Navy veteran, GVSU student brings unique background to study abroad program

By Tylee Bush | 10/8/17 11:42pm

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GVL / Courtesy - Cameron Zbikowski

Some Lakers study abroad, some Lakers are veterans, some Lakers choose to pursue a double major or triple major, and some, like Cameron Zbikowski, do all of the above. 

From 2005-13, Zbikowski was a personnel specialist in the Navy. His duty stations took him all over the U.S., and he also served a tour in Iraq. In 2016, Zbikowski joined Grand Valley State University after serving in the Navy for eight years. 

“Transitioning back to a civilian took some getting used to,” Zbikowski said via email. “To be honest, as a veteran, it’s not always the easiest, but attending Grand Valley has assisted me in the transition back, I would say.”

Before coming to GVSU, Zbikowski studied in other universities around the country, but he ended up in Allendale and never looked back.

“I love Grand Valley,” he said. “I have studied all over the country, and Grand Valley is by far one of the most veteran-friendly universities that I have attended. The opportunities it offers its students are unlike anything I’ve experienced before.”

Zbikowski is currently pursuing a triple major in human resource management, international business and Spanish.

In addition to his triple major, Zbikowski was accepted by the Padnos International Center into an extensive three-year study abroad program.

“I wanted to study abroad to expand my international experience and to absorb as much from other cultures as possible while completing my degrees,” he said.

Currently in his first year abroad of the three-year program, Zbikowski is studying at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He enjoys the campus and even has a spot on the university's rugby team.

Next year, Zbikowski will transfer to Sunshine Coast University in Queensland, Australia, and he hopes to complete his third year abroad in Bilbao, Spain.

Between his Navy experiences abroad and his educational experiences abroad, Zbikowski is developing an impressive global perspective. 

“The world is an amazing and inspirational place," he said. "It has helped me to see things in a different perspective. If one has the opportunity to go out and see the world and experience other cultures and traditions, they should jump on it.”

Kim Zbikowski, Cameron’s mother, said he was always adventurous, strong-willed and persistent. She first witnessed his spirit of exploration and sense of justice when she watched him prepare for two years for a trip to Peru in the seventh grade.

“I believe this was the beginning of his path of exploration, the desire to learn and his passion to impact others,” she said via email. “I am most proud of Cameron's ambition to follow his passion. He shows no fear and challenges himself beyond his limits.”

At the time this article was written, Zbikowski was on a trip in the Florida Keys assisting with disaster relief from recent hurricanes. Taking time out of a busy academic schedule, he will fly back to Sydney and resume classes Monday, Oct. 9.

“I won't place a limit to Cameron's future,” Kim Zbikowski said. “Only he knows where his passions will take him. From what I've seen over his life, there is no limit to what he will accomplish.”

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