Year of Graduation: 2003
Current Position: Associate Program Director at the Learning Abroad Center at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
Please give a brief description of your current position.
The main part of my job is to coordinate our study abroad programs in Egypt, Ireland, and France and our short term, faculty-led programs in Thailand, China, Amsterdam, and London. This includes setting up the logistics of the program, answering student inquiries, communicating with onsite staff, setting up budgets, developing program websites and other materials, promotional events, conducting orientations, and anything else that comes up! Of course this also means troubleshooting when a university goes on strike, a student misses the group flight, or a parent is worried about their student overseas. I'm able to do a fair amount of international travel for my job and also have the opportunity to attend international education conferences across the U.S.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
I studied at the University of Notre Dame-Western Australia while at CSB and had a transformational experience. When I returned to MN, I had developed a different mindset and knew that I needed to incorporate the "international" into my life plan. After graduation, I wanted to go abroad again so I spent a year working as an au pair in Switzerland, which was another significant experience in my life. When I returned to MN, I was in a hurry to get a job because of my depleting funds so I began working at the University of Minnesota in an administrative/student services' position. It was not a job I enjoyed, though, so I continued on my job hunt. One day I saw the job posting at the Learning Abroad Center and knew that I had to have that job--it was exaclty the type of work I had been searching for!
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Study abroad! It is extremely important in this field to be able to empathize with students, to be familiar with the administrative processes (e.g. applications, passports, visas, etc.), and to be able to articulate the benefits and importance of studying abroad. It also helps if you've studied abroad more than once! I would also recommend working, interning, volunteering, or teaching English abroad. My job as an au pair wasn't related to my major at all but the experiences I had made a huge difference when applying for a job in international education. I gained independence, learned about a new region in the world, learned to speak German, and critically examined my role as a global citizen.
If you're serious about a job in international education, first try to find a work-study job where you have student contact (preferably the Center for Int'l Ed at CSB/SJU). Keep up the international connection--look into volunteering with AFS (an organization that prepares high school students for studying abroad), join clubs on campus with an international focus, practice your second (or third!) language skills, and take as many courses as possible with a global focus. After graduation, look into attending international education conferences such as NAFSA--it's a great place to network and they always have sessions on finding jobs in the field. Finally, scour university and study abroad program providers' websites for job openings!
What skills are important in your field?
An international perspective, crosscultural sensitivity and awareness, knowledge of a foreign language, empathy, flexibility, and strong interpersonal skills.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
My study abroad experience in Australia was the most important activity I did as an undergraduate and it has affected my life every day since. At CSB/SJU, you have so many great opportunities to travel abroad whether it be to study, volunteer, intern, or just travel! Take advantage of this! My work-study jobs in the English Department and Rec. Sports also gave me solid work experience to help prepare me for the "real world." With both of these jobs, I was able to gain student services' experience which was key to getting my current position. My supervisors also gave me the flexibility to take on projects I was interested in and that would give me valuable workplace skills.