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Peer Advisors

Peer Advisors are a group of Columbia students who have returned from a semester or year abroad and are interested in sharing their experience of study abroad with prospective students.  From questions about living in an Argentinian homestay to classes at a particular institution to the cost-of-living in London, students are encouraged to contact Peer Advisors when they are planning a semester abroad!

Africa (Sub-Saharan): Elsbeth (Kenya), Mike (Kenya)
Asia: Josue (Beijing)
Australia: Kenza (Melbourne)
Europe: Erica (London), Ellie (Turkey and France), Miranda (Germany), Theodora (Denmark), Zach (France), Jess (Italy), Victoria (France), Kristen (Spain), Monique (Spain), Alex (France, Russia), Maia (France), Paula (United Kingdom and Italy), Omri (France), Will (France), Gabi (United Kingdom), Maddy (Denmark)
Middle East and North Africa: Ellie (Tunisia), Monique (Tunisia, Turkey, Jordan)
Latin America: Mabel (Rio de Janeiro), Jess (Peru)

Miranda Arakelian, Berlin Consortium for German Studies (BCGS), Germany 

Hallo! I'm a Senior in CC majoring in Sociology and concentrating in German Literature and Culture. I just got back from an academic year in Berlin, Germany. I had studied German for two years at Columbia, but I feel like I really picked up the language when I arrived and was completely immersed! I spent my first month in a homestay, and after a nerve-wracking apartment search I moved into a shared apartment with two German students. Between living with these students (who became two of my best friends) and enrolling directly at a local university, I felt like I got to live as a German student would. Studying at the Freie Universität was a rich academic experience; the pace is slower, but the expectations of my final papers were much more rigorous than what I had experienced in the United States. Writing 15-page final essays in German was quite a challenge, but I also produced academic work that I'm really proud of! 

Luckily I wasn't always working-- Berlin is at the heart of Europe and during my school breaks I was able to visit a whole host of countries through cheap air and bus connections. I saw Stockholm, Copenhagen, Munich, Amsterdam, London, Dresden, and more! 
The Berlin Consortium for German Studies allows you an amazing amount of freedom and independence, and I'm so glad I was in a program that encouraged me to integrate into the local culture. I would definitely encourage anyone who can to study abroad for the full year. I know it can be tough to plan, but it's definitely do-able! If you have any questions or want to learn more about my experience in the program please don't hesitate to reach out!   Email me at: with any questions.


Kenza Benbrahim, IFSA-Butler, University of Melbourne, Australia

I am a Columbia College Senior studying Visual Arts with a Special Concentration in Business. I studied abroad Junior Spring 2016 in Melbourne Australia, at the Victorian College of the Arts where I enrolled in the painting department with the help of IFSA Butler. I took opportunity during my time in Australia to travel extensively, exploring all the natural beauty Australia has to offer as well as attending its biggest music festival and the Sydney Art Biennale. Please get in touch if there is any way I can help you make the most of your study abroad experience!  Email me at: with any questions.

Maia Bix, Columbia in Paris at Reid Hall


Salut! I’m a senior at Barnard studying political science and economics. In the spring of 2016, I spend a semester in Paris studying at Reid Hall. I lived with a wonderful host family, took engaging classes, improved my French more than I would’ve thought possible, ate pastries constantly, and had an all-around incredible time. I also traveled to the south of France with my host family, and to Iceland and the UK with friends. If you’re interested in an academically rigorous study abroad experience in the most beautiful city in the world (sorry, New York), send me an email and we can chat all about Reid Hall over croissants and coffee! Contact me at: with any questions.

