By Maddison Cervantes

The ability to travel the world has been made available to students through a variety of different programs. On Tuesday, Oct. 28, the University of Nevada, Reno’s Joe Crowley Student Union hosted the third annual Everything is Global Summit, an event split into sessions, each providing high school and university students the knowledge and the opportunity to travel the world.

Displayed throughout the Joe’s ballroom in the were a variety of international organizations, presenting information to interested students.

The University Studies Abroad Consortium offered advice for attendees in studying abroad during their college years. The Sierra Nevada College Service-Learning Project promoted its upcoming venture to South Africa this summer to support different aspects of the community – a project that could earn students up to 15 college credits.

Students were also given the opportunity to chat with guest speakers, such as keynote speaker and Nevada’s second congressional district for the U.S. House of Representatives candidate, Kristen Spees, who is no stranger to the global community.

From an early age, Spees yearned to see the world and share her experiences. She began her travels while in high school through an exchange program in Argentina.

Spees has spent months camping throughout Nicaragua and Costa Rica, endured a Chinese jail cell and has had both knives and guns used to threaten her.

She contributed to the first session of the event with a speech concerning her adventures around the globe.

“Being in Argentina was really difficult for the first few months, but after learning the language and breaking this barrier with the other students, I had the time of my life,” Spees said.

After her first trip abroad, Spees came back to the United States, and attended the University of Hawaii to study political science, knowing that she would be able to travel with that specific major.

Through programs at the University of Hawaii, Spees was able to travel to Australia and Tahiti After college, she continued with her exploration throughout other regions of the world.

Many of the organizations at the event offered a variety of options for exploring other countries, such as military services, internships, volunteering and studying.

Rotary, a high school foreign exchange program that sends students around the world and hosts foreign students in the United States, invited exchange students to share their experiences at the Summit and offer advice about studying abroad.

Florencia Ortiz, a Rotary foreign exchange student from Argentina, attended the event to discuss the challenges of adjusting to a new culture.

After the first session of the Summit concluded, the students were divided into different rooms to learn from different individuals’ travels. Ortiz hosted one of these rooms, and spoke about the nine months she has spent thus far with her host family in Fernley, Nevada, and how her time in the United States has contrasted her life in Argentina.

“The shock of culture was so huge,” Ortiz said. “I didn’t know any English before, so not being able to communicate with anyone was my biggest struggle.”

Aside from the struggles that Ortiz faced upon arriving in the United States, she has altered her life to fit that of her host family, and the friends she has made.

Sophomore Abigail Hersey participated in the Rotary exchange program, and had the opportunity to live in Belgium the year after her high school graduation. Hersey also attended the Summit to speak on behalf of her experiences living in another country.

Rotary provided Hersey the opportunity to explore Belgium, encounter a new culture and to meet her international best friend.

“The friends you meet on exchange often just become your extended family,” Hersey said. “You’re all going through the same sorts of things, so you really bond over those struggles.”

Hersey explained that upon her arrival in Belgium, she could not understand nor speak the native language. This caused difficulties for her in the first few months of her stay. In the midst of adjusting to a new culture, Hersey has gained a new set of communication skills through her struggles to be understood everywhere she went.

“I think one of the most important things about studying abroad is really challenging yourself,” Hersey said. “It changed my life. I think I’m a tougher person, and it’s a lot easier to talk to people now.”

Each individual that attended the event to speak on their time abroad made it apparent that although difficult in some instances, experiencing the world is life-changing.

Spees provided the attendees with advice such as the necessity of traveling on a budget when going abroad.

Spees was able to travel the globe for under $1500 with the University of Hawaii’s cheapest travel programs and her select resources, such as using an instrument to make money throughout her trip.

“I bring my saxophone with me,” Spees said. “I play my saxophone all over the world and make money while I travel, it’s something that really brings people together.”

She explained that through her years spent around the world, she has learned that she is not interested in traveling for her own desire anymore. Wherever her destination, Spees has made it a point to help those in each community she comes across through raising money or picking up trash. Spees encouraged students to consider volunteering when going abroad.

“Go on a volunteer trip, go build houses in Mexico, or just go somewhere and find something that you can do there,” Spees said. “You can do it for a good price, and the feeling you get when helping out a community of any kind is unbelievable.”

Maddison Cervantes can be reached at and on Twitter @madcervantes.