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Alyssa Stern

Alyssa Stern was a little intimidated when she arrived as a freshman at UNCW three years ago. The soft-spoken and shy native of Kingston, Jamaica, had to adjust to a campus of several thousand students and to the Southern culture, but she quickly learned that UNCW would provide her numerous opportunities to grow and to find her voice.

“This is an environment that pushes you to get out there on your own and to do things on your own,” the 21-year-old said. “UNCW has helped me to be more professional and to be a risk-taker.”

Stern, a junior majoring in international business with a minor in Spanish, initially chose UNCW for its film studies program. She learned about the university from her college counselor at her boarding school in Massachusetts.

“I told her I wanted to be somewhere closer to home and a place where the energy is similar to home,” said Stern. “UNCW was a perfect fit. It’s unique and very different. The opportunities that I have received at UNCW have molded and shaped me over the years.”

One of those opportunities was five months abroad in Spain during the spring semester. Stern completed her minor in Spanish and immersed herself in a new culture.

“I was able to live in a community that was so different than my own. It helped me to realize that the world is a huge place,” she said. “Learning how to communicate with different cultures was a good thing.”

Stern’s appreciation for diverse cultures led her to be a part of UNCW’s Seahawk Admission Network for Diversity, which encourages individuals from different backgrounds to come to the university.

“Diversity is an important aspect to me. I think bringing more diversity to UNCW or to anywhere is very special because everyone has a different story,” she said.

Stern’s involvement in the university’s Honors College also helped her step out of her comfort zone. She often interacts with people who are very passionate about what they do, she said.

“I am very shy, and I think the Honors College helps me get out there," Stern added. "It’s very challenging, but it’s good. It pushes me and helps me be a better individual.”

Stern’s learning experiences have not been limited to the UNCW campus. She volunteers as a mentor for Outside the Walls, a faith-based initiative of the Wilmington Area Leadership Foundation. Stern helped a student at the D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy with homework and academic challenges.

“It was a good experience because I got to know more about myself and more about what’s going on in the community,” she said. “And, I was able to help someone. “