Leaving his comfort zone: GVSU student travels to 10 countries for AIFS study-abroad trip

GVL / Courtesy - Nicholas Surovec
Surovec visiting Chefcharouen, Morocco on one of his excursions while studying abroad.

GVL / Courtesy – Nicholas Surovec Surovec visiting Chefcharouen, Morocco on one of his excursions while studying abroad.

Tylee Bush

Visits to 10 different countries, a paragliding adventure through the Swiss Alps, and trips to remote villages and bustling cities were all part of what Nicholas Surovec was able to experience by traveling abroad with the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS). 

Surovec, a senior at Grand Valley State University studying finance and business economics, pushed aside his fears and signed up to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain, during the fall 2017 semester.

“I felt that it was a great opportunity to grow and push myself out of my comfort zone,” Surovec said. 

It was at a study-abroad fair on campus that Surovec first learned about AIFS, and after deciding that the programs were both reasonable and affordable for him, he knew it was an experience he couldn’t pass up.

AIFS is an organization that offers study-abroad programs, volunteer opportunities and even professional internships abroad. Their selection includes more than 30 countries, including destinations in Europe as well as non-traditional destinations such as India and China.

After learning about AIFS, Surovec visited the Padnos International Center (PIC) on campus to learn more, and it wasn’t long before he made the choice to sign up.

“I thought that study abroad would not be for me,” Surovec said. “But I learned that there are many scholarship opportunities, and even though I studied in a place where English is not the primary language, my classes were still in English.”

Surovec advises students curious or interested in studying abroad to visit the PIC on campus and meet with the advisers there. It was the advisers and mentors, he said, who exposed him to all of the study-abroad possibilities, funding options and application processes he needed to make the trip happen. 

On his trip, Surovec visited multiple countries and several foreign cities. He was able to visit far more locations than he had originally hoped. Among his favorites were Morocco, Sweden and Switzerland. 

“Language was a big culture shock for me,” Surovec said. “Simple daily situations and conversations became such a challenge.”

Surovec also attests to how much he learned and grew during his time abroad. 

“Study abroad exposed me to a lot of different skills, but the most important is adaptability,” he said. “Just like in life, school and work, situations during my time abroad rarely went as planned, but I always overcame them.”

Surovec is expecting to graduate this spring, and he is admittedly grateful that he took the chance to study abroad while he could. In his eyes, his college experience would not have been quite the same without it. 

Surovec highly encourages his GVSU peers to take a study-abroad trip of their own. Furthermore, he recommends exploring the options available with AIFS.

Students interesting in learning more about AIFS programs, destinations and financial support should visit www.aifsabroad.com or meet with an advisor at the PIC, located in Lake Ontario Hall.