Experiencing the world
UD panelists share insights into international experience
9:53 a.m., Nov. 15, 2012--When Brian Jordan returned to the United States after spending two years in Bulgaria as a Peace Corps volunteer, he had to remember to nod when he meant yes and shake his head for no. The gestures, which have opposite meanings to Americans and Bulgarians, continue to remind him about the cultural and communication differences between his host and home countries.
Jordan, who received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware in 2003, returned to campus on Tuesday, Nov. 13, to lend his expertise to a panel discussion on international careers. Now an attorney, he was joined by Tanya Kang of the Institute for Global Studies, Robin Marks of the Career Services Center, Stephen Mangat from the Office of Alumni Relations, and Justin Deleon, a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science and International Relations.
Lessons from Mandela
Study abroad honors
Kang taught English for a year through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. She shared information from the American Institute for Foreign Study and emphasized the many benefits of overseas assignments, including improved cognitive and interpersonal skills and an increased tolerance for ambiguity and diversity.
“It’s important to reflect on the experience afterwards to identify how it strengthened your skills and changed your perspective so that you can market yourself to employers,” she said.
Mangat spent two years in the Peace Corps teaching in Romania after he graduated from UD in 2004. He described the experience as transformative, helping him to appreciate everything he has here in the U.S.
“I learned skills way beyond teaching,” he said, “including self-reliance and the ability to adapt to another culture. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Jordan’s experience in Bulgaria played into his decision to pursue a career in law. “The Peace Corps is what got me into law school,” he said. “It provided me with the motivation as well as a better resume. My idealism was fostered by the Peace Corps, and I was able to bring that back and apply it to the law.”
DeLeon has done service work in a number of countries including Thailand, Uganda and Northern Ireland. With a strong commitment to eradicating prejudice, conflict and poverty, he emphasized that students should think carefully about what their passions are when they choose to go abroad.
“I got into international work because I had really strong commitments,” he said. “Know what your commitments are and then put yourself in a position that will let you move in that direction.”
Marks introduced attendees to a new service called Passport Careers, offered by UD’s Career Services Center. The website provides a number of resources, including information about studying and working abroad, work permits, job opportunities, and handling cultural differences during job searches. Students can log in to the site from the Blue Hen Careers portal.
Marks emphasized the importance of networking and informational interviewing, which involves talking with people who are currently working in the field to gain a better understanding of an occupation or industry and to build a network of contacts in that field.
Other advice from the panel? Be resourceful, use your UD contacts, and, above all, don’t be afraid to go.
International Education Week
The panel discussion was part of International Education Week (IEW), an annual celebration of international programs that was started by the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Education. IEW is observed across the United States and in more than 100 countries. The slate of activities at UD included films, lectures, galleries, ethnic foods, and an international fashion and talent show.
IEW at UD is a collaboration between the Office of Residence Life, the English Language Institute, the Confucius Institute and the Institute for Global Studies, with additional contributions from other offices and departments throughout campus. It is being held from Nov. 12–16.
Article by Diane Kukich
Photos by Jake Schwarzinger