Alex Braslavsky, American Councils’ Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program in Moscow, Russia and Reid Hall Program in Paris, France

I’m a senior majoring in English Literature and concentrating in Russian Language and Culture. I spent the summer of 2015 as a Harriman Institute Fellow in Moscow, Russia studying at Moscow International University, where I took courses in literature, grammar, linguistics, film, terms of technology, and culture. I lived with my grandmother, whom I had not had the chance to get to know before (my parents immigrated from Russia in the 1990’s), so the experience was incredibly meaningful for me. I saw such an improvement in my Russian, and at the end of the program, as part of the program we had the opportunity to take a cruise along the gorgeous Volga River, visiting St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, and Vladivostok. This past summer I was in Paris through Columbia’s Reid Hall program, where I took Accelerated Intermediate French I and II with Vincent Aurora. In Paris, I enjoyed strolling through the Marais, visiting the Louvre, interviewing Parisians about their lives in the Luxembourg Gardens, and seeing fireworks at the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day. Both times that I studied abroad were eye-opening and made me more conscious of what it means to be a citizen of the world. Learning languages abroad also helped me develop newfound confidence in myself, for which I am deeply grateful. If you have questions about what it’s like to study in Russia or France, about fellowship opportunities, what a home-stay is like, or anything else, please feel free to reach out! You can reach me at:

Theodora Davis, Danish Institute of Study Abroad (DIS), Copenhagen, Denmark


Hej hej! I'm a senior in CC majoring in Neuroscience and Computer Science. I spent my junior year spring studying abroad in Copenhagen. I had never taken Danish before but absolutely loved the Danish Language and Culture course I took through my program. English is very common in Denmark, but it was still helpful and fun to see how much I could learn in the short time I was there. I spent my whole semester in a homestay, which made my experience abroad so much more incredible and immersive - some of the best food I will ever have! Since my program didn't enroll me directly in a Danish university, getting to know a Danish family taught me about the culture. Classes were totally different in Denmark, much more team based, hands-on, and practical, with many presentations and projects thrown in as well - it was great to experience and benefit from a new style of learning. My program built in special travel weeks that allowed students to explore Europe without missing class. If you're considering studying abroad, you should definitely do it! Please reach out with any questions or concerns!

Paula Gaither, Oxbridge Scholars Program, Oxford, UK; Summer Program in Italy: Archaeological Fieldwork at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli/Rome, Italy
Salve! I am a senior in CC majoring in Classics. I studied abroad my junior year at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. My studies at Oxford were the most rigorous of my life and I am intensely proud of my academic accomplishments there. But more importantly, I was able to explore other aspects of myself and got involved in the drama and poetry scenes in Oxford. I made some of the best friends in my life there and now always have a couch to sleep on when I go back to London. I also participated the Hadrian’s Villa Archaeological Dig in Tivoli, Italy the summer after my freshman year, and I returned again after my sophomore year. I was worried about my study abroad options coming into Columbia because my major involves dead languages, but I have been able to go abroad and enrich both my own personal life and my academic one as well.  Let me know if you have any questions about Italy, England, Classics, Archaeology, or anything else!

Elsbeth Kane, Tropical Biology and Sustainability in Kenya


Jambo! I’m a senior in Columbia College majoring in Environmental Biology through E3B. I’m also a pre-veterinary student on a pre-medical track. I spent the spring semester of my junior year in Kenya studying tropical agriculture, sustainable development, natural history, and ecohydrology. In three months, I completed sixteen Columbia University credits towards my degree while having the unparalleled opportunity of learning and living in one of the most ecologically diverse regions of Africa—and, arguably, one of the most beautiful nations in the world.  We traveled up to the drylands region of Karamoja, Uganda and down to the more humid, agriculturally viable regions of Kenya just east of Lake Victoria. In both areas, we were challenged to think critically about the merits of various sustainable development strategies as they pertained to specific agro-economic zones. We then settled in at Mpala, in Nanyuki, where our research center and living quarters were situated right within 5,000 acres of preserved lands. It wasn’t uncommon to run into a troop of vervet monkeys or a pair of dik dik right outside of our dorm. We’d often pass by towers of giraffe and herds of elephants on the drive into town! My favorite memory of the semester -- climbing over 16,000 feet to Point Lenana at the Mt. Kenya National Park. The view was breathtaking, and our porters gave us hot Kenyan tea at the top! Studying abroad in Kenya was the perfect opportunity to gain practical experience with fieldwork, project-based group work, science writing, and public speaking—and where better to do it than in a country with such a diversity of landscapes, wildlife, and cultures. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out to chat about the program. For now, kwaheri! E-mail Elsbeth at:


