“Think big.” That’s the advice Dr. Linda Materna, director of the Center for International Education at Rider University, gave Heather Chojnacki of Hawley, who hopes to pursue a career in diplomatic relations. So far, the sophomore Spanish and Global and Multinational Studies dual major is following Materna’s advice.


“Think big.” That’s the advice Dr. Linda Materna, director of the Center for International Education at Rider University, gave Heather Chojnacki of Hawley, who hopes to pursue a career in diplomatic relations. So far, the sophomore Spanish and Global and Multinational Studies dual major is following Materna’s advice.

As a freshman, Chojnacki of Hawley traveled to London with Rider’s Baccalaureate Honors Program. Last fall, she studied at Rider’s exchange partner university, Nebrija University, in Madrid, where she received outstanding grades and accolades from Rider’s local adviser, according to Materna. She plans to study abroad in Argentina in fall 2010.

Now Chojnacki, who has studied Spanish for six years, will have the chance to return to Spain through an international education program. Recently, she was named Spanish Student Ambassador by the Trade Commission of the Embassy of Spain for the upcoming academic year. Materna nominated her for the position.

The Spanish Embassy program seeks to establish student representatives of Spain at United States university campuses with the goals of promoting ties between Spanish and U.S. educational institutions and bringing American students to study in the European country.

In her new role, Chojnacki will organize one Spanish-related activity per month, promote events, distribute press releases and promote the “Study in Spain” Facebook community among Rider students.

“The program aims to raise awareness of the culture but also raise awareness of study tour opportunities,” explained Chojnacki, who will begin her duties in August and will be responsible for documenting her work. At the end of the academic year, the Ambassador selected as having the best promotion will win a trip to Spain for one week. At the completion of the program, all ambassadors will receive an accreditation certificate issued by the Spanish Embassy.

Chojnacki hopes to raise the interest of study-abroad opportunities among her peers.

“It changed me. I’m more independent and confident,” she said about her experience in Madrid. “I was really shy. It forced me to put myself out there. It also transformed my language skills.”

When she returned to Rider this semester, Chojnacki decided to live on the International Community floor in Gee Hall, which includes 40 students with a mix of international and domestic backgrounds.

“It made the transition back to the U.S. easier,” said Chojnacki, who through her studies has met many people from different countries, including Africa and China.

Materna plans to guide Chojnacki toward doing a senior honors thesis and applying for a Fulbright, in addition to her study abroad, ambassadorship and outstanding performance in the major. Chojnacki, a member of Rider’s Equestrian Team, is also considering a Master’s program after graduation to open the doors to diplomatic opportunities.

“Ideally, I would love to work as a diplomat, where my work would really make a difference in helping different countries understand one another better and influencing international relations,” said Chojnacki about her career goals. “However, another field that is becoming more and more attractive to me is international education, where I could represent study-abroad programs and help give young people the opportunities that I have enjoyed.”