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C&IS Study Abroad Recap

Learn More About Alex’s Time in the Caribbean and Maggie’s Time in France!

by Alexandra Holley, VP Publications; Maggie Esnard, VP Finance and Membership

Studying abroad is a great way to broaden your perspective, connect with other people in your college, and deepen your knowledge of your field in the context of a new culture. If you really have the desire to study abroad but would get way too much FOMO if you spent a semester away from Tuscaloosa, summer study abroad programs are a great option for you. Luckily, the UA College of Communication and Information Sciences offers some incredible faculty-led programs for students. A couple of our executive board members participated in these programs over the summer. Alexandra Holley went to Sint Maarten with UA in the Caribbean, and Maggie Esnard explored Paris and Cannes with C&IS in France. Here’s a little bit about our experiences:

UA in the Caribbean

Our last dinner cruise in the Caribbean

This summer, I had the privilege of heading to Sint Maarten with 21 strangers and three professors to learn more about tourism marketing and international public relations. After four weeks of attending classes together, hanging out by the pool or in the ocean, and going on excursions together, that group of strangers became a family. UA in the Caribbean was the perfect mix of eye-opening and fun, and I would strongly encourage anyone who thinks they might be interested to give it a go.

What classes did you take and how many credits did you receive?

I received six credit hours from this trip. I took APR426 - International Public Relations with Mrs. Susan Daria and APR490 - Content Marketing with Mr. Randall Huffaker. I couldn’t recommend these classes or these professors enough. We got to work with a real client, Vacation Sint Maarten, and got to meet with them in class. A lot of our homework involved creating content calendars and shooting social media content around the island. Our final project was a scaled-down campaigns book, which made me feel much more prepared to take my campaigns class next semester. We did primary research while on the island and put together our recommendations and campaign plan when we got home. This project taught me so much and helped me to narrow down what I want to do after graduation.

Was it hard to make friends?

Not at all! A group of us were on the same flight from Atlanta, so we were making friends before we even got to the island. After our first dinner at the resort together and our first day touring the island, we were all comfortable with each other and forming friendships. We were all in advertising and public relations, so it was easy to connect and find things to talk about at first. Also, going to class together daily, spending time with your roommate, and eating meals at the resort together helped friendships form easily. Everyone was super outgoing and eager to make new friends.

What was your favorite excursion?

My favorite excursion was definitely our first catamaran tour. It was so nice to hang out with everyone on the boat all day and to see the beautiful island from a different perspective. We also went snorkeling on this excursion, and, with the crystal-clear water, we saw lots of little fish.

What was the living situation?

We stayed at Sapphire Beach Club. The rooms were very large and nice: Each had a pullout bed and a king-sized bed, a refrigerator and kitchenette, lots of closet storage, a good-sized bathroom and a balcony overlooking the ocean. We chose our roommates at one of our pre-departure meetings and stayed two-to-a-room, which felt perfect for the space. The resort also had amenities like a large pool right next to our classroom and the restaurant/bar.

Do you feel like you overpacked? How would you advise someone going on the trip next year to pack?

I honestly feel like I packed the perfect amount. I took one checked bag and my backpack, which made the airport travel seamless. The resort had laundry on the first floor, which many of us utilized. I recommend packing lots of swimsuits as you will wear one almost daily. Someone who went on the trip the year prior advised me to pack 10, which worked out really well. For clothing, I packed mostly athletic and casual clothes because that’s what we wore to class every day. I also brought a mix of casual and formal dresses, swimsuit coverups, along with some dressier shorts and tops for nicer excursions or pictures. Also, packing lots of sunscreen, after-sun gel and bug spray is essential.

How did you budget?

The cost of living in Sint Maarten was much higher than I had expected. Seemingly casual restaurants cost the same amount as nicer restaurants in the U.S. Breakfast was provided for us at the resort every day, which we definitely took advantage of. There was a grocery store right up the hill from the resort, so groups of us would go together and cook lunch in our rooms, saving us lots of money. Groups of us would usually go out for dinner, but we varied the price range. Most nights, we would go for something casual by the hotel, but we would check out some of the nicer restaurants on occasion.

