Saturday, February 6, 2016

Student Networking: Career Advice from Mark Wehling

Photo from inside an urban building with two stools and two stacks of books on the window ledge.
What books do you have on your shelf? Read on to find out Mark Wehling's book recommendations.
by Ann Abbott

In last semester's "Business Spanish" class, student teams had to do a networking project that culminated in each team reaching out to one of my former students to ask for career advice. (We did the work over several weeks, but here's a link with most of the information about the project.)

My hope is that students learned about how to network appropriately. But of course the real gift was that all three former students answered the current students and gave them valuable advice. Such valuable advice.

I won't delay any further, just enough to say that I had goose bumps reading Mark's reply (below). He is truthful, inspiring and detailed. I think he should write a book.

Here's his email!

Hola Kristin, Shamir, Haley, Daniel, y Xuefei (quieren copiarl@s?)

Me da mucho placer poder contestar estas preguntas y ayudarles de esta manera! Pero lamento mucho que hasta ahora no les he podido responder. No me puedo disculpar, pero les cuento que este mes pasado fue una locura: me mude de Nueva York a Singapura, y al llegar a Singapura ya estuve viajando por la region con el trabajo. De todas maneras, que me perdonen y que esto aun les sirva bien! (Y perdonen la falta de acentos) 
La verdad es que hay mucho que podria decir sobre sus preguntas (vuestras preguntas! si yo te respondiera en 2002 cuando estudie en Barcelona y me comunique asi - tal vez alguno/a de Uds es asi ;), pero voy a comentar con algunos puntos que veo como importantes.

1. How have you benefitted from working in a variety of sectors, including the energy effiency, legal services, and banking sectors?

It has been a really enlightening experience to work across several sectors, but challenging to be sure. To clarify in rough and very brief summary, I began my career in public health policy (classic DC-based international development). I was in that space roughly 4 years before transitioning to the (clean) energy sector as a result of the my Luce year in China, where public health => pollution => clean energy. I fundamentally care about human health, which is why/how I moved my career further "upstream" to the root of certain health problems:  business. It touches CSR or sustainability in a sense, but really pure business in the energy sector.

The energy sector is broad and interesting, because it deals with everything we eat, do, use: raw material in our phones, computers, lights, vehicles, and more. No matter how much we dislike the global system we're in with corporations strong-arming their way to dictate policy, we are consumers providing the demand to their supply. Everything comes back to economics of supply and demand. And energy projects of any kind are large in scale and require considerable up-front capital (someone has to take that risk and finance it, hoping they get a return on it later when the project is in use by society, thus your alluding to banking, above). The energy sector around the world is undergoing a massive transformation and it is a really fascinating time to be involved in it.

So the benefit I have had is understanding the world and our challenges from a wide variety of angles, both sectorally and geographically. so I have familiarity with Washington DC institutions, developing countries, Latin America, Asia, public health, the energy sector, chemicals sector, and the banking and finance sector. But it is important to understand my challenge: that I am not deep in any one of those sectors or areas as a peer who is a Latin America expert, or a public health expert with an MPH would be. I can't match a peer who has focused 100% in that sector consistently over that same 11 year period since I graduated. I am fine with not having that depth, as I instead bring other skills to my work. But I do have to work harder to learn and "play" at the level of those who have been in that particular sector/field/space much longer and who may have a Masters in that field as well. My philosophy has been to maximize the return on my undergraduate investment without pursuing that next step of a Masters degree, instead building my value with experience. That is simply one perspective based on understanding perspectives of various employers and being in the position of hiring manager. I may likely return to school for that Masters, perhaps in Chinese or Spanish(!) or sociolinguistics at some point.

2. What have you learned while working in cross-cultural settings, such as your job in Peru and time spent in China with China Greentech Initiative?

I think about this in two ways:

One is that I worked in local offices in Rabat, Lima, Beijing, and Singapore and have learned some of the same things you are likely learning in your language and cross-cultural classes, and your Spanish for business classes you'll take with Ann. I've learned to approach any situation with humility, an inquisitive and listening ear, and respect for my counterparts and also for myself. When doing business in another culture, you adjust to their system and their work flow. Eat breakfast or lunch with your colleagues, in a way that they may. Be aware of personal economic differences. You are the adapter, not them, no matter what Harvard Business Review (HBR) advises as a best practice on a given matter (i.e. that you may otherwise know to be best for the situation). That said, there are ideas you can bring (only after listening and very openly absorbing theirs!) that can be interesting additions or even lessons for your host working culture.

The other way is doing business with another culture, where you are working in a Western office, but perhaps transacting with a client of another culture across the table from you. For this, you want to be aware of the same types of things, from customs of timeliness, to dress, to eating/drinking, hierarchical relationships, and more. Understanding your client's culture is important, whether it is of another culture or simply another US organization's own internal culture.

3. What made you choose to major in Global Studies and Spanish at U of I and how have they helped you in your professional life?

I like this question because when I transitioned back from China in 2012, and before taking my role at Bloomberg in early 2013, I stepped in temporarily for a previous Global Studies advisor's maternity leave for three months. I really enjoyed sharing with students, from Fresh/Soph navigating their courses, their study abroad options and internship opportunities, to Juniors and Seniors thinking about their career options. Just as you're well aware, the major is perfect in that it pulls on a rich variety of disciplines, but not perfect, because you still have to craft for yourself that unique skill you will bring to your work. Unlike accounting or engineering or CS, there is not a clear career path awaiting you as you step out the UofI door. Also, think again about supply and demand economics. You're aware that the supply of LAS students around the country is high compared to the demand for LAS talent right now. That doesn't mean an LAS degree is not a good one for the the job market. It just means you have to get more creative and work at crafting a unique "differentiator" in your story. Then tell that story to your prospective employer. Sell yourself, but built on your experiences during school and internships - and Ann's life-applicable classes in particular.

In overcoming this challenge, I suggest you first do what you can to really carve out unique technical strengths and skills where you can (more on that below) but also really think and write and process, and think and write again, and then reflect on what you care about, what you are good at, and what you love to do with your time. Think about these three items: what your talents are, what you love to do, and what issue or world problem motivates you.

When talent-passion-issue align, you can do great things. Pursue that issue/topic area with your passion and your talent. If you have the talent for the issue/problem but not the passion, it can become frustrating. If you have the passion for the issue but not that talent, you can imagine it also becomes frustrating. How can you align all three for yourself?

4. What do you think is the most important skill college students should gain to get their first job or internship after college?

I'll focus here only on one, but with three parts: communication skills.

1) Present, present and present some more so that it feels less and less stressful to do so, and less and less painful to prepare. You can never be too good at presenting, whether to one person at a table, or to a room of 5000 people. Steve Jobs is an example many refer to. When presenting, less is more. Make the complex simple.