Will Kenick, Columbia in Paris at Reid Hall, Paris, France
Bonjour! I’m a senior in Columbia College majoring in American Studies. I spent my entire junior year in the Reid Hall program in Paris, France. Although my major focuses on the United States, by going abroad I was able to immerse myself in another culture’s viewpoint in regards to religion, politics, race, family, social structure, and urban life. I was also lucky enough to complete two Core requirements while in Paris: Art Humanities and Music Humanities. Both of these courses took advantage of Paris’ rich traditions in the arts, including weekly trips to world-class museums, such as the Louvre, concert performances at the Royal Opera in the palace of Versailles, a private tour of the Palais Garnier, the chance to walk Monet’s personal gardens depicted in his paintings… the list goes on. My language skills improved dramatically, and by the end of my year there I was confidently reading, writing, and expressing myself in French, academically and in informal conversation. Paris is a lively, dynamic, and historic city, one to which I have become deeply attached. There is always something new to see, some new corner of the city that you hadn’t thought to check out before, a stairway to a street on which you’ve never walked. If you have any questions about my experiences abroad, or study abroad in general, please don’t hesitate to send me an email and I would love to talk with you. Email Will at:

Mabel Luo, Summer Portuguese Program in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

mOlá! I'm a junior in SEAS studying industrial engineering with a minor in entrepreneurship. I spent the summer of 2015 as a Presidential Global Fellow studying Portuguese. Not having known any Portuguese beforehand, I knew that there would be a huge learning curve upon arriving. What I didn't know was how genuinely friendly, eager, and helpful all the locals would be as I steadily gained command of the language. Aside from mingling with local Brazilians, I got to experience so much of carioca culture: drinking coconuts on Ipanema beach while conversing with friendly strangers, hang gliding over Tijuca Forest, strolling through the colorful streets of Santa Teresa, marveling at the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises in the world, touring a comunidade and seeing the blatant wealth inequality in Rio, shopping for fresh fruit at the local markets, and talking to locals about their views on politics. Brand new friends will welcome you into their homes with open arms and plates of pão de queijo and brigadeiro. Rio didn't get the nickname "Cidade Maravilhosa" for nothing.  Email Mabel.


Maddy Matthews, DIS Denmark: Study Abroad in Scandinavia, Columbia Summer Program in Venice

Hello / Ciao / Hej! I'm a senior in CC, studying American Studies & Business Management. I studied abroad twice throughout college: the summer after my freshman year in Venice, Italy, and my junior year fall in Copenhagen, Denmark. In Venice, I finished my Italian language requirement and studied Renaissance art. (And I ate a lot of pasta. Probably too much pasta). In Copenhagen, I completed a public health program and had the amazing opportunity to study the Danish healthcare system (which was especially intersting given the current refugee crisis in the country/region), as well as the Danish pharmaceutical industry. In addition to public health, I studied International Business Negotiations at the Copenhagen Business School. I also took a class on urban liveability and bike culture, so, yes, I did have a very difficult time saying goodbye to my bike after the semester was over. E-mail Maddy for more information at:

Gabi Mayers, Queen Mary University in London, United Kingdom

Gabi is a media creator and visual social activist. In her classes at Columbia she studies both the practical and philosophical aspects of film. She studied abroad at Queen Mary University of London where she created a web series, Studying Abroad While Black, which documents the experiences students of color face while traveling in spaces without many people of color.
On campus, she practices the skills she learns as the Senior Adviser the Society for the Advancement of Underrepresented Filmmakers (SAUF), a club and network that supports and mentors students who are interested in making film, television, and media. In addition to SAUF, Gabi also serves as a Resident Advisor and a Peer Advisor for the Office of Global Programs. When she's not in class, Gabi balances her in classroom educational experience as an intern in TV production and development. In the past she has worked at NBC, MTV, and FOX and continues to intern during her senior year.  E-mail Gabi at:

