international opportunities that allow students to develop and thrive in global communities. This is how UK alumna, Nicole Funk, was able to broaden her worldview, create cross-cultural connections, master a new language, and land the job of her dreams. Through opportunities like Shoulder to Shoulder Global Program to Ecuador, International Village Living and Learning Program (LLP), and the International Student Leadership Team, Funk was able to better understand the interconnected world we all live in.
Internationalization plays an important part in the development of our community. Cultivating global experiences helps make a difference in the kind of impact students and community members can make in the world. Students like Funk serve as a reminder of how important internationalization is and the power of what it can help students achieve.
Having developed a strong awareness of the impact and benefits of being part of an international community, Funk was able to gain a competitive edge in the global marketplace, as well as develop skills that helped her personally and professionally.
“I learned about family and friendships in other cultures, which made me think about my interactions in my own culture. I think learning about the way people in other countries treat family and friends made me re-think my priorities and devote more time and energy to the people I love,” Funk said.
Currently, Funk works as a federal government employee serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA and a nonprofit organization that helps immigrant youth in Louisville, KY.
“In one elementary school’s field trip to our urban farm, a student who spoke very little English ended up in my group. I was able to speak with him in Spanish, which was my minor at UK. Some of the other students in my group were from other countries, and I loved seeing how proud they were of that,” Funk said. “I feel so grateful that even after leaving UK, I get to keep learning about and experiencing other cultures. Most of all, I’m grateful that my time at UK made me able to really appreciate the beauty that comes with diversity and internationalization.”
As a freshman, Funk helped build a sense of belonging for students on UK’s campus by being part of the International Student Leadership Team (ISLT), a group of student leaders who work with the International Student and Scholar Services to develop and promote programs and events to international and domestic students. As part of the ISLT, Funk was able to learn and appreciate other cultures. “Being part of the ISLT allowed me to take part in events that celebrated the different cultures and countries,” Funk said.
While at UK, Funk lived in the International Village Living Learning Program - a multi-national community of students, with roommate pairings matching international and U.S. students to foster cross-cultural friendships. Funk lived in Smith Hall, where she was able to meet some of who are now her closest friends from all over the globe.
“I remember practicing Spanish at night with a friend from Argentina who lived on my floor,” Funk said. “Some of my friends from that dorm are still some of my close friends today.”
One of Funk’s various global experiences at UK included her study abroad experience in Quito, Ecuador, where she was able to learn about communities and people around the world. “The semester in Ecuador was one of my favorite experiences of my life,” Funk said. “I gained a deeper love of Latin culture and passion for social justice while being there.”
“The positive impacts being made by the international community at UK were so clear to me. Just like any university, UK functions better with people from many different cultures working together every day,” Funk said. “Perspectives from all over the world bring new knowledge, skills and make our communities the best they can be.”
Bringing together individuals from all backgrounds has allowed many UK students like Funk to discover a world of limitless possibilities. A world that is better because it allows individuals to learn from each other, work together and share new ideas, beliefs, acquire new skills, learn new languages and understand the role each of us have in this global society.