2) Writing skills: The better you can write, whether in long report form or in short email form, the more value you will bring ANY employer. So much communication happens on email today - and not in short-form texting only! ;) - that you'll want to have an ability to write something that could take many paragraphs in just 5 lines of email. You have to convey complex ideas but in a way that in the first line says the purpose or point of the email (why should I continue reading your email) and also has an ask or a request for action. Nearly every email has a main point and a request for action - make sure yours grab attention, state the purpose, and leave the reader with an action.

3) Networking: This is very close to number 1 above, in that when you network, you are presenting as well. Know how to describe yourself or your goals or background in 10 second, 30 second and 30 minute form. You are presenting. But importantly, don't let this create a fear of networking. When you speak to your family or friends you are also presenting. You are listening and you are selling. You might be selling 4pm vs. 3pm to have that afternoon coffee together, or one movie vs. another movie to go and see together. You are selling and presenting yourself and your ideas always, without're a sales person! So in networking, think of it not as a greasy sales pitch but instead remove the baggage of the word and think of it as purely making friends, helping someone out with something on their mind or that they're working on. In conversation over cocktails or coffee, be interested in the other person and be relevant for him/her and helpful where you can. Simple kindness, interest and generosity build relationships and that's all networking is. You each have a goal. How can you help one another reach them?

5. ¿Tiene algunos consejos para estudiantes actuales?

Yes, read the above again and take notes on it as it applies to you and your situation.

And see this link I wrote on the Global Studies website. It is a bit dated, but it is one I wrote up more than five years ago for Dean Hancin-Bhatt when she was building more alumni connections for GS students. For perspective, it was written after moving from my Lima/DC base to China for the Luce scholarship. Now you're catching me after several more years in China, that brief stint at UIUC/GS before three years in New York City, and now to a new place (for me) in Asia, Singapore.

I hope that link is a good complement to this. It gets into the idea of having a technical skill alongside your liberal arts degree, among other ideas like visiting David Schug and making the most of the Illinois Scholarships office. I was a Spanish and International Studies (IS, now GS) major, but if I could do it again, I'd find a way to bite the bullet and add a few more tech/CS/math/engineering/finance/economics classes in (STEM, really). Frankly, just personal finance and the like have useful life lessons that should even be automatically built into undergrad curriculum or orientations in some way.

One final thought to to ponder: every one of my jobs has come from knowing a friend. I knew the friend in one setting and s/he later worked in the org and referenced me. None came from a generic online application without knowing someone there. Is there a lesson in that? Building friendships for your life = job networking? (Related to this see book one, below).

3 indispensable books:

1) 2-hour job search, written by a Duke Univ MBA admissions officer (all you need to execute an effective, efficient job search)
2) Delaying the Real World, this came out the year I graduated. Someone told me about it on the quad. I swallowed it whole and put stickies and notes all over it. The pages are thick and durable. It's a field guide to the non-conventional job, so buy it and mark it up if you're adventurous. Author Colleen Kinder is now a dear friend, introduced by accident by mutual friends in China.
3) Interview like an MBA (this is gold when you are at the interview stage)

I wish you all the best and do not hesitate to connect with me separately via email or LinkedIn. Just remember to state your purpose and reference whatever connection we may have. I receive connection requests from UofI students on LinkedIn and they don't state why they're connecting to me or what in my profile interested them. Sure, I see the UIUC connection, but a simple sentence or two is all it takes to gain that extra bit more of my interest to engage with you and accept your request. Quality of relationships can matter more than quantity. It is good to go for both. And that is the ultimate lesson: express your interest in people clearly, succinctly, but with a human self! Give people a reason to want to work with you. They will want to! Even Obama or the Pope will respond back if given a reason to.

Go get 'em,


Posts from this networking project:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Spanish and Social Entrepreneurship: Week 1

SPAN 332 Spanish and Entrepreneurship Spring 2016 @AnnAbbott with a picture of a table and some printing work to convey the idea of creativity and work required by social entrepreneurship
We focus on social entrepreneurship that is linguistically and culturally appropriate, with 28 hours of service learning.
Week 1
by Ann Abbott


Martes: Los elementos del curso

Meta: saber por qué quieres dedicar tanto tiempo y esfuerzo a este curso.

Aprendizaje en la comunidad: 28 horas
I´ll start with the current situation in Champaign-Urbana's Latino community: anxiety over the announced ICE raids on a national level.
  1. Reading. Students skim a December article in the Washington Post about the announced raids.
  2. Video. Together we view this short video about knowing your rights. 
  3. Trabajar en la comunidad. I'll put students who took SPAN 232 together with students who didn't. But before they actually get together, they need to think of what they think the others should know, and the others have to come up with two questions to ask.

Emprendimiento social: nuestro tema

I want them to learn about entrepreneurship this semester as a process, not just a product. In other words, if we only focus on the final outcome--a new business/product/organization/program/etc.--we are missing out on the vital process that leads to that final product. Or not. Maybe it there will be no final product. Maybe the process will end in failure. But going through the process itself is entrepreneurship. Is entrepreneurial. It is a mindset, more than a product that I want them to walk away with.

The entrepreneurship process

So what does that process consist of? Three steps.
  1. Reconocer oportunidades. I always tell students that many opportunities are hidden within problems. If you can solve people's problems, then you have a good entrepreneurial opportunity. I also emphasize that they can recognize problems that non-Spanish speakers will never see.
  2. Buscar recursos. Even though we often think first about money when we talk about entrepreneurship, I want students to know that there are so many other resources that they can acquire and use. Trust. Spanish. Friendships. A good reputation. A degree from the University of Illinois. And so much more.
  3. Crear algo de valor. First you must "create." Entrepreneurship isn't just about ideas. Lots of people have lots of ideas. You have to do. To create. To prototype. To launch. To try. To fail. To redesign/rethink. To get to the end point. And secondly, it must be something that other people value. If you create something because you are enchanted by it, but you don't bother to see if other people want it, you are in trouble. Other people have to think that your product/service brings them value. Listen. Observe. Ask. Then you'll be sure you are creating something that people will actually purchase and/or use.
*I then put students into pairs to identify the three steps of this process in the video "Conoce tus derechos" from above. 

Combine CSL and social entrepreneurship

When we put these two things together--CSL with its deepening understanding of our local Latino Community and social entrepreneurship--we end up with something very special. Something very localized. Something very attuned to a tightly defined target market. 

Our programs and services will be linguistically-appropriate. That might be Spanish. That might be English. It might be Spanglish. And in the Champaign-Urbana, that might be Q’anjob’al.

