How visiting the FAO of Rome re-inspired my career goals

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) branch in Rome was my favorite professional visit with Forum-Nexus because I think that working there would be a dream come true. I really admire the goals and objectives the UN has and how it promotes cooperation between countries to solve problems. Their motto is to, “Achieve food security for all… to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.” The Food and Agriculture department of the UN is extremely important because it is combating world hunger, which is a huge controversial issue. Any individual who works at FAO knows that they are making a difference in the world and that their job has a real purpose.

Just the FAO campus itself was extremely impressive. The amount of large conference rooms was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  I really enjoyed learning about how each country gets to design its own office and make it unique to its culture. Cooperation was clearly represented throughout the campus through the presentation of multiple flags all over conference rooms and multiple interpreters speaking 6 different languages, symbolizing that language is a barrier that will not keep nations apart.

        During the visit I learned a lot about how the UN works together with large corporations to try to end world hunger. Prior to the visit, I assumed that the UN would fight against big food companies due to their poor nutrition content, use of GMO’s, and greedy reputations. I was definitely surprised by what I learned, but it made sense that it is better for individuals to have low-quality food than no food at all. Due to the amount of money and power these large corporations have, the UN needs to work together with them if they have any hope of solving this world hunger issue. I also learned how much influence money has over the food industry. Subsidies in the U.S affect the industry immensely. Honestly, I was unaware that the UN had a Food and Agricultural branch before participating in Forum-Nexus. I actually knew very little about the UN in general. After these two visits (the human rights branch in Geneva and the Food and Agriculture branch in Rome) I feel much more knowledgeable on how our world works together to combat huge issues. As Hugo, the director of Forum-Nexus, would say, my “International IQ” has increased significantly thanks to these visits!

        This professional visit is extremely applicable to my area of study because business is all about cooperation and having meetings to solve issues and get work done. The UN Food and Agriculture branch functions just as a business does to solve issues. When running a business, the goal is always to be as efficient as possible. The Food and Agriculture Organization is always brainstorming to find faster and better ways to provide healthy food to more people, just as a business is always coming up with new ways to make their product better and cheaper. FAO also stresses the importance of cooperation with different countries and cultures. In my business career, I will most likely at some point have to work together with people of different backgrounds to solve problems. I would love to work for a corporation like the United Nations and fight for world issues that I’m passionate about so much so that I am going to look into their intern program for next summer. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations truly left a lasting impression on me and has motivated me to have a career in which I am helping people and making this world a better place, for us and for generations to come.

By: Liz Hawkins, 2015 Forum-Nexus alumna


Bon appetit from Le Cordon Bleu!

You know when you walk into a restaurant and something smells amazing, but you can’t quite put your finger on what it is? All you know is that all of a sudden, you are incredibly hungry. Well, that is exactly the feeling I had when walking inside Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School. Of course, I would expect nothing less walking into the most famous cooking school in the world.


It was our third day in France, and I had already experienced some of the best cuisine of my life. After all, one of the best parts of traveling is getting to try a lot of food every day! No one can argue that France isn’t one of the most well-known places to get a great meal. Crepes, croissants, baguettes, escargot, chocolate mousse — the list goes on and on! Now, I have always been a rather picky eater. When I was young, I had Kraft macaroni and cheese just about every day because it was all my mother could get me to eat. Nowadays, I still love my mac and cheese, but I have broadened my diet to pasta, chicken, red meat, chocolate, and ice cream. Not the healthiest, I’ll admit. When I walked into Le Cordon Bleu, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t like what they made for us. We were going to watch a cooking demonstration of a Mediterranean dish, which to me meant one thing…vegetables. You see, veggies and I have never gotten along very well, so I knew I was in for an interesting experience. However, the first whiff of those vegetables sizzling in the skillet had me changing my mind. The vibrant colors and fresh scents were enough to make anyone’s mouth water. I watched the chef effortlessly toss the ingredients into the air, while adding a pinch of salt here and a dash of pepper there, and it was one of the most impressive things I had ever seen. Some people have a knack for cooking, but I am not one of them. Everything that I touch in a kitchen either ends up burning or on the ground. The chef taught us some valuable lessons about cooking that evening, which gave me hope that my future family may be able to eat more than grilled cheese and warmed up chicken tenders!


