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Global Programs Blog: Liza Cunningham

Liza Cunningham is a senior advertising major who has participated in two CCI Global Programs during her college career: the CCI Global Scholars Program in Sydney, Australia, and an advertising program in Rome, Italy, led by Professor Sally McMillan. In 2020, CCI Global Programs has opportunities for students in Dublin, Ireland; Prague, Czech Republic; Quebec, Canada; Siena, Italy; Rome; and Sydney.

Liza Cunningham - Study Abroad

Early in my freshman year, I was eagerly sitting in my Advertising 250 class when an unexpected guest came to speak about the CCI Global Scholars Program in Sydney, Australia. Little did I know that Dr. Sam Swan’s informative presentation would be the initial start of a journey that would forever change my life.

I thought about the program, talked it over with my parents, and ultimately decided that it was an opportunity that would be crazy for me to pass up. I committed to the program in early February of my freshman year, meaning I would be set to leave America and head to the Land Down Under for spring semester of my sophomore year.

Through the CCI Global Scholars Program, I took two courses at the University of Sydney: intercultural communications and Australian history. These courses challenged me to become interculturally competent and expanded vital communication skills that I possessed prior to the start of the program.

Not only did I gain valuable insight into the communications field through coursework, but I was also given the chance to intern at a full-service communications agency for eight weeks. Cardinal Spin, my internship placement, allowed me to gain a new sense of independence and skills that are sure to translate into a workplace setting for any future career.

Cardinal Spin specializes in public relations and VIP/celebrity engagement, which allowed me to be part of large-scale events such as the Sydney Mardi Gras Festival with over 400,000 attendees, the New South Wales Premier’s (comparable to a governor in America) Harmony Dinner, and the Sydney Film Festival. I got the chance to work in the Sydney Film Festival Office as a liaison between film distributors and journalists for the second half of my internship placement. Additionally, I was able to assist in the promotion of various restaurant openings, work press conferences, and attend various art collectives, which allowed me to see the importance of the media tracking I had been working on, in addition to collating CRM systems.

Not only did I gain priceless hands-on experience in a workplace setting, but I also learned so much more about myself than I ever expected. When I am placed outside of my comfort zone, I have come to realize that I am my favorite version of myself: happy, hard-working, outgoing, goofy, and most importantly I am self-aware of my emotions, my values, and my behaviors.

With confidence, I can state that I gained a new sense of self-worth. I tried vegemite, pet kangaroos, learned to surf, fed stingrays, completed gorgeous coastal walks and hikes, and learned to say “Maccas” when referring to McDonald’s. My study abroad experience in Sydney, Australia helped me uncover skills I never knew I had, grow on the skills I already possessed, and obtain relationships I didn’t know I needed.

The friendships I gained from the CCI Global Scholars Program, both in Sydney and in my hometown here in Knoxville, are sure to last beyond graduation. Leaving Sydney was heartbreaking, and I will never forget how my time there helped to shape me as a person.

As a junior, I really started to miss studying abroad. It was a break from my normal routine. It was exciting, fun, and — at times — terrifying, but I loved the thrill of it all.

In the fall semester, I started to feel a bit uneasy with the fact that my life in Australia was so different than my life in Knoxville. After hearing Dr. Sally McMillan speak about a summer 2019 advertising issues class in Rome, I knew another opportunity for growth had come my way. Thankfully, I was able to obtain a CCI scholarship that allowed me to make this dream possible.

After the end of my junior year at UT, I packed my bags and looked forward to my adventures in Italy.

Liza Cunningham - Study Abroad

A few of the highlights from my trip included a cooking class (where I learned how to cook homemade pasta, pesto, and tiramisu), seeing famous historical sites such as the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Coliseum, and Vatican museums and taking weekend trips to Florence and the Amalfi Coast with friends.

I also learned a lot through my coursework by thinking outside of the confines of my home country. I was challenged to critically think from a global standpoint, work in various groups, and give presentations nearly every single class period. Never in my wildest dreams did I know that I could accomplish such detailed work in such a short amount of time, of which I am so proud of myself for doing. We, as a class, were able to utilize our observations of Italian lifestyles and apply them to what we know in the advertising industry. This kind of coursework made me certain that Advertising is the perfect major for me.

Words cannot describe how much I value my two study abroad experiences. Although they were both very different from each other, they both will forever hold a special place in my heart. I have matured, learned to laugh at my mistakes, handled uncomfortable situations, and grown in my relationships with others.

Liza Cunningham - Study Abroad

While typing this, I am in absolute awe that I am a senior, getting ready to graduate and enter the workforce. It is crazy how fast time flies, but I am so glad that I made the most of my short time here at UT by choosing to study abroad. Because of those two incredible experiences, I am much more confident preparing for my graduation and job search. I have grown in more ways than I ever thought possible, and I am so thankful to attend a school where these opportunities exist.

Thank you UT, thank you CCI, and thank you to scholarship donors. Without you, I would not be the person that I am today. I hope that by reading this, you are able to know the impact you have on so many students.

To students considering studying abroad, please do it. You won’t regret it. In fact, you may even end up studying abroad twice like I did.


Liza Cunningham

Advertising Class of 2020