They will be culturally-appropriate. They will be offered in a convenient location for that community. In a trusted location because there is a lot of mistrust in our most vulnerable communities. They will be offered at a time that is convenient.

*In pairs again: Is this video linguistically and culturally appropriate?

Jueves: Nuestra comunidad

Meta: decidir dónde vas a trabajar y poner tu información en el wiki.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Competitive Internships of Interest to Spanish Community Service Learning Students

by Ann Abbott

Thanks to Annissa Zak, I want to share three competitive internships that I think would be of interest to my Spanish community service learning students. I´ll just leave them here in a list, but I hope you will scroll through my blog to see posts in which I help students think about the connections between their Spanish CSL work and professional positions.

1. The Humanities in Action Fellowship in Europe 

The objective of the Humanity in Action Fellowship programs is to facilitate a collective exploration of the social and political roots of discrimination, as well as to provide a forum where potential solutions to some of today's most challenging issues can be considered and discussed. The programs are also intended to instill a responsibility among Humanity in Action Fellows to recognize and address the need to protect minorities and promote human rights—in their own communities and around the world. Click here to see their timeline.

2. The White House Internship Program 

The website describes the program like this: "This select group of young men and women from across the country dedicate their time, talents, energy, and service to better the White House, the community, and the nation. These committed citizens become a part of the White House team. The assignments given to an intern on any given day could include conducting research, managing incoming inquiries, attending meetings, writing memos, and staffing events."

You can work in a variety of departments listed here. Students who have worked with me on bilingual social media marketing would be great in the Office of Digital Strategy. Honestly, students' language skills and experience working in Spanish-speaking immigrant communities would be an asset in all the departments. Just make sure you make that connection explicit in your application and mention the work you did in the community and the contextualization and policy analysis we did during class. Could you imagine how lucky the Domestic Policy Department would be to have someone on their Immigration team who has had a Spanish CSL experience? Play it up in your application because our politicians need young people who see immigration and immigrants through their connections to real people, not just "theoretical scenarios."

3. The United States Holocaust Museum Internship

Although we don't deal directly with the Holocaust in our Spanish CSL courses, we do discuss the dehumanization of immigrants and the criminalization of immigration. Those are key components in the systematic process of scapegoating that can lead to hate crimes and other abuses. If those things are allowed to continue and the scale increases, that is the process that leads to mass murder. Take a look at this internship to see if it aligns with your interests and passions.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Sharing Good Ideas among Language Programs in the CIC

My notes from the CIC meeting of language program directors.
by Ann Abbott

It's good to have a peer group. You can share and compare because you know that you're in similar situations. And that's what the CIC annual meeting of language program directors and executive officers is all about. (Although I'm not a language program director, I am the Director of Undergraduate studies; that's why I go.)

But the things driving our discussions--helping our students learn the most possible, integrating technology intelligently, combating declining enrollments, and running large programs effectively--concern all language educators.

So I'll share some things here. In the interest of privacy, I'll keep things very general, and I won't share the names of the university or person who presented the ideas.

Hopefully you can find one or two things that could help your language program and courses. There's no particular order to this list.

  • Course titles. Some spoke of successfully changing course titles so that they were "sexier," more appealing to students. (I don't know how I feel about this if the course content doesn't also actually appeal to students...)
  • High school visits. One program worked with the office of admissions to reach out to high schools that offer AP courses in their specific language. They have invited those schools to visit the campus and department on President's Day (a holiday for high schools but not colleges).
  • No minor. One program stopped offering a minor in their language. Furthermore, something like 73% of students were choosing the language track of the major, so they shut it down; students now take literature. (No comment.)
  • Languages for Specific Purposes. One university said that they actually have the buy-in of the faculty to concentrate on LSP. This is unusual!
  • The important role of TAs in promoting the major. One program shared how they encourage TAs to promote the following class in the sequence to their current students, to study abroad and to major/minor. There is a self interest in this as well: if students are plentiful at the upper levels, then TAs will be able to teach a wider range of classes and gain more professional experience.
  • Marketing your courses. Everyone knows that we need to advertise our programs in ways we never did before. One program sends all first-year students a pamphlet about the languages their university offers and explaining the language requirement. Another program advertises their classes with clever ads on the tables in dorm cafeterias.
  • Tenure track, non-tenure track and adjuncts. One program has a departmental committee devoted to improving the environment among the various appointment types. One example of their work is a workshop about "how are you treating grammar in 400-level courses?" (I think this is fantastic! We should be pulling from the talents and expertise of people in all ranks to improve our offerings at all levels.
  • TA accountability. The question emerged about how language program directors can handle TAs and non-tenture track employees who do not carry out their duties successfully. (This is very rare, in my experience.) This becomes problematic when the tenure-track faculty support those TAs because their main priority is their graduate education. So people asked: what is the role, then, of the Director of Graduate Studies in these situations? One LPD outlined their procedure: 1. TA receives a probation letter. 2. They have one year to improve their teaching. 3. The LPD and TA come up with an individual plan for improvement. 4. The TA is assessed again with multiple methods. 5. If there is not sufficient improvement, they are let go. (While this seems very rare to me, I will say that the individual who brought up the issue seemed to be very vexed by the problem. So it is obviously an important issue.)
  • TAs' language proficiency. When the question came up about what to do about TAs (and NTT) who have low language proficiency, I loved my friend Holly Nibert's response. (I said I would reveal names, but I think she deserves credit for this fabulous answer.) She said that she tries to create a "growth-oriented" culture among TAs and other teaching staff. She models the use of the language by writing emails in Spainsh, speaking in Spanish, because the department's "unofficial/official" language is English. 
  • Rutger's Department of Spanish & Portuguese. Again, although I said I wouldn't identify people or programs, I'd like to point out some unique things that Rutgers does. They have a 5-year Teacher Education program. I find this very interesting because our BAT program became so packed with Education requirements that students can no longer study in Barcelona for a year. That was our signature program that produced high school teachers with excellent Spanish. Rutgers does not have a foreign language requirement. The department does require all their majors to pass an oral proficiency test in order to graduate. They have an online course to prepare students to pass the OPI, which they take at the end of the second 7-week lab. They have one section for L2 learners and another for native speakers. They recommend students take these lab courses after study abraod, and most L2s are at intermediated mid or high. Some problems that are typical for students are: descriptions, narration and cohesion. However, their entire program is geared toward proficiency from the very beginning and all faculty are familiarized with ACTFL and use it in the class. 
Do you have any tips to add to this list? Is there anything from this list that is particularly relevant to your work and program?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Helping Students Sharpen their Networking Messages

Image of sharpened pencil on a notebook with these words Sharpen your networking emails by choosing open versus closed questions judiciously, showing you have done your homework and contextualizing your questions @AnnAbbott
by Ann Abbott

I'm so happy with the networking emails that my Business Spanish students wrote for their networking project this semester. And I am ecstatic with the responses they have received from Mr. David Mackinson and Mr. Benjamin Brodner! (The third person is currently in the middle of moving his office to Singapore--bad timing but also shows that the students chose a fascinating person and career.)

