Global Security and Intelligence major Savannah Riddles’ (‘21) study abroad experience allowed her a unique opportunity to carve her own path toward her future.
Savannah Riddles (‘21) had never heard of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University until her freshman year of high school when she noticed one of her teachers wearing a t-shirt bearing the school’s name. Her interest was piqued because of the similarity to her last name, so she decided to explore further.
“After visiting the website, I realized ERAU was my dream school,” she said. “I didn’t actually apply anywhere else because if I didn’t get in, I would’ve taken a semester off and tried again.”
Riddles began in the Space Physics program, but within the first few weeks of classes she knew the Global Security and Intelligence (GSIS) program was for her.
“I was attracted to the well-roundedness of the program and the exciting work that the students were doing,” she said.
Riddles spent her second semester studying abroad at one of Embry-Riddle’s partner universities, Deree College, part of The American College of Greece in Athens. She was able to attend at no extra cost and use her scholarships funds and federal aid.
“Many students aren’t aware of the opportunities with our partner institutions, and it is probably the most affordable way to do a semester abroad without funding,” she states.
Riddles advises current and future students not to take their language studies for granted and encourages them to consider “a strategic combination of languages” to align with their professional goals.
“As someone looking for a career in global health security, my combination of Arabic and French has helped me stand out to recruiters,” she stated.
Riddles considers volunteerism essential to her college experience and brought that mindset with her to Greece. She discovered an organization called METAdrasi, a Greek non-profit that facilitates the introduction of Afghan refugees and other migrants into the country, particularly unaccompanied minors. Since she spoke English, she was given the opportunity to teach it to refugee clients.
“I worked completely independently and offered weekly, personalized English lessons for the duration of my study abroad,” she said.
Riddles attributes her experience in Greece with helping her prepare for her current position as an asylee casework intern for the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
“I would have been completely unprepared to begin my internship with the IRC if I didn’t have prior client-facing experience and some level of cultural context for my work.” She adds, “Half of it is understanding the cultural needs and points-of-view of the client and the other half is having the confidence to handle stressful situations without letting the client see that you’re stressed.”
Riddles credits her Embry-Riddle education with allowing her to excel as she moves forward in her career. She recently gave a presentation on “the ways in which the biosecurity field can learn from established practices in the fraud auditing field” and drew upon a fraud auditing and examination course she took. Her recommendations were considered on “the cutting edge of current policy debate.”
“I can’t go a single day without using the intelligence writing skills I learned as a GSIS student,” she said. “My GSIS degree is directly relevant to almost everything I do at work.”
Among Riddles’ career goals are possibly working with a non-profit focusing on global health or chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) security.
“I am also interested in the intersection of fraud and biodefense, especially as it pertains to the food and agriculture sector,” she said.