Josue Chavez, Summer Language Program in Beijing, China


Hi! I’m a CC junior majoring in Comparative Literature and Society. I spent the summer of 2015 participating in the Columbia in Beijing Summer Program.  I took Advanced Third Level Chinese for ten weeks and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. I got to practice my Chinese every day in and outside the classroom, allowing me to gain a confidence and mastery of the language that I would have never achieved in the U.S. During our week long break, my friends and I went to Shanghai, Suzhou and Xi’an, which meant that we got to practice our conversational Chinese every day in settings that we were not familiar with. I visited the Great Wall, the Terra cotta Warriors, the Bund, an art district, watched a live Beijing opera and an acrobatics show and I got to eat some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had. The ten-week summer program also meant I got to take a full year-long Chinese course, allowing me to move further in my academic plans back at Columbia. Being in China wasn’t always easy, but it was definitely an experience that taught me a lot about myself. I definitely recommend studying abroad in Beijing/China in general, so if you have any questions please feel free to email me. Email Josue.


Zach McNeal, Art Humanities and Music Humanities in Paris, France

Bonjour! I am a Sophomore in Columbia College studying Economics-Political Science, hopefully with a concentration in something awesome. This past summer I had the opportunity to study Art and Music Humanities abroad in Paris, France. Honestly, it is by far the best summer I have ever had and probably my favorite academic experience of all time. I learned a little bit of French, got to try some delicious food, and made a ton of new friends that I am still really close with. I definitely had to do some adjusting to get used to French culture, but overall I think I learned a lot about the history and people of France and I can’t wait to have the chance to go back. Studying abroad is probably the best thing I have done during my time at Columbia, hopefully I will be able to study abroad again before my time as an undergraduate student is over. Email:

Ellie Dominguez, Middle Eastern and North African Studies in France and Turkey, Democracy and Constitutional Engineering in Tunisia and Turkey


Ahlan wa sahlan! I'm a senior in CC double majoring in Middle Eastern Studies and Urban Studies, with a concentration in Political Science. I spent summer 2014 participating in the Amman/Paris program, and summer 2015 on the Tunis/Istanbul program, after which I interned in Jordan through CCE’s CEO Amman program!  During the Amman/Paris program, I mostly studied Modern Standard Arabic, as well as Jordanian and Moroccan dialects. The additional seminar was about migration from North Africa to Europe, particularly Paris, and it has turned out to be one of the most valuable and relevant classes I’ve taken at Columbia thus far. For anyone majoring in Political Science and remotely interested in the Middle East, I cannot emphasize just how valuable the Tunis/Istanbul program is. Not only are you learning about the Arab Spring and the current political environment of the region - you’re discussing it with brilliant students your age who actually experienced these events firsthand! In addition to learning coding and studying comparative politics, I made lifelong friends that I still keep in touch with regularly. In Spring 2016 I participated on Columbia's traveling seminar to Jordan, and having spent a total of 3.5 months in Jordan thus far, I’ve come to meet many wonderful people and find a ton of awesome places - please don’t hesitate to reach out, as I’m always happy to share my finds! And more broadly, I’m always happy to speak to students interested in studying in North Africa or the Middle East!  E-mail Ellie at: 