But it took work to get there. I have very smart, talented and hardworking students. If their networking emails needed to be informed, edited and shaped, then I think everyone could benefit from the information that took their messages from okay but slightly problematic to very good.

Here, in order, are the steps you can take to make sure your networking emails or direct messages are sharp, clear and compelling.

Read advice about how to compose networking messages.

As with most topics, there is already a lot of good advice on the internet. Sometimes, though, a task seems so simple (like writing an email; who doesn't know how to write an email?) that we don't even think of Googling it. In my experience, almost everyone (and especially college students because they're still acquiring the experience it takes to know how to do this intuitively) can benefit from advice on this topic. Here are the pieces I had my students read first:

Ask your mutual connection to pave the way.

This is huge. I reached out to my former students before my current students sent them their messages. I'm Facebook friends with all of them, so I sent them a group private message to let them know that they would soon receive a message from my current students, that they had been selected by the students as people they wanted to contact, and that I knew that they are busy professionals who might or might not have the time to answer. 

Do you have a mutual contact, and could that person pave the way for your message?

Write closed or open questions judiciously.

On the one hand, closed questions (yes/no; today/tomorrow; the HR address/specific person; email/phone call/office visit; etc.) make it extremely easy for the person to reply to your message. That is a very good thing. A very good thing. People are very busy, and you are making their lives easier if they can quickly read your message, identify exactly what you want, and give it to you with a few keystrokes. 

Example: Could I send my resume to you, or do you prefer that I send it to someone else?

On the other hand, if you are seeking advice and wisdom, then your questions should be more open. That lets the person you are reaching out to give you their very best insights, from the perspective they think is best.

Example: Change a question like, "Was your study abroad experience in college valuable?" to: 
"How did your study abroad experience contribute to your professional success?" 

Show you have done your homework.

But let's take that same question about study abroad and make it even better. After all, "How did your study abroad experience contribute to your professional success?" is a question you could ask to anyone who has studied abroad. You need to personalize the question. On the one hand, it is flattering to know that someone has taken the time to research you, your background and your accomplishments. But it's not about empty flattery. You need to do extensive research (as much as possible) on the person so that you can ask the most helpful questions--those that the person can answer well and that give you valuable feedback.

Again, this sounds obvious. But my students had spent at least an hour, working in a team, researching these three alums on several different web platforms. They knew a lot about them. But when I read the first draft of their questions, that wasn't apparent. They had done the homework. It just didn't show. Make sure it shows!

Example: Change a question like, "How did your study abroad experience contribute to your professional success?" to: 
"I see that you studied abroad in Bilbao, Spain. I studied in Barcelona but took the train to País Vasco for a weekend and loved it. How did your study abroad experience contribute to your professional success?"  

Contextualize your questions.

As I read my students' drafts and second drafts, I tried to put myself in the place of the alum who would receive the message and questions. That's when it became clear that many of the questions need a context that would help the alum shape their response. In other words, why are you asking this question? What do you hope to get from the answer?

Example: Change a question like, "I see that you studied abroad in Bilbao, Spain. I studied in Barcelona but took the train to País Vasco for a weekend and loved it. How did your study abroad experience contribute to your professional success?" to:
"I see that you studied abroad in Bilbao, Spain. I studied in Barcelona but took the train to País Vasco for a weekend and loved it. Still, I'm struggling to know how to put this experience on my resume and talk about it interviews. How did your study abroad experience contribute to your professional success?" 


In the end, my students wrote wonderful messages and received fantastic feedback. Part of the success, I believe, was that we approached this as a project that multiple steps over multiple class periods. We workshopped it in class so that I could do a solid face-to-face editing before they mailed off their messages. So never underestimate the power of asking someone knowledgeable to look over your message before you send it. If your communique is well-done, you can receive some valuable networking experience, information and contacts in exchange.

What are your thoughts? Have you had a good networking experience that worked similarly or differently? Do you teach others how to network well? Leave me a comment or send me an email at

Posts from this networking project:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Student Reflection

picture of computer screen where student did her work alongside a gift of specialty popocorn and a note thanking her for her work with the community partner.
by Christine Kurt

Semester Summary 

My semester in SPAN 232 and volunteering at the Child Care Resource Center proved highly beneficial to both my academic and personal development. Before classes began, 28 hours sounded like a daunting task that I would struggle to complete. However, nothing could be further from the truth, the hours came easily and were enjoyed thoroughly. I can genuinely say I looked forward to volunteering all semester, due to the great people around me and the application of in-class topics.

At the beginning of the semester we picked from a list of community partners and communicated by e-mail to set up meetings regarding the upcoming opportunities for the semester. When I first e-mailed Milagros, my supervisor, I gathered that she would be nice, but I never imagined how kind she would be.  When I first went in to speak to her about what tasks I would complete throughout the semester, she complimented my Spanish (despite the many times I drew a blank on a word or phrase). Throughout the semester she would be extremely grateful of any task I would complete, no matter how big or small. At my last day of the semester, she got me a gift and thanked me profusely for my work this semester. It was a bittersweet feeling leaving that day because I was sad that the semester was over, but very grateful to have met someone with such a passion for helping others.

Experiences throughout the semester allowed me to develop useful professional and personal skills. Being surrounded by and collaborating with intelligent and accomplished women all semester on the Abriendo Caminos project pushed me to put my best work forward. I brushed up on different computer programs, translated PowerPoints, and helped write an educational booklet and newsletter. I gained many office skills throughout the semester and honed in on many more in class as well. On a personal level, the class portion and my experiences in the community allowed me to be a more culturally competent individual. I am now more aware of the struggles of the Spanish-speaking community, especially in terms of health due to my particular volunteering experience. In class I obtained a much better grasp on how complex the visa and green card practices are, as well as the difference between refugees and other terms regarding immigration. For someone interested in the legal field, this class has been the most informative Spanish class regarding the intricate legal process of immigration. In addition to my own experiences, the format of SPAN 232 allows for learning from the experiences of others. A distinct aspect of the class was the amount of time spent learning of the successes and shortcomings of classmates’ community experiences, something I found particularly enriching to my cultural understanding. SPAN 232 has been the class that most allowed develop workplace and life skills, while seeing the convergence of these two aspects.

