Words by Emily McGeary, a CAPA alumna who studied abroad in London during Fall 2014, and now works in the study abroad industry.
After I studied abroad with CAPA London in the fall of 2014, I knew my future career needed to have an international focus. Being in London opened my mind to people and places that were unfamiliar. Suddenly, the broader world became concrete to me and I wanted to continue thinking globally and incorporating cultures outside my own in my daily life back in the United States.
Education has always been important to me. Before studying abroad, my goal had been to work in education administration. I wanted to stay in the university environment and work with college students. I had hoped to be an academic advisor or admissions recruiter, but after I studied abroad, I decided I wanted to help college students see another part of the world like I had the opportunity to do.
This dream didn’t come to fruition right away. In fact, it would be a long process before I was hired in a full-time position with an international focus. It was something I had to work toward and I needed time to determine the balance between where my skills would be most useful and what kind of positions I was passionate about.
At first, I was able to direct my newfound energy into my role as a CAPA Ambassador. I loved being able to talk about my experiences in London. My goal was to show students how they could expand on their learning by participating in a study abroad program. For example, one of my favorite memories from studying abroad was attending the annual Jane Austen Festival in the city of Bath. I was an English major and had taken a course back home on Jane Austen’s novels. The festival was an amazing way to get a glimpse of life in the Regency Era as everyone dressed up in period appropriate attire and paraded together through the streets. The stories came alive for me in a way that couldn’t have happened anywhere else. These are the kind of experiences that I want future students to have. As a CAPA Ambassador, I revisited my Jane Austen class and shared my experience with them. Students were excited when I explained how they could build off of what they were learning at university on a study abroad experience.
After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I decided to pursue a master’s in higher education administration. I took courses in international education as well as broader subjects like student development theory and higher education law. I also got an on-campus job working in my university’s study abroad office. It wasn’t the most glamorous position—I did a lot of data entry and transcript processing—but it was a chance to learn more about the effort that goes into making the experience a reality for students. I also took every opportunity to volunteer at orientations, pre-departure events, and our study abroad fairs to meet students and share my stories and advice with them.
Leading up to graduation, I was really lucky to do an internship with a locally based study abroad organization. I learned more about how study abroad programing is developed, marketed, and executed. I was able to see the day-to-day operations and it helped to reaffirm my goal of working full-time in this field.
A few weeks before graduating, I started applying to entry-level positions I could picture myself in. One of the last courses I took in my master’s program was about international education and focused more on incoming international students to the U.S. as opposed to American students studying abroad. I didn’t know as much about this side of the field, but the course inspired me to apply for a job with Global Launch, a top intensive English program at Arizona State University. After a few interviews, I was offered the position of Registration & Scheduling Specialist. I get to help with class scheduling, enrollment projections, and registering our international students in the government’s SEVIS system. I’m learning all about immigration, student visas, and the unique challenges that these students face.
I actually just hit my 90-day mark and I couldn’t be happier about the work I’m doing. I love being a part of a university that welcomes international students and realizes the importance of a global education. I think the work international educators do, whether inbound or outbound students, is more important than it ever has been in the United States and I’m very proud to be a part of it all.
I still have more goals I’d like to reach. I would someday like to work abroad (getting back to London would be the ultimate dream). I also would like to get a Ph.D. and explore the research side of int’l ed. Most importantly, though, I want to keep traveling and expanding my knowledge of the world. I haven’t done anything quite as ambitious as London was, but I have seen a bit more of the U.S. since studying abroad. I even have an upcoming trip to Boston, MA, which I hear is quite the change from sunny Arizona!
Whatever my future holds, I know I have to keep sharing my study abroad story. I want everyone to know the potential the experience holds and the possibilities that open up when you travel the world and immerse yourself in a new place. You can take it from me, it really can be a life-changing decision!