Mike Spiotta, Tropical Biology and Sustainability in Kenya

Habari yako! I am a senior at GS studying Sustainable Development. I spent the spring 2016 semester in Kenya studying tropical biology, ecology, eco-hydrology, agriculture, and sustainable development! As a sustainable development major this was a fantastic opportunity to get some hands on experience in the field, which is something you really don’t get the chance to do here in New York City. This was my first time traveling abroad, and while spending 3 months in Sub-Saharan Africa seemed like a daunting task at first, the time flew by and was one of the most transformative experiences of my life—not to mention I made some incredible friends. While in Kenya we had the opportunity to study sustainable development in practice in a village just outside of Kisumu, Kenya in the western part of the country where we were treated to magnificent daily sunsets along Lake Victoria. We then traveled to the Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia County, Kenya where we spent the bulk of the remaining 9 weeks of the course. There we had the opportunity to live side-by-side with some of the most amazing creatures on the planet, which ranged from elephants, zebra and giraffes, to lions, leopards, wild dogs, cheetahs and so much more! Driving passed herds of elephants or towers of twiga (the Swahili term for a group of giraffes) was just part of your daily routine. For our Spring Break we also had the wonderful opportunity to climb to the top of Mt. Kenya (the second tallest mountain in all of Africa) where we were treated to breathtaking views and a sunrise I will remember for a lifetime. Thanks to this experience I am now reconsidering the direction I want to go following my graduation in May. Prior to this trip I had never considered doing conservation research, or research of any kind for that matter. I am now seriously exploring the option of going on to grad school to study conservation biology with the hopes of returning to Africa to study cheetahs and/or wild dogs. Kwaheri for now! And always—hakuna matata! E-mail Mike at:


Jess Swanson, Italian Language and Culture Studies in Venice, Italy and SIT: Indigenous Peoples and Globalization in Cusco, Peru
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Ciao! ¡Hola! I'm a senior in Columbia College majoring in Human Rights and concentrating in Art History. As a recipient of the Presidential Global Fellowship, I studied art history and Italian culture in Venice, Italy for six weeks of the summer following my first year. Taking two field-based research courses, my days were spent not in a classroom but instead throughout the floating city’s various islands. Every class, we rode the vaporetto boat along the Canale Grande from one site to the next, ranging from palazzi to churches to government buildings, in order to study works in situ. We were able to engage in dialogue about the work’s physical and cultural context only possible standing before the masterpieces. Outside of classes, we were immersed in Italian culture from the delicious cuisine of pastas and fresh fish to the various customs of daily life. My studies in Venice proved instrumental in developing my art historical skills and informed my understanding of my classical coursework at Columbia following my return. Seeking experience studying a language abroad, I explored how indigenous peoples in Peru are adapting in the face of globalization through SIT’s program in Cusco, Peru this past spring semester. Studying content courses in Spanish was one of the most challenging and rewarding academic experiences of my life. Though daunting at first, my skills rapidly improved as I practiced Spanish for hours each day in conversation with those on the street, in my classes, and especially with members of my Peruvian host family. They provided me with an understanding of current social and political issues as well as a direct view into Peruvian culture. My historical and investigative coursework led me to travel throughout Peru on site visits to Madre de Dios of the Amazon, Isla Taquile of Lago Titicaca, and the cities of Arequipa and Lima. These classes culminated in a month-long independent research project which I conducted at Proyecto Valle Sagrado, a dormitory and academic support program for indigenous Quechua-speaking girls in the Peruvian Andes to obtain a high school education. Together these two experiences have defined my time at Columbia and instilled in me a passion for intercultural learning. If you have any questions about my time studying abroad, please send me an email and I’d love to talk with you! E-mail Jess at: 

Victoria Tissot, Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies (KCJS), Japan , Kyoto Summer Programs in Modern and Classical Japanese (KCJS), Japan
Hello! I’m a Barnard College senior majoring in East Asian studies with a concentration in Japanese history. During the spring semester of my junior year, I seized the opportunity to study abroad in Kyoto with the KCJS program, and I can now say that it was the best decision I made as a college student. Not only was I able to tremendously improve my Japanese language skills, in and outside the classroom, but I also learned so much about Japanese culture through my Japanese friends, my host family and all the acquaintances I made during my time abroad. In addition to Japanese language, I took two English taught courses on Japanese food culture and on the history of migration and minorities in Japan, and was also able to get involved in my community by teaching English to local middle school students.