In summary, SPAN 232 has been a far greater asset to my education than I ever could have anticipated. Something students ask themselves frequently is, “when will I ever use what I’ve learned in the classroom?” With this course, I struggle to think of a time in which I could not use material learned in class- nearly everything was either applied in the community, or could be utilized in the future. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who is not only looking to improve his/her speaking skills, but also better one’s understanding of Spanish-speaking populations. The experiences I have had this semester bettered me as both a student and member of the community. I’ve experienced firsthand the benefits the volunteer gains from the community and learned that volunteering goes far beyond a one-sided relationship. I can guarantee that this class will make you grow into a better person and student, while giving you skills for a lifetime. 

Student Reflection

Screen shot of an educadora document the student created in Spanish
by Christine Kurt

Making SPAN 232 a strength of your CV

It’s no secret that a second language is a monumental asset to any CV or resume; however, with growing numbers of students learning second languages, how does one stand out from the pack? The unique aspect of SPAN 232 was the balance of in class “technical” skills and community-based, primary experience. On one of the last few days of class, our discussion section complied some ideas of how to translate these experiences (both in and out of class) onto a CV. We separated the chalkboard into both professional and personal areas. Here are some key-points discussed in class:

1. Computer program skills

I would be lying if I said I had even thought of spreadsheets before my community volunteering- my Excel experience was limited to a computer class I took freshman year of high school. However, volunteering in the Child Care Resource Center allowed me to conjure up my knowledge of computer programs I hadn’t used since high school. For the newsletter pictured above, I got to use Microsoft Publisher and became acclimated to a completely new program. Couple this technical knowledge with communicating information in Spanish and English, and you can market yourself as someone who is proficient in many Microsoft Office programs in both Spanish and English.

2. Cultural awareness

I’ve talked about this in previous blogs, but this is a great addition to a resume that is very unique to the class. In an increasingly globalized world, employers are eager to hire culturally-knowledgeable individuals. Having firsthand experience with the Spanish-speaking populations in Champaign and Urbana is very beneficial to attaining and developing cultural awareness. The in-class portion focuses on hardships surrounding the CU community, such as living in areas lacking transportation and the difficulties of working jobs on a school year schedule. However, the successes and difficulties faced by Spanish-speakers across the country are highlighted as well. The community portion allows you to see these achievements and adversities firsthand. For example, I had never known the degree to which obesity and lack of healthcare affect the Spanish-speaking community. The cultural competence gained in this class could easily translate into any career field.

3. General office skills

A task such as taking a note for a supervisor out of the office, recording a phone number, or jotting down an address can seem rather effortless initially. Now, imagine doing this in your second language when the speaker isn’t talking slowly. Not as easy anymore. Something that really helped me in class was practicing leaving notes with vital information using material from a brief message (usually containing phone numbers, addresses, and facts regarding a question or concern) in Spanish. Sounds easy enough, but when actually tasked with this, our class found it pretty difficult. Practicing these basic office skills and translating them to the community helped me realize how essential “the basics” are to having an office run smoothly. Being able to communicate efficiently and accurately with Spanish-speaking clients or coworkers is a highly desirable skill.

4. Friendships and contacts gained from volunteering

Based on my own experiences and those I’ve heard from classmates, many of us have gained friends and mentors through volunteering. Milagros, my supervisor, has become like a second mother to me and has made my volunteering experience extremely enjoyable. Additionally, she has mentioned many times that if I ever need a reference for a job in the future, to feel free to list her. Having someone who can attest to your Spanish speaking abilities firsthand would be highly beneficial to any resume. I also was able to network with professors in my major who worked on the project, something that may be useful when applying to graduate programs. In summary, I met many amazing and inspiring individuals through my volunteering experience- even more than I could have anticipated at the beginning of the semester. 

Student Reflection

A photo of the town sign for Beardstown, Illinois population 5800
photo credit:
by Christine Kurt

My Favorite Volunteering Experience of the Semester

While much of my volunteering consisted of work in an office, there were a few opportunities to go out in the community and practice the skills learned in class firsthand. One day in November, I joined Milagros (my supervisor), a U of I professor and MD, and another doctor to go to Beardstown. Having lived in the Chicago suburbs for the entirety of my life I am generally not well versed on the areas surrounding Champaign- so this was an interesting experience to see a community in the area. with a large Spanish-speaking population. Beardstown is about two hours away from Champaign, relatively close to Springfield. The interested women met us in a church in town and were educated on the benefits of being a health “educadora” in the Abriendo Caminos program.  Essentially, they become educated on healthy eating, exercise, and positive family relationships. Though this education, they become more empowered and confident, all while serving as a resource to others in the community who have questions regarding a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, the two doctors were on hand to examine BMI, height, weight, and heart rate.

Many of us are fortunate enough to have health care readily available to us at a reasonable price due to insurance. However, this was not the case for many of the women in Beardstown. While speaking to them, we learned that the nearest doctor’s office was in Springfield (approximately an hour and a half away). Another consideration was transportation- many of these women did not own cars or did not have one available to them at all times. I found the trip extremely enlightening in terms of realizing all the things one takes for granted- such as transportation and healthcare. Moreover, the trip made me aware of the gaps volunteers can fill in these underserved areas. Where there is a fault of resources, giving up a fraction of one’s day can allow for others to gain vital services that are normally unattainable.

The trip was also an enjoyable social experience and opportunity for me to practice my speaking abilities with native speakers of Spanish. I got to interact with members of the community by asking them to fill out name tags, passing out educational materials, and recording the information the doctors gathered regarding their health. Although I was kind of nervous about this at first, thinking my Spanish would be too basic to perform these tasks, I quickly realized how appreciative everyone was of the services and forgot my apprehensions. Another take-away from the trip was how accepting everyone was of my Spanish-speaking abilities and how grateful they were to be receiving these services.

The trip to and from Beardstown also proved to be an effective way for me to practice my Spanish-speaking skills. As I mentioned above, my supervisor, a U of I professor, and a doctor from the community all coordinated the trip. Each one of them speaks Spanish, but each speaks a unique dialect. It was really interesting to see the similarities and differences among the Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Argentinian varieties of Spanish. We spoke Spanish essentially the whole trip, which was exciting because I got to practice it in a more informal setting. Besides that, it was great to get to know these three women on a more personal level and get to see their passion for helping the community. They displayed such gratitude that I came on the trip, being thankful for every task I did (no matter how minuscule). Overall, the trip was a great cultural and linguistic experience and taught me just how grateful others are for things that I daily take for granted. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Student Spotlight: Vicky Pavlou

Click here to find out more about Chile's English Open Doors Program
Chile is a beautiful, wonderful country. Would you like to live and work there after graduation?
by Ann Abbott

Just a quick, quick note to say that I was delighted when Vicky Pavlou sent me an email yesterday telling me that she had been accepted into Chile's "English Open Doors" program. Hurray!

