Adviser sends students abroad, finds global inspiration


Many of Jill Peters’ fondest childhood memories are of her parents taking her on “pretty epic summer vacations.”

For Peters, the International Programs adviser in the College of Engineering, these family memories inspired a lifelong passion for global learning.

“On one of those trips, we went to Quebec, and I was so fascinated with the idea of a foreign language. I begged my dad to teach me a phrase or two, even just ‘I don’t speak French,'” she recalls.

The experience of being immersed in a foreign language and a new cultural setting captivated her, she says.

Family memories inspired a lifelong passion for global learning for Jill Peters, International Programs adviser in the College of Engineering. (By Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography)

While studying sociology and Spanish at U-M, Peters’ passion for intercultural immersion and travel inspired her to participate in four international programs: Spain, Mexico, Vietnam and Indonesia. Peters took advantage of U-M’s wide variety of international experiences, which include internships, traditional study abroad and the service-learning trips offered by the Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates program.

By participating in a GIEU program, Peters spent one summer studying Vietnam through the lens of the American war.

“I had never thought about going to Asia before, but I thought, ‘when else am I going to do this?’ GIEU put me out of my comfort zone, and it was amazing,” she explains. Peters returned to GIEU the next summer as a student fellow for the U-M trip to Indonesia.

During her semester abroad in Granada, Spain, Peters says she gained empathy for the experience of international students at U-M, especially on a cultural level.

“I’m a very goofy person, I like to joke around,” she says. “But it’s hard to be sarcastic or witty in a foreign language. I’m so impressed by international students who use idioms, colloquialisms, and talk about pop culture or politics. That was a big takeaway.”

A native of Waterford, Michigan, Peters graduated from U-M in 2009. She went on to spend two years working for the Office of International Affairs and the Dean of Students: Division of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, before coming home to U-M in September 2011.

Now, in her full-time position as International Programs adviser, Peters coordinates groups of incoming exchange students and helps current engineering students find the perfect fit in study, work, or volunteer abroad programs. She aims to increase the numbers of engineering students who have life-changing global experiences.

“It’s absolutely critical that engineers understand their place in a much more global profession, and can become savvy travelers before their employer puts them on a plane somewhere,” she says.

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“There’s no better way to gain independence, and become more resourceful, than by taking yourself totally out of your comfort zone and your country. Also, it’s so much fun.”

Peters is motivated to share her love for global travel.

“I feel like I get paid to talk about what I love,” she says. “As soon as I got back from study abroad, all I wanted to do was talk about it. And that excitement that students have before they depart, that energizes me. It’s sort of living vicariously.”

International travel isn’t Peters’ only passion.

“I love sports. I’m obsessed,” she says. So, what about her basketball tournament brackets? “I have Michigan to win, of course,” she laughs.


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