After spending many afternoons visiting temples and shrines, walking around nishiki market, discovering ramen restaurants, and even learning how to wear a yukata, I grew to love Kyoto so much that I extended my stay for three months and enrolled in the KCJS summer program. I am very thankful for the lifelong Japanese and American friends I made during my time abroad, my loving host family, and the incredible KCJS staff that worked so hard to make sure we all had the best study abroad experience. I highly recommend studying abroad in Kyoto, so If you have any questions about KCJS or any general questions about life in Japan, please feel free to contact me:

Kristen Wang, CIEE Engineering and Society, Madrid, Spain



¡Hola! I’m a junior in SEAS studying Applied Math and minoring in Computer Science. I spent the spring semester of my sophomore year in the CIEE Engineering and Society program in Madrid, Spain. In many ways, I had the best of both worlds while I was in Madrid. I took classes for my major in English at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, a local bilingual university, but I still had a lot of opportunities to practice Spanish in my homestay and with students outside of class. I also found great friends in American students from the CIEE program that I could travel around Europe with while connecting with locals in the city. I’ve always enjoyed traveling, but studying abroad gave me the chance to really become a part of a foreign culture and ultimately see life from a different perspective. I wholeheartedly recommend it, and I’m more than happy to speak with anyone who would like to know more about studying abroad as a SEAS student, CIEE Madrid, Spain, or even just study abroad in general!  E-mail Kristen at: 

Monique Williams, Summer Arabic Language Program in Amman, Jordan; Columbia Summer Program in Tunis and Istanbul: Democracy and Constitutional Engineering, Consortium For Advanced Studies in Barcelona (CASB) (Presidential Global Fellow)
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Ahlan! Hola! Wah gwan? I’m an international student from Kingston, Jamaica and a senior in Columbia College majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Psychology. Having received the Presidential Global Fellowship in my first year, I spent the summer 2014 participating in the Arabic Language program in Amman, Jordan as a first year Arabic student. During my sophomore summer 2015, I took part in the Tunis/Istanbul Democracy and Constitutional Engineering program, after which I interned in London for two months through CCE’s CEO London program. Finally, and most recently, I studied abroad for my spring semester of junior year in Barcelona, Spain through CASB program! As is evident, I have had a variety of global experience. Each country was unique, each program aimed at a different goal, and so it offered different experiences at that time of my life – the cultural and linguistic immersion into Amman, the academic and personal exposure found in Tunis and Istanbul, the independence I discovered in London and the vibrant rollercoaster that was Barcelona!  In every experience my mind evolved: I was exposed to new people, cultures and perspectives. It was a challenging but holistic learning experience – and most notably, a global one. I had an amazing time through it all, and was fortunate to connect with a lot of amazing people along the way. If you are by any means interested in having a more global experience, want to step out your comfort zone, or simply have questions, a lingering curiosity, please reach out! There is a wealth of knowledge that I can’t wait to share! Email Monique at:

Erica Yee, University College London, UKErica

Hello!  I’m a SEAS senior, majoring in Materials Science & Engineering.  
In Spring 2015, I spent the semester at University College London, which was my first adventure east of the Atlantic.  At UCL, I took courses in Earth Sciences, History, and Art History and played on the university club ultimate Frisbee team, both of which allowed me to fully soak-in UK life, from tournaments in industrial Manchester, to field-work trips at the white cliffs of Dorset, to trainings at beautiful Regent’s Park in central London.  While balancing schoolwork and finances, study abroad also provided the perfect opportunity to explore Europe: the rich histories of cities such as Amsterdam, Paris, and Florence never ceased to amaze me.  Still, being able to call London “home” for an entire semester—walking past Buckingham Palace every day, chatting over tea and biscuits with my flatmates, and riding scarlet double-decker buses to university—was truly a life-changing experience.  If you have any questions about UCL, London, or studying abroad as an engineer, feel free to contact me! Email Erica.