Still, my favorite part of the evening was yet to come. One of my personal goals in life is to learn as much about wine as humanly possible. I find it to be a fascinating subject, and to my delight, a wine connoisseur came out to help us pair the perfect wine with our Mediterranean dish. He put a lot of thought into his choice, and he took the time to explain to us why he chose exactly what he did. He chose a white wine over a red because our food was lighter with more fresh flavors. Normally, I am a dry red wine kind of girl, but I surprisingly loved this white wine! After  the chef completed his crafting of the samples, everyone was given a small portion to test. Every piece looked like a masterpiece. The chef took great pride in making sure that all the food was presented in a way that made the clients hungry with their eyes as well as with their stomachs. I sipped my wine to cleanse my palette and took a bite of the chef’s creation. The pesto sauce complimented the veggies and cheese mixture perfectly, and as soon as it was gone, I was craving more. The chef beamed from ear to ear as he watched us enjoy our food, and you could see the passion for cooking in his eyes.


I enjoyed every second of our professional visit to Le Cordon Bleu. I even considered applying to their wine program in the coming years! Overall, it helped me learn to broaden my horizons and try new things, even if I am skeptical in the beginning. Thanks to this visit, I am now determined to keep trying new foods and eventually expand my diet! Paris is commonly called ‘The City of Love,’ but in my mind, it will always be ‘The City of Amazing Food!’

By: Kristi Yazvac, 2015 Forum-Nexus alumna


Happy International Education Week!

International Education Week (IEW) is a celebration of the benefits of education abroad. At Forum-Nexus, international education is at the core of everything that we do. Our mission is, “To provide a first-class international educational experience and to foster an appreciation for the richness of other cultures, by offering unique and life-changing summer programs that encourage the exchange of ideas with individuals from around the world, and create a community of students with a passion for learning and exploring the world with an open mind.”


During our summer program, all students participate in our 1-credit International IQ Seminar course. We define international IQ as the minimum level of international knowledge that a student should have in order to come across as a cultured and educated individual in an international situation, such as a gathering of professionals from around the world, or an international negotiation.

IQS3Our alumni network includes over 3,300 people from around the world who have stepped outside of their comfort zone and studied abroad with us. In the spirit of International Education Week, we asked some of our alumni what international education means to them:

“Learning about and experiencing other cultures! International education is vital to being a global citizen – to understanding, appreciating, and recognizing the ways in which people around the world live and considering their perspectives.” – Gabriella, Summer 2012

“To me, international education is taking the initiative to broaden your intellectual horizons by stepping outside of your own ‘bubble’ while also making a conscious effort to become a better global citizen.” -Alyssa, Summer 2014

“International education is the path to a more culturally respectful and empathetic society. It is the end of ethnocentric attitudes and the beginning of enhanced globalization. Effective international education, in my opinion, is a key component in attaining world peace. For me international education meant abolishing all of the prejudices that I was conditioned to believe as I grew up a privileged white male. Additionally, international education is a gateway to personal enlightenment because it is a great way to learn about how privileged we are to have the opportunity to access education.” – Nick, Summer 2015

“You can only learn so much from reading a book, watching a video, or conducting research about a particular subject. At one point or another your imagination is capped, because you have not divulged into that subjects culture and environment. International education is just that, stepping outside of your habitat and exploring someone else’s.” – Selin, Summer 2014

Tell us what international education means to you by posting on social media with the hashtag #IEW2015 and tagging @ForumNexus.


To learn more about our summer 2016 program, visit

Rome- Geoff

When in Rome

Rome was definitely my favorite city of all of the places that we visited, and for a multitude of reasons.  Rome’s historical background plus the Italian people and culture culminated from the daily life created a peaceful and proud city.  The food was amazing.  There was a general sense of togetherness when dining in many of the ristorantes and cafes that helped you feel at home.  The locals seemed very helpful and luckily for us they spoke more English than many of the cities that we had been to before.  I enjoyed walking through the city just to explore and to see many monuments that I had no idea even existed.