Here are a few words from Vicky:
"And if you have other students that are looking into something similar this program is nice because even though you are a "volunteer" they provide health care, housing, meals (you can chose to be with a host family) and a $100 stipend per month. So it is not like other programs were you pay a high fee for them to place you."
In addition to all the other ways that Vicky is a perfect candidate, I believe that her hands-on work within our Spanish-speaking community during "Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" makes her stand out from among the crowd of applicants.

And as a follow-up to the wonderful networking project that my Business Spanish students did this semester, I'd also like to state that Vicky has used LinkedIn to connect with a another former student of mine who did this program in 2006. That's the way networking should work!

Take note, students:
  • Make a good impression on your professors so that they can write great letters of recommendation for you.
  • Take classes with an experiential component--even if they are "just" an elective--so that someone can speak to your professional skills, not just your academic ones.
  • Looks for international opportunities--and take them! There will never be a better time for you to live and work abroad than right now, right out of college. And that experience will lead you to opportunities you cannot even imagine right now.
  • Network, network, network. If someone had the same professor as you, took the same classes as you, went to the same university as you, those are all ways to phrase your introductory sentence/paragraph so that you can find common ground. Once that common ground is established, it's more likely that the other person will respond favorably.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Student Networking: Career Advice from David Mackinson

Challenges and Rewards of Living and Working Abroad Career advice from David Mackinson, image shows a flat field with half plowed and half grass
Excellent advice from someone who went from the fields of Illinois and Iowa to the mountains of Chile.
by Ann Abbott

I am ecstatic, truly ecstatic about the results so far of my Business Spanish students' networking project. The first group of students received a reply from Benjamin Brodner, and now a second group has received a reply from David (Dave) Mackinson. And his advice is spot-on. I love what he tells students, and how he tells it to them.

When I read his very last bit of advice, I raised my fist in the air and yelled, "Yes!"

After you read through the questions and answers, let me know what your reaction is.

One more thing: at the end of his email, he gave the students his Skype name and invited them to connect with him whenever they want. I hope they know how valuable that is and use it. It's a testament to how to do networking right.

Somos estudiantes de la Profesora Ann Abbott en una clase sobre los negocios en español. Hemos estudiado su perfil profesional en Internet y hemos visto que Ud. se graduó de Illinois y que ha tenido una carrera interesante trabajando en español en los EE.UU. y en Chile. También recibió su Masters en Chile, algo que nos interesa. Esperamos que usted tenga tiempo para darnos algunos consejos. Hemos preparado una lista de preguntas basadas en sus experiencias profesionales y académicas.

1.       ¿Qué diferencias culturales ha experimentado en Chile en comparación con su trabajo en los Estados Unidos?

En general yo diría que no hay tantas diferencias. Actualmente trabajo para una empresa de investigación de mercado (Euromonitor) – tenemos oficinas en todo el mundo y trabajo muy de la mano con gente en todo Sudamérica, en Londres, en Chicago, y al fin del día yo diría que quizás no hay tantas diferencias – todos queremos entregar algo de calidad, volver a casa al fin del día para estar con nuestras familias, salir a tomar una cerveza de vez en cuando.
Sin embargo – hay ciertas cosas pequeñas – yo recuerdo llegando a Chile y mis compañeros de Syngenta (durante los primeros años después de Illinois trabaje con ellos) en Chile usaron muchos los garabatos – no puedo imaginar hablando así enfrente de mi jefe en Iowa, jaja. Los latinos quizás son un poco más relajados en la oficina.

2.      ¿Qué impacto tuvo su experiencia de estudiar en España? ¿Y de recibir su “Masters” en Chile? We are curious about this because many of us have studied abroad and want to know it will affect our future careers.

Me enamore con España – o bien, la experiencia que tuve allá. Fui yo solo (sin conocer a nadie) pero volví a EEUU con mis mejores amigos (en enero cumplimos 10 años desde cuando llegamos en Granada y obvio que vamos a intentar hacer un tipo de reunión). Yo tenía solamente 20 años cuando fui a Granada así que yo era muy joven (20 años es muy joven) y aprendí mucho sobre mí mismo allá. Si algún día tengo un hij@, le diré que si o si tiene que hacer ‘’study abroad’’. Con respecto a sus futuros laborales, si estoy pensando en contratar a alguien, obvio que me interesa si estudiaron en el extranjero, pero me interesa más lo que han aprendido. 

El magister en Chile – en pocas palabras, estuvo muy difícil. Hacer un magister en lo que sea es difícil; hacerlo en otro país, en otra lengua – en una ciudad nueva – estuvo bien complicado, jaja. Pero sobreviví! Unas cosas interesantes…en Chile, nadie compra los libros– hay varios lugares en el campus donde uno puede pagar para que te hagan una copia del libro (de fotocopias). Te sale quizás $10. Hay que recordar que el ingreso familiar para una familia latina es muy por debajo de lo que gana una familia en EEUU. No hay un presupuesto para gastar $500-$1,000 por semestre en libros.

Yo diría también que la calidad de los profesores, de las clases, de los TAs, está por debajo de Illinois. Eso también significa que si quieres aprobar una clase, vas a tener que trabajar el doble.

3.      ¿Qué le gusta y no le gusta sobre trabajar fuera de los Estados Unidos? Many of us are interested in working in another country and would appreciate more information on what it’s like.

Mira – hay dos cosas que podría decir aquí. La primera es que me levanto todos los días para tomar el metro, para ir al gimnasio, trabajo duro desde las 8 hasta las 5:30, vuelvo a casa para pasear con el perro, para organizar el apartamento, para cocinar para mi pareja y yo, y a veces me quedo dormido viendo Netflix, jaja. Nunca veo a mis amigos de Illinois ni a mi familia (es decir, nos vemos un par de veces por año maximo). Hace 7 años que vivo en Chile entonces ya no hay tanto ‘’glamour’’ como antes. Tomar la decisión de trabajar en otro país, de vivir en otro país, si es algo de medio/largo plazo, no es una decisión fácil.

Sin embargo…no me arrepiento a nada. Me fascina Chile y Sudamérica – viajo mucho por aquí. Decir que tengo fluidez sería un understatement, jaja. (Hace poco estuve en Puerto Rico y me encanta como hablan en spanglish). Trabajar en otro país es siempre desafiante, pero te permite aprender mucho, crecer, ser un profesional de verdad. Yo recuerdo llegando a casa después de mi tercer mes en Chile y me quise rendir – no entendí nada de lo que me estaban diciendo y entonces ni podría intentar responder – fue horrible, jaja. Aprender otra lengua y usarlo 24/7 es de las cosas más difíciles que he hecho en la vida. Pero a los 29 años ya ni pienso ni tengo sueños en inglés.

