Year of Graduation: 2015
Minor(s): German Studies
Current Position: Visiting Scholars Advisor/Welcome Service for International Visiting Scholars, University of Augsburg, Germany
Please give a brief description of your position and what it involves. I advise international visiting scholars about everything having to do with completing a research stay here in Augsburg, whether that be for a month or a couple of years. I coordinate the housing search and maintain and create relationships with landlords; plan and run events and excursions for the scholars and their families; create informational material in German and English; and manage the program statistics and evaluation.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current position? I knew very early on into my college career that I wanted to work abroad, so I took the appropriate steps towards that goal: I arranged my own internship abroad; minored in German; and got acquainted with job application procedures, requirements, and standards in Germany in my field of interest. After I graduated, I took the leap and moved to Europe, without having any secure job prospects. I received two job offers within about a month of arriving - one from the agency where I had previously interned, and one from my current position in Augsburg.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students interested in working abroad? Preparation is key. I spent my college years preparing for working abroad in Germany. It was (still is!) my dream and I didn't let any naysayers or doubters change my positive thinking or my long-shot plans.
However, I positioned myself well by:
Creating career-oriented experiences abroad: I absolutely suggest that students go abroad to the countries they want to possibly work in, and go with a purpose. A traditional study abroad semester just does not cut it anymore. Arrange your own internship with a company you would like to work for; conduct informational interviews while abroad; job shadow; go to networking events and conferences while abroad. Make your study abroad career-oriented, not tourism-oriented.
Mastering the language: Get your language skills on an amazing level. Even though my German is decent, I still take German classes, study vocabulary, and make mistakes. It is really cool if you can speak multiple languages, but if you cannot speak one at a professional level, the other languages won't do you any good.
What skills are most important?
First and foremost, flexibility and adaptability are crucial. Having patience and learning how to live with the unknowns are essential, because there are days when living and working abroad are simply challenging. As far as "hard" skills, I would say that computer and office skills (including computer programs in foreign languages!) are the most important. A bit of critical thinking suave and cultural/regional knowledge, including knowing the local dialect(s) doesn't hurt either.
Additionally, I believe that the Benedictine Values of listening, moderation, and stability are especially important for cultivating a holistic global life.
What are the most satisfying and rewarding parts of your position? I really enjoy helping new scholars get adjusted to Germany. When I arrived in Germany for my high school exchange year, I didn't speak a lick of German. Everything was a challenge, every day a new adventure into the unknown. In my current position, I get to help scholars from around the world get situated and settled in Germany, oftentimes starting before they arrive. I also love that I can use much of what I learned from my coursework, student employment positions, and internships - it all comes together seamlessly in my job. Lastly, I get to work in my chosen field, abroad; ride my bike to work; and speak German every day. What's not to love?
What activities/experiences at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) were helpful in preparing you for this position? I knew I wanted to work in international higher education, so I used student employment positions to gain experience in education abroad, career services, residential life, etc. I also did internships, for example for the Minnesota Workforce Center. Together, these positions helped me make a mean college-graduate resume for higher education and played an important part in landing my current position. These positions were in hindsight immensely helpful with the college-to-career transition because of the various skills, time management practice, and professionalism I learned from my CSB/SJU supervisors. I do not think that the smooth transition into my job abroad - which has started my career - would've been possible without my on-campus work experiences.