I recently returned from teaching abroad as an English language assistant for the Study, Intercultural Training and Experience (SITE) internship program, which took place in Lombardy, Italy. During the duration of this internship I worked in two different high schools in Milan teaching English conversational skills. Currently, I am the chapter relations coordinator for the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). CoSN is a professional organization for school district technology leaders with the goal of implementing technology into K-12 education.
My first post-grad position as an English language assistant for the SITE program, granted me the opportunity to travel and see different cultures, which was an extremely valuable experience for me. As an anthropology major we spent a lot of time talking about cultural immersion in class and to be afforded the opportunity to do just that was amazing and enlightening.
Moreover, the time I spent teaching abroad helped me to realize what career path I was interested in pursuing upon my return to the United States. Teaching in a scientific school and a technical school made me intensely aware of the dichotomy in the education system. Upon my return to the United States, this motivated me to find a full-time position directly involved with improving the American education system.
Currently, there are many positive factors to my new position with CoSN. Miraculously (and almost serendipitously), I found a position working right in the heart of Washington, D.C., which was a main goal of mine when looking for a full-time position. More important than finding the ideal location was to find a company whose mission lined up with my own. I am thankful to work at an association whose main mission of improving the American education system lined up flawlessly with my own goals.
The main factors that contributed to successfully attaining my position at a non-profit association in Washington D.C. came down to three factors; my bachelor’s degree in anthropology, my experience abroad as a SITE intern, and the numerous leadership positions I had on campus as an undergraduate student.
My degree in anthropology was a huge asset when searching for jobs. In particular, interviewers were impressed with my ability to think both critically and from multiple perspectives. My personal value of the importance of teamwork and the value I placed upon working on teams made up of people from very diverse backgrounds assisted me in standing out in the applicant pool.
My year abroad as an English language assistant allowed me to apply everything I had learned in the classroom to real life. Not only did this position allow me to travel and explore, I also realized what path I wanted to pursue professionally. It is due to my year abroad, that I realized it is my goal to improve the American education system.
Lastly, more than just my studies, it was the multiple leadership positions I held on campus that prepared me practically for what was to come after graduation. As a Patriot Leader, Resident Advisor, and President of Mason’s Italian Club, among others, I gained the confidence to be assertive and decisive. Due to the diverse student population of George Mason University, I also had the opportunity to work with people from all backgrounds.
Overall, it was not just my degree that prepared me for post-graduation life. It was the amalgamation of the course work, the practical experiences I had as a student-worker and the guidance of sagacious mentors that really prepared me to succeed after graduation.
One of my most important pieces of advice for students trying to develop their careers is to write down your goals and the specifics of what you want to happen in your future. Put these thoughts down in ink and you won't run the risk of forgetting of what you are looking for.
My second piece of advice is to apply, apply, and apply. You might not match up with a position description 100% or you might think an opportunity is out of your league, but you never know what advantages might come your way when you put yourself out there.
My last piece of advice, and arguably the most important, is to find your mentor while you are still an undergraduate student. Find a professor that challenges you intellectually and who you are comfortable talking to about your studies and about your future aspirations. I promise you if you nurture this relationship, that mentor will be able to help you discover opportunities unbeknownst to you.