Panelists encouraged UD students to say "yes" to international opportunities.

Persistence goes a long way

International Education Week panel encourages students to say 'yes'

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4:30 p.m., Nov. 22, 2013--An International Education Week panel encouraged University of Delaware students to say “yes” to global opportunities and to be unafraid of the unknown.

The panel was moderated by Ralph Begleiter, former CNN correspondent who is director of UD’s Center for Political Communication and whose career has taken him around the world.

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While at UD, Begleiter has led students on study programs to places as diverse as Cuba and Antarctica.

The panel included Debra Hess Norris, Henry Francis du Pont Chair in Fine Arts and chair of the Department of Art Conservation, who is doing preservation work in the Middle East; Douglas J. Buttrey, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and an active member of Engineers without Borders; and Paul Eckert, Asian correspondent for Reuters.

Panelists reminisced about the beginnings of their global experiences, with Eckert saying that as a teenager he did not set out for an international career -- in fact the first plane he rode was on his way to graduate school in Taiwan. Rather, it was educational experience abroad that piqued his interest. 

Eckert offered three tips to students attending the discussion -- start pursuing international interests early, learn languages because being multi-lingual is beneficial, and do not be rigid when it comes to ideas about culture.

“If you keep an open mind you will be surprised where you land,” he said.

Norris, a native of Delaware, attended UD for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in art conservation and dreamed of working internationally, taking advantage of networks to make that a reality. 

“So much of [a career] is about friendships and people, making those connections,” she said. “It all starts to spiral and build into opportunities.”

Norris stressed the importance of being one’s own advocate, remaining persistent and demonstrating passion. She urged students to take advantage of all the contacts at UD and to work closely with advisers.

Begleiter noted that when Norris dreamed of being a global citizen, she dreamed of traveling to places such as London, Paris and Rome. Little did she know that she would find herself in Iraq as an expert helping preserve history and art through the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage.

Begleiter has traveled to more than 100 countries, reported for CNN in treacherous areas and “had international in my blood.”

He boldly said, “I’ll do that,” after a foreign affairs reporter quit to go to another station and the producer looked around asking for a new correspondent. 

“When the moment arises in your life, you have to be at a mental state to be able to say, ‘You know what, yeah that’s me. I’m doing it.’”

Begleiter said he had no idea what direction that new position would to take him, and every step of the way it was a case of stepping up and saying “yes.”

Buttrey shared his story of hard work, finishing his doctorate at a quick pace, and noted that the creation of connections with a professor during research helped him end up at Cambridge, which in turn led to opportunities in India, Africa and other parts of the world.

Buttrey established friendships across the globe and because of his work ethic was offered opportunities he could not refuse. 

The panel’s message to students was to say yes, to overcome obstacles, to make new connections and to stay in contact with those people, networking and remaining persistent.

Students walked away inspired to take risks, discover their passion and to begin to think about their future. Leesa Snyder, a sophomore studying human services, has traveled internationally but said she was beginning to look into study abroad. “They are right when they say ‘everything will fall into place.’ This inspired me to keep looking; there are so many opportunities out there.”

Avery White said she plans to go to France for Winter Session. Listening to the panel’s stories of international education encouraged her interest in studying for a master’s degree abroad. After the discussion she was able to have conversations with panel members about their experiences. “We don’t need to know the language or live there to connect with people abroad. Like the panel said, you really need to have the mindset to say ‘yes,’ network and start early.”

Article by Elizabeth Adams

Photographs by Tim Kim

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