The city is beautiful from almost any angle or location.  Much of the city still contains historical remnants from ancient times.  Sometimes we would be walking through a park or close to the Colosseum and we would see ancient ruins.  This was pleasing to see because it reminded me of the fantastic era when Rome was the center of intellectual thinking.  The streets had a different atmosphere than many cities that I have been to before.  There were many cafes and shops and street vendors.  The streets were bustling with activity; streetcars, motorists and jaywalking pedestrians filled the streets.  There were ancient obelisks, columns, and fountains in a multitude of plazas that were exciting to see.  Many of the large buildings had a renaissance style to them, creating a deep sense of historical presence.  I loved the sidewalks and streets; many of the streets were of brick that were created with a design that I had seen in many other European cities that make it look like they are arching to the left and the right.  Many big cities are too busy and impersonal, but this city gave me a sense of community that I appreciated.

While in Rome I was able to visit many of the places that I have read about for years.  I first made sure to see the Forum and the colosseum.  The colosseum was on the top of my list for things to see.  When we got there I could feel the energy in the air.  This was it, I was looking at the magnificent arena that was built in 70 A.D. where gladiators fought to the death in front of thousands.  I was truly moved by its presence.  The Forum was very interesting.  True, it was mostly ruins that were hard to imagine as they once were, but I still found them very interesting.  This was the mecca of ancient Roman culture and congregation.  On another day we made our way through the streets to discover the Pantheon.  Upon arrival I was stunned; the great size of the Pantheon, the columns, and the enormous pediment were breathtaking.  The inside was also very interesting.  It was decorated with religious meaning.  It was cool to see the construction of the dome, but I couldn’t help wondering how much of the interior had been renovated through the centuries.  We also had a night tour of the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel.  The museums were stocked full of stolen artifacts from around Rome and other countries.  It was interesting to be in the midst of these grand collections of ancient Egyptian and Roman artifacts and statues.  The Sistine Chapel was the main highlight of the night.  I gazed upon Michaelangelo’s  magnificent creation for a long time.  The details, the contrast, the color and light mastery and the realistic effect played on my eyes while I was mesmerized.  I felt truly blessed to witness such art.

Although there was much that I was able to see, I would still like more time to enjoy more of what Rome has to offer.  It would have been nice to get more in touch with the locals or even to visit the beach that was not too far from the city.  If I had the chance I would definitely return in the future.

 By: Geoffrey Eppler, 2015 Forum-Nexus alumnus

Geoffrey Eppler



Welcome to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland

My favorite professional visit was our visit to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Although the main UN headquarters are in New York City, the office in Geneva specifically deals with humanitarian efforts and human rights issues. The office in Geneva is perfectly located in a neutral zone, allowing countries from all over the world to come together and make decisions benefiting their people. I’ve always been very passionate about human rights and have chosen a career path that will make an impact, so this professional visit really resonated with me.


The architecture of the building itself was very empowering. The building was made of very strong, sturdy materials, which I believe represents the organization well. The humanitarian room was covered in a vibrant ceiling that is supposed to represent each country separately, but also merging together.


I had only briefly researched this office before visiting. I knew that it focused on the humanitarian aspect, but didn’t have much knowledge beyond that. This means the discussion of issues pertaining to the people and the benefit of the people. Our tour guide was very informative and explained even minor details about the work done at the UN Geneva headquarters. I was amazed to find out that Eleanor Roosevelt wrote the Human Rights Declaration there! It is a crucial part of our world’s history and it was such a powerful experience to see where it was created.


This visit was very important to me both academically and personally. I enjoy working with people and helping people. I always volunteer when I can and give back to my community. I even started my own student organization at my university that focuses on human rights issues. My club, Change Makers, organizes events throughout the year to inform others about various human rights issues and give back. I have a passion for people and I hope to be able to work at the UN Geneva office someday.

By: Kirsten Himle, 2015 Forum-Nexus alumna

Kirsten Himle 1


Paris is always a good idea…and time

Before I began my journey with Forum­-Nexus, I had a feeling that Paris would be my favorite city. It sure did not disappoint; I fell in love with Paris! Exiting the train station on the bus ride to the Eiffel Tour, I got my first glimpse of the city. The French/Victorian style architecture is something that I had never really seen before. Sometimes you just do not realize how young America is as a countryin terms of architecture, and though I have traveled some within the United States, growing up in South Dakota doesn’t exactly make me architecturally cultured or cultured in general.