4.      ¿Cómo ha encontrado su trabajo con Euromonitor International. Many seniors are currently looking for jobs but don’t know where to start.

Lo de Euromonitor encontré via su página de web. Estuve por terminar el magister y necesitaba un trabajo porque ya me quedaba plata, jaja. Estuve 6 meses buscando trabajo, enviando mi resume (en Latinoamérica se dice CV), iendo a Entrevistas. Yo recuerdo que tuve 5 entrevistas con Accenture para un trabajo de Consulting en Santiago y al final me dijeron que no. Fue horrible. Pero hay algo para todos. Hay que buscarlos.

Si estuviera en Illinois todavía yo diría que hay que ir a los Job fairs. No sabia nada de Syngenta antes de trabajar con ellos – estuve buscando una empresa internacional – quería algo que me permitiría viajar. Todas las empresa del mundo tienen una página de web – revísenlos. GO TO THE JOB FAIRS AND NOT JUST FOR LAS/SPANISH. I tried to complement my Spanish with my experience in Ag and in Economics. Be willing to move outside of Ilinois/Chicago (I moved to Washington, Iowa for 2 years people). Dream jobs don’t always land at your feet the moment you graduate.

A los 22 años no sabía nada de Euromonitor ni lo que es market research pero me encanta lo que hago (manejo varios proyectos de investigación y equipo de analistas en Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, y Chile).

5.      ¿Tiene algunos consejos para estudiantes ahora?

Hazte voluntario en el centro de refugiados de Urbana. Es muy importante el trabajo que hacen y así aprendí como hablar por teléfono en español.

Posts from this networking project:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Student Reflection

The LinkedIn logo

by Fiona Iriarte

As a business student, one of the most important aspects of my undergraduate career is networking with professionals from industries and companies that I could potentially see myself working for in the future. I am very interested in working abroad in the future, but it has been difficult to meet professionals in fields I am exploring, who have also worked abroad or are working abroad now. However, our networking class project gave me a great opportunity to get advice from a former U of I student working in a business role in Dubai. 

Our class was divided into groups, and we given one of Dr. Abbott’s former students to center our project around. We searched for these individuals on LinkedIn and Facebook to learn more about their lives and careers before we actually contacted them. Our professionals name was Ben, and he was one of Dr. Abbott’s student’s while he was at U of I. We learned that he studied communications while he was here, and he also studied abroad in Bilbao during his junior year. We learned that he has worked in various countries within the last five years, and he is currently living and working in Dubai.

I was so excited to contact Benjamin, because I was really interested in learning more about the company he is working for and the jobs that he has held throughout the past few years. We sent him an email with a few short questions about his work and experiences traveling and working abroad, and he responded quickly with an enthusiastic and helpful response full of advice for students interested in pursuing a similar career path after graduation. The networking project in this class was probably one of my favorite projects that we did, because it gave me the opportunity to reach out to a professional that I would have never otherwise been able to contact. The advice that Benjamin gave to us was extremely relevant, and we were able to share his email response with our entire class. After hearing about Benjamin’s experiences traveling and working abroad, I am definitely even more motivated to pursue my dreams of doing the same. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Student Spotlight

by Danielle Morrow 

Reflection on SPAN 202: Business Spanish 

Never in my academic career have I been very interested in business. I’m currently studying to be a high school Spanish teacher, and business has seemed like quite an opposite field. But when I needed an extra Spanish class this semester, one of my friends convinced me to register for SPAN 202: Business Spanish. In all honesty, I was not excited about this class because it seemed far from my interests. But even on the first day of class, I knew my expectations were wrong. First off, the instructor, Ann Abbott, is a wonderful woman who genuinely cares about each and every one of her students. Every day, each student is greeted with a smile and a warm «¿cómo estás?». Ann’s attitude really set the mood for class each week. I always felt so comfortable and valued in the classroom. It also surprised me how much I enjoyed the subject material- we learned about the different economies of Latin America, and it reminded me of the time I spent studying in Costa Rica. Also, many of the business terms and etiquette we learned are extremely helpful as a young adult without much prior knowledge of finance and economics! One of the most valuable experiences of SPAN 202 for me was our social marketing project. We formed a “team” and made posts for our client’s social media accounts so they could gain more followers and activity on their accounts. It taught me a lot about how to catch someone’s eye and really grab their attention in ways I had not thought of before.

While I started off with mixed feelings about Business Spanish, ending the course, I can think of nothing but great things to say about the class. With a fairly small class size, I became close with many of my peers and gained a lot of team work experience that I definitely will apply in my career as a teacher. Business Spanish provided me with skills that I did not even know I needed! While the class is taught in Spanish, this would be the only restriction for who can take the class. Any student could gain essential business skills for the modern world and learn about the economies of Latin America!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Student Reflection

by Christine Kurt

The Five Best Aspects of SPAN 232

1.  Opportunities to speak Spanish with native speakers
Whether you work in one of the many bilingual schools in Champaign and Urbana, the Childcare Resource Center, La Línea, or the other various places around campus, you will gain extremely valuable experiences communicating with the Spanish-speaking populations connected to your organization. This was really interesting for me because you get to experience first hand the dialectal differences among Spanish speakers. Additionally, when I spoke in Spanish I felt that everyone was really patient and supportive when I practiced my Spanish. I had many opportunities to practice Spanish with my supervisor and got to speak with fluent Spanish-speakers in the community.

2. Cultural knowledge gained from in-class instruction
When thinking of the course, the thing that makes it unique is the community experience. However, it’s important to avoid overlooking the importance of the class portion. In class we spoke about refugees, difficulties in obtaining a green card, and the challenges of having children who need to translate for their parents at events such as parent-teacher conferences. All of these helped me realize the challenges many members of the Spanish-speaking community face. Also, as a volunteer, it was easier to see where C-U lacked resources and how these not-for-profit organizations make up for such deficits.

3. SPAN 232 is unlike any Spanish class on campus
Having Spanish as one of my majors has made me appreciative of the unbelievable array of topics University of Illinois Spanish courses possess. I’ve taken classes on linguistics, culture, grammar, and dialects of Spanish in the United States. While all of these courses were interesting and enriched my knowledge of the Spanish language, SPAN 232 is unique in its hands-on applications of topics. Social, speaking, and grammar are strengthened in class; social and cultural awareness learned in class are applied to volunteering in the community. The two distinct aspects of the class combined to give a duality of learning and application that I find unique to the course.