An expense I didn’t account for when budgeting for the trip was paying our driver. We couldn’t drive on the island. Whenever we wanted to go somewhere outside of walking distance, we had to pay a taxi, typically between $10-$20 roundtrip. My biggest piece of advice for budgeting would be to divide the total amount of money you want to spend on the trip by four to create a weekly budget, then divide your weekly budget into a daily budget. Give yourself some flexibility on the daily budget. It’s OK to spend over one day and under the next but stick to your weekly budget as firmly as possible.

What would you say to someone considering going on this trip next year?

Do it! This trip was easily the best month of my life. I made so many friends I still hang out with in Tuscaloosa and see in my classes. The courses were so interesting and really deepened my passion for studying advertising and public relations. I made the most amazing connections with the professors on the trip; they served as mentors and helped me to narrow down what I want to do after I graduate. We met so many incredible people on the island, from the resort staff to the drivers to locals at restaurants. They call Sint Maarten “The Friendly Island” for a reason. This trip was so immersive and eye-opening, and I could not be more grateful that I went.

If you’re interested in going on this trip next year, check out UA in the Carribbean’s website and look out for signage in Reese Phifer or emails about upcoming information sessions.

C&IS in France

Enjoying the view of the Eiffel Tower with my friend Ella

This summer, I got the opportunity to study abroad with C&IS in France and attend the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. This two-week trip was beyond valuable from a networking and experience perspective. I will never regret applying for this trip.

What classes did you take?

Each week was a different class. For example, the first week was a class focused on the history of Paris and the city’s culture. We had a very flexible schedule and would travel all over the city exploring the sights.

Was it hard to make friends?

Not really! There were 18 of us on the trip and we clicked really well. We all were super close and met at the orientations before the trip. I did have one of my best friends on the trip with me, though!

What was your favorite part of trip?

In Cannes, we were mainly networking with professionals across PR, advertising and marketing. I met people from all across the industry and from companies I never would have known about. I also got to attend the Cannes Lions Festival and hear from speakers such as Amanda Gorman, Lorne Michaels, Kevin Hart and Jim Joseph, the CEO of Ketchum. We could make our schedule for the festival and surrounding events and attend sessions that appealed to us.

What was the living situation?

We had two apartments in Paris. One of them had 12 people in it! There were a bunch of twin beds in three or four rooms, and we all had a roommate. In Cannes, we had three smaller condos. I was in the condo with the best view of the bay.

Do you feel like you overpacked? How would you advise someone going on the trip next year to pack?

I can guarantee that I overpacked. I had already spent two weeks across the pond on a family trip by the time the study abroad started. My family was loaded down with a ton of my clothes on their way home. It astounds me that I packed for a month in just my carry-on (packing cubes are awesome), but I had way too many clothes. But there were times when I felt like I had under-packed. I wore a lot of dresses in Cannes and needed nicer summer clothes than I did in Paris. While I was in Europe, I saw temperatures range from the low 50s in Amsterdam to the high 80s in Cannes. My advice: packing cubes are your friend. In addition, make sure you know what the weather is like and aim for a capsule wardrobe so you can mix and match everything. Most importantly, bring supportive shoes. I didn’t realize how much walking I would do and bought inserts for my shoes. Pack shoes that you are comfortable walking long distances in.

How did you budget?

I worked before and after the trip and had some money saved up. I got very lucky, with help from my parents, who purchased my flight with airline miles, meaning I didn’t have to budget for plane tickets.

What would you say to someone considering going on this trip next year? This study abroad trip taught me so much about my profession, career path and myself. I encourage everyone to study abroad. You won’t regret it!

It was recently announced that C&IS will be hosting this trip again in 2024 from June 8-22. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to network and be inspired by current industry leaders.


Studying abroad is such an eye-opening experience that can provide amazing connections and tools to help you succeed in your future career. If you’re interested in studying abroad, start planning early and check out all the programs Alabama offers on the education abroad website. With so many amazing options in different parts of the world, you can’t go wrong!



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