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Mentor Profile


mentor picture Malaika Marable Serrano
Malaika Marable Serrano
Assistant Director of Global Communities
University of Maryland
Hello! My name is Malaika Serrano and I am the Assistant Director for Global Communities at the University of Maryland. Prior to this position, I worked in outreach and alumni initiatives for the Critical Language Scholarship... Hello! My name is Malaika Serrano and I am the Assistant Director for Global Communities at the University of Maryland. Prior to this position, I worked in outreach and alumni initiatives for the Critical Language Scholarship Program; I was a staff liaison and project manager at NAFSA: Association of International Educators; and I was a study abroad advisor at the University of Tennessee.

While at USC, I studied abroad for a semester in Australia. This sojourn ultimately sparked my interest in international education! When I returned to the States, I decided to pursue a M.A. in College Student Personnel at the University of Maryland.

In grad school, I participated in a J–term program in Salvador, Brazil. This experience solidified my decision to enter the field of international education. In order to gain more experience, I interned for a summer in the George Washington University study abroad office and I did another internship at NAFSA.

After graduate school, I moved to Caracas, Venezuela to teach English to business professionals. My main reasons for going to Caracas were a) to learn Spanish; b) gain teaching experience abroad and c) have another international adventure!

One of the things I'm most passionate about, is encouraging historically under–represented students to go abroad. I love working in international education and believe that education abroad should be accessible to everyone!


  1. I think it’s important to understand where the student is coming from and listen to their concerns about studying abroad. They could have misconceptions (e.g. must speak a foreign language in order to study abroad) or legitimate concerns (e.g. financial aid, transfer credit, fears or racism or anti-American sentiment abroad). I’ve spoken with students one-on-one and in groups about these issues. Since many historically under-represented groups never come into the study abroad office, I seek them out!
    6 answers – For African Americans – For Asian/ Pacific Americans – For Hispanic/ Latin@ – For Native Americans
  2. We address gender, safety and racism issues in general study abroad presentations and during orientation. You can get information for prospective study abroad students of color at:
    4 answers – For African Americans – For Asian/ Pacific Americans – For Hispanic/ Latin@ – Racism – Gender – Safety Issues – For Native Americans
  3. My interest in study abroad started with my father. When he was in school, he studied abroad at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. While he was there, he heard a song called “Malaika.” He really liked the song and he thought to himself, “If I ever have a daughter, I’m going to name her ‘Malaika.’” I grew up hearing stories of my father’s adventures abroad and this inspired me to study abroad when I went to college. After my first study abroad experience (I spent a semester in Australia) I decided to pursue a career in international education. In grad school, I wrote my thesis on international student adjustment and went on a J-term program to Brazil. After graduation, I moved to Caracas, Venezuela and taught English for a year. Now I work as a Programs Abroad Coordinator at the University of Tennessee!
    9 answers – Personal
  4. Absolutely! Some US insurance companies do not cover clients abroad. In addition, many do not include emergency medical evacuation or repatriation.
    3 answers – Health
  5. Study abroad has had a tremendous affect on my current position. I wouldn’t be able to do my job if I hadn’t studied abroad. It’s also been helpful to have knowledge and experience living in different parts of the world (and in both “western” and “non-western” countries).
    7 answers – Career
  6. ¡Claro que sí! Unas compañías de seguros medicos estadounidenses tienen pólizas que no son válidas en el extranjero. Además muchos no incluyen cobertura de evacuación médica de emergencia, hospitalización y repatriación.
    2 respuestas – Salud
  7. In all three locations, I wore my hair in long braids. Few Venezuelans wear braids and so many people thought that I was from Trinidad and Tobago or another Caribbean island. However, when I took my braids out, everyone thought that I was Venezuelan.

    In Brazil, I was in the North–East, which has a large population of people of African descent. I didn't speak Portuguese very well, so people assumed that I was from the U.S.

    In Australia, everyone assumed that I was American with one exception. Once, I attended a rodeo with some friends in a rural part of New South Wales. As I was walking past a group of young men, I overheard one of them say, "You reckon she's Aboriginal, mate?" This still makes me laugh.

    One of the biggest take–aways from my experience in Australia, was that I began to identify of myself as an American. Of course, people could see right away that I was African–American, but they always referred to me as "the American" and lumped me together with my white American study abroad colleagues. This was eye–opening and refreshing.

    12 answers – Racism – Gender – While Abroad
  8. Being open–minded is essential for folks who want to study abroad but are a little short on funds. There are MANY places you can go, where the cost of living is equal or less than the cost of living in the States. In addition, I would encourage people to consider exchange programs and studying abroad for a semester or year, as this will open up additional opportunities for funding. Planning your study abroad experience 9–12 months in advance is also helpful, as scholarship applications may be due several months in advance of your trip date.

    In addition, I would also encourage people to consider alternatives to study abroad (e.g. international alternative breaks, internships, teaching, and volunteering abroad). When I lived in Venezuela, I didn't go through a program or pay a fee. I found the position on Dave's ESL Café job board, applied, interviewed, and bought my ticket to Caracas. Initially, it was really challenging. I didn't speak Spanish and had to find a place to live. The first few weeks were stressful, but afterwards, I started to adjust, make friends, and learn Spanish. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made!

    6 answers – How to pay
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