4. You gain close relationships with fellow volunteers
Spending 28 or more hours volunteering with others is a great way to foster new relationships and see the mutual benefits in volunteering. At first, we often think of volunteering as a rather one-sided type of relationship, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Volunteering strengthens your relationships with other volunteers and members of the community. This course has taught me that volunteering involves very reciprocal benefits for both the volunteer and the community. 

5. It helps you see beyond Champaign-Urbana as solely a college town
Oftentimes as students, it is easy to get wrapped up in our own daily routines and become comfortable with the places we frequent on campus. This course has really helped me realize that Champaign and Urbana contain more than just professors and students- there are whole other populations with their own unique needs and challenges. One of the most unexpected benefits of this course for me was my ability to see myself as a member of the community, rather than solely the university. If we, as students, adopt this mentality the campus and community as a whole will experience great improvement and strengthened bonds among these communities.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Student Networking: Career Advice from Ben Brodner

by Ann Abbott

This semester my Business Spanish students did a networking project in which they had to choose one of my former students (I provided a list), research them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, etc., and then contact them directly with a list of questions. (I'll provide the links to the lesson plans when I get back to my computer.) They did a great job, and they have already begun to receive replies.

Benjamin Brodner was an unforgettable student of mine, full of energy, enthusiasm and passion for languages and the people who speak them. I thought he was great and have been lucky enough to stay in touch with him through Facebook and follow his career trajectory with Abbott.

Here is his correspondence with my students. There are a lot of very valuable lessons here! Thankfully, Benjamin gave me his permission to share his words of wisdom on this blog so that future students can also benefit.

Dear All, 
Good morning from bright and sunny (hot) UAE! You are in a great class and have an awesome professor at that! I have your questions answered below; sorry I did this on lunch, so bear with me if I start rambling. I didn't proof read, so please don't let me lead by example. If you guys need any further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me again. 


  • The field that you are in now is very different than what you studied in college. How did you go from studying communications at U of I, to working as a budget analyst for a pharmaceuticals company? Many of us are unsure about exactly what possibilities will be available to us after graduation.

    Like most of you, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated college.....I still don't know what I want to do. When I studied abroad in Spain, I had a friend working for Abbott and he had a conference in Madrid and invited me to meet him there. So I did, and ended up taking a bunch of the employees out for a tour of the city and of course drinks. One of the employees was really impressed with my Spanish skills, really enjoyed my impromptu tour and she offered me a position when I graduated. From there, I knew that I wanted to travel, so I started searching on the company job board and creating contacts with whomever would talk to me. Long story short it was a bit of luck and a lot of communication. Any job you go to in the business world will have different practices, systems, ways of doing business, etc; any position you go to you will have to learn on the job. A communications major (or a liberal arts degree) sets you up with the skills necessary to succeed in the business world, for example, how to interact with people, take instruction, learn new things.  

  • In our research, we saw that you studied abroad in Bilbao, Spain. How did your study abroad experience while you were at U of I influence your career path and how did you frame your study abroad experience while applying for internships and jobs? The juniors and seniors in our group are preparing to apply for jobs and graduate schools and any advice would be extremely helpful.

    Studying abroad was like a drug for me; after getting the travel bug I just couldn't sit still. I wanted to see more, try more things, and meet more people from all over. Study abroad was the turning point in my life that helped me decide what I wanted to do. I didn't know what I wanted to do for work, but I knew I wanted it to involve travel. Studying abroad was my first experience with true independence. I lived with a host mom that didn't speak my mother tongue which forced me to learn Spanish. You have to be outgoing. My host mom worked at a bar. Everyday after class, I would go to her bar, order my glass of wine, and the locals would help me with my homework. None of them spoke English so it forced me to learn the language. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to use it in business but maybe one day I will pick it back up. My advice is, if you have the opportunity to do so, make sure you study abroad. 

  • Many of us are interested in working abroad after we graduate, and we would appreciate any advice you have about preparing for a move abroad. How did you get ready to move to Dubai from the United States? What steps did you take?

    So this is my third country. I started living in Switzerland for a year, on to Ireland for about 1.5 years, and now Dubai for 1.5 years....I am sort of desensitized with moving abroad. It's pretty easy once you get the hang of it. So I will break this down into two answers: 1. Finding how to do it. 2. Actually pulling the trigger. 

    1. Finding a job outside of the US. If you work for a multinational company, it is pretty easy to get them to move you around. You have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone in terms of work and try new things. When I accepted my first out of US job in Switzerland I had NO idea what I was going to be doing. I was a Demand Analyst and had no idea what the word 'demand' actually meant in that sense. My manager at that time took a huge risk hiring me for the role based off of work ethic and it paid off for both parties. This was after a few years in Abbott so I was able to prove my work ethic to the right people to get that risk taken. 

    2. When I first left the U.S. I was tweaking a bit. Leaving friends, family, setting up a new life in some country I know no one in. Yes it is difficult doing those things, but you're only young once. You won't get the chance to have an experience of living in these random locations when you're married, have kids, own a house, etc. Once I got over the fear of the first move, I was able to continue with the other moves into countries. The hardest was definitely to Dubai. I am in a Muslim culture where it is 'technically' illegal to drink. 

  • How does the business culture differ in Dubai compared to the United States? How difficult was the integration into not only a new culture but a completely different business environment?

    Dubai culture specifically varies a lot. I am the only American in an office of about 50 people. Many meetings that I will be attending will drift into Arabic and I will have to clear my throat, or respond in English to get the conversation back to a language I understand. That can be very tough when you have to take business decisions. Also working with governments out here in the Middle East to import stock (different, strict laws), working in multiple currencies, dealing with multiple languages, etc. When I first arrived in Dubai, my manager asked me to show him on a map Iran and Iraq, two countries under my responsibility, and I couldn't do it. Needless to say, that is one thing I can do now. 

  • If you could work anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why?
  • After 5 years and around 50 countries, I am ready to head back to the U.S. Global experience is something that they can not teach you in your MBA, CPA, etc. I come back to the U.S. with knowledge that can not be learned in a classroom and a more open minded view of the business world. 

    IF I was to continue traveling, I would recommend like to go to Argentina or Singapore. 

    My recommendations for you as students of places to look for jobs: 

    Dubai - Pretty easy as an American to find a job. They are always looking for English speaking teachers and it is the hub for US multinational companies to set base up for Middle East operations. Plus it is tax free, has the biggest airline in the world, and I can assure you can have an alcoholic beverage or two and not be deported. 

    Switzerland - One of the best standards of living: high wages, great public transportation, very big pharmaceutical country. Many countries go here as they offer low corporate tax rates. 

    Ireland - My favorite country to have lived for work and it aligns closely to U.S. values. Very easy move.