Though I had a good feeling about Paris, I was a little nervous because many people say that it is a dirty city and that the people are very rude. Sure Paris had some trash on the street, but I did not think that it was that bad. . In terms of the people, I maybe came across one rude person. I found that as long as you greeted them in French and asked if they spoke English, they were willing to help you with directions or whatever you needed. Maybe I just coincidentally talked to the right people. Whatever the case may be, I was very impressed. You could maybe even say that I was inspired. I have a friend back home who is from France, and I am going to see if he will teach me some more intensive French.

One of my favorite things about Paris was, of course, the shopping. The first evening, we went over to the Champs Elysees area by the Arc de Triomph. Though the shops were mostly all closed, I saw the Louis Vuitton flagship store. I knew that I had to come back and get my very first designer handbag. I did indeed come back to the store and was pampered for about an hour until I finally picked out and purchased the bag that I wanted. Though it may sound a bit superficial, this is a dream that I have had, and I am so glad that it could come true.


Other highlights from Paris include the Moulin Rouge, seeing the Eiffel Tower at sunset and sparkle after dark, the Love Lock Bridge, the Palace at Versailles, and strolling through the streets with no agenda other than looking at the boutiques and shops.

The food in Paris definitely lived up to expectations. From street crepes and croissants to macaroons to onion soup, I tried it all and loved every bit of it. The famous Laduree Macaroon shop not only had the best macaroons that I have ever had, but also the best espresso that I have tasted, and I have tasted a lot of espresso!

In Paris, I learned about the rich history and culture of the French, but more importantly, I learned this: life is about the chances you take—yes you have heard it a million times, but it is true! You may not always have a plan, and even if you do have a plan it doesn’t always work, but you just have to have a little faith and take a chance. I was really inspired by our host from OECD, Andrew. Coming from a Midwestern town in Indiana, Andrew thought he had a job in Paris though when he got there it turned out he didn’t get the job. He stayed, however, an even better opportunity came along, and he has lived there ever since. Some might not see that as very inspiring. But for me coming from a small South Dakota town of less than 800 people, where most kids go off to the state university and come back to take over their family farm or follow in the footsteps of their parents, this is inspiring. This is what life is about. Not being afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, take a risk, start an adventure. That is what Paris taught me and I will forever be grateful. Thank you Paris. Until next time!

By: Samantha Knecht, 2015 Forum-Nexus alumna



Q&A: Weekend excursion to Madrid!

What do weekends mean to Forum-Nexus? Travel getaways, of course! Europe is full of beautiful places and countries rich in culture – it can be hard to narrow down just one city to explore. Past student Holly Kerr shares the details of her time in Madrid during her free travel weekend and why she is so glad she decided to go!

Q: Even though Madrid is one of our recommend weekend trips, why did you choose to go there instead of Ibiza or another Spanish city?

HK: I chose to go to Madrid because I originally wanted to go to Morocco, but that trip did not work out. :( Ibiza seemed too much of a party place for my taste.  I wanted to see more sights and learn more about the Spanish culture so in my opinion, Madrid was the next best thing.


Q: Describe your day/weekend in Madrid. What was it like? What types of things did you do/see?

HK: My Forum-Nexus friends and I were in Madrid during the Pride Parade. It was crowded and crazy, but it was so much fun. We did so many things in the full day we were there.  We went to the Prado museum, visited the Palacio Real de Madrid, stopped at a bookstore, and even saw an authentic flamenco show!

Q: Would you recommend this weekend excursion spot to future students? If so, why?

HK: Yes! I actually liked Madrid more than I liked Barcelona. Madrid has an older and more authentic feel. It was certainly a different experience.


Q: What items would you suggest bringing for a trip getaway to Madrid? How much money?

HK: I think the typical items you would bring on a weekend trip are necessary. Try to avoid bringing anything extra; travelling light it always the best policy! Bring enough money for a full day- breakfast, lunch, and dinner then however many days you choose to stay. Remember to budget for hotel/hostel arrangements, any sightseeing/attractions you choose to do, and extra money for souvenirs.


Q: If you could go back again, would you do anything differently? Try out different parts of the city? Restaurants? Attractions?

HK: I might do it differently just to see more things, but if I were to change my first time, then my answer is no! I think I got to see a good amount of the city with all of the activities we did.


By: Holly Kerr, 2015 Forum-Nexus alumna