Intercultural competence, interpersonal skills, language skills, and a global professional network are what set study abroad alumni apart from others in this competitive job market. Research shows that studying abroad builds students’ repertoire of skills and gives them additional qualifications, in turn, improving their chances of securing a position after graduation. Investing in these opportunities has proven to be extremely beneficial for many WKU alumni. Seven graduates share their stories about landing a career, largely due to their international experiences.
Ali Edelstein (’12) landed her current position as EducationUSA adviser and Fulbright Program Manager at the Commission for Educational Exchange between the United States and Belgium after a semester long internship. It was through the contacts she made during her semester abroad at Vesalius College in Brussels that she was able to line up the position. Edelstein believes that the independence she developed during her study abroad program helped prepare her for the position and most recently for admittance into the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where she plans to obtain her Master’s starting in the fall of 2014.
An internship in Florence, Italy proved to be life-changing for 2013 graduate Kayla Spelling. Her internship with award-winning advertising and public relations agency, ImageWest, is what set her apart. Spelling gained valuable experience while abroad, producing marketing materials for Lorenzo de’ Medici, an Italian study abroad program provider. Today, Spelling is fulfilling her dream of working overseas, serving as a full-time videographer and editor with Lorenzo de’ Medici.
Language competency is a skill that Melanie Jones acquired through a summer studying in Spain, leading her to a successful career abroad. Jones, a 2010 graduate with a degree in International Business and Spanish, reflects on her language skills as being significantly improved while abroad. “I lived with a host family, which forced me to speak Spanish every day and not just in class.” After graduating from WKU, Jones moved to Chile and was employed by I Love Chile, an English language newspaper in Santiago. Since February of 2013, she has been working for Araya y Cia Abogados, an international law office in Santiago, as a Spanish-English translator & communications assistant. “By studying abroad I learned to be more self-reliant,” says Jones. “My boss runs not just one, but four companies, making it important that his employees are independent and responsible enough to take care of tasks on their own.”
Other WKU alumni have been successful leveraging their study abroad experiences to find employment in the United States. Blake Egbert graduated in December of 2012 and now works for B&H Tool Works, Inc. in Richmond, Ky. as the Domestic & International Sales Coordinator, a position which enables him to travel to China at least once a year. “When I was hired by the company, the President told me that my résumé stood out,” Egbert explains. Spending a semester of his undergraduate career on an exchange program in St. Etienne, France made him a more diverse and experienced candidate, ultimately leading to him being chosen for the position.
As one of the largest companies in Bowling Green, Fruit of the Loom employs many WKU graduates. When Amanda Brown (’10) interviewed for her position as Staff Internal Auditor, her supervisor asked how she felt about international travel. Brown recalls how impressed the interviewer was when she described her experiences abroad and what skills and abilities she could transfer to a career. “He felt confident that he could send me to any of our international locations because of my prior international experience,” said Jones. Christina Hale (’12), who works as Social Compliance Coordinator for the company, auditing the international factories, had a similar experience during the interview process. Her interviewers were particularly interested in her Spanish language skills and felt assured that she had gained a level of fluency during a program in Mexico which would be particularly beneficial for the position.
Dr. Fred Carter, coordinator of the international student teaching program at WKU, reports that student teachers who complete the last month of their student teaching abroad have been tremendously successful at obtaining teaching positions after graduation. Nickie Gentry, 2009 graduate, interviewed at three elementary schools and each time was asked about her teaching experience in Spain. She accepted a position at Briarwood Elementary in Bowling Green, where she currently works. As a result of student teaching in Spain, Gentry feels she is able better relate to the international students.
The success of these seven alumni and others illustrates the outstanding benefits that continue far beyond the completion of a study abroad program. Furthermore, these stories support findings from a recent IES survey, which revealed 97% of graduates who studied abroad were able to find employment within one year of graduation and earned an average of $7,000 more than those who had no study abroad experience.
WKU and the Office of Study Abroad and Global Learning (SAGL) promote international opportunities as an avenue for learning, growing and discovering new ways of thinking, living, and communicating. Explore the SAGL website to learn how you can travel From the Hilltop to the World®.