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Global Exploration Creates Impactful Experiences

Discover how studying abroad led to a journey of language, learning and leadership.
Jacob Grindstaff-Espinal outside a campus building.

Jacob Grindstaff-Espinal ’24 chose to study abroad in Strasbourg, France because the city hosts numerous diplomatic nongovernmental organizations, which provide students like Grindstaff-Espinal numerous internship opportunities.

Jacob Grindstaff-Espinal ’24 grew up in Miami speaking English and Spanish. Despite his bilingual childhood, he never imagined he would one day take a French history class—or a class taught in the French language—while studying abroad in Strasbourg, France.

In fact, one of the reasons why Grindstaff-Espinal selected Syracuse University was because Syracuse has one of the top study abroad programs in the country—plus access to expansive educational offerings where students can explore their interests from all sides. Grindstaff-Espinal chose to triple major in international relations and policy studies at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences and public relations at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

“I’ve always had an interest in ‘everything’ beyond what I knew. In middle school, I took a liking to the French language, so the opportunity to study abroad played a role in my decision to attend Syracuse,” Grindstaff-Espinal says.

Students on a walking tour in Strasbourg learning about La Petite France

Jacob Grindstaff-Espinal ’24 immersed in an educational walking tour of La Petite France alongside peers enrolled in the Syracuse Strasbourg program.

Attending Syracuse Strasbourg provided Grindstaff-Espinal with the opportunity to see places he had only read about growing up, places which he says filled him with a daily sense of awe. “It’s a blessing to learn about the world one normally only sees on their phone or in a textbook,” he says.

Grindstaff-Espinal says this blessing wouldn’t have been possible without the three scholarships he received and the generosity of those who make scholarships possible. He is a Posse Scholar, an Our Time Has Come Scholar, and he also earned the Maria Melendez Hinkley Lift As You Rise Scholarship.

“I never would have been able to attend Syracuse or study abroad if not for the scholarships I received. They made a huge difference for me,” he says.

A Community Bridge

Syracuse’s Shaw Center for Public and Community Service, prepared Grindstaff-Espinal, a first-generation student, for traveling to the places he never expected to see. This hub for community engagement is where he developed the confidence and skills he needed to succeed.

Through the Shaw Center—which connects students with hands-on learning opportunities in the local community—he worked as a literacy support tutor at a bilingual elementary school in the Syracuse area, which was his first time teaching. “The students I tutored at the Shaw Center taught me to believe in myself and to believe in others,” he says. “These students confidently switched back and forth from speaking in English to Spanish. They were so confident and joyful that it was infectious.”

This experiential learning opportunity helped to connect him to the greater Syracuse community and improved his self-confidence. “The Shaw Center is an incredibly lovely part of Syracuse. I can’t recommend it enough to other students,” he says.

Beyond Syracuse

Jacob Grindstaff-Espinal with friends in a cafe.

Studying abroad enabled Grindstaff-Espinal to see places he’s only read about in books or seen on his phone.

Adaptability is a recurring theme in Grindstaff-Espinal’s life. His unique experiences at Syracuse led him down a path to opportunities he hadn’t imagined for himself, and he’s continually navigating different spaces—from a bilingual home, to learning French, to tutoring students, to thriving while studying in Strasbourg. What he didn’t expect, though, was to be speaking so much Spanish in a French city.

Strasbourg hosts several of Europe’s most important political institutions, including the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. Grindstaff-Espinal interned at the Mexican Representation to the Council of Europe, a consulate of the Mexican government, where he conducted research about Mexico’s drug and rehabilitation policies for the Mexican representation to the council. There, he enjoyed speaking in Spanish, in addition to French and English.

Jacob Grindstaff-Espinal in class at the Strasbourg Center.

Grindstaff-Espinal in a class at the Syracuse Strasbourg Center, gaining the skills he’s looking to take with him in his future career.

“Strasbourg is a diplomatic city and the perfect place for an internship,” Grindstaff-Espinal says. “I dream of going into government consulting or international development. My internship with the Council of Europe helped me figure out if this is the right career for me.”

Before he begins his career, he plans to attend the University’s accelerated bachelor’s to master of public administration program, because, he says, “It’s the number one public affairs program in the country.” If he adapts to a different career path after graduate school, Grindstaff-Espinal says he won’t regret his semester in Strasbourg where he became proficient in French. “Improving my French language skills will only benefit me going into the workforce. Whatever future path I take, my time in Strasbourg will have benefited me,” he says.

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People outside the Syracuse University Strasbourg Center.

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