Why I LOVE My International Career

collage of heart-shaped world flags
In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we asked professionals with and without disabilities why they chose a career in international education and international affairs and what they enjoy most about their job. We noticed the word "love" came up a lot!

Lesley Davis

Assistant Dean for International Programs at Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Q. In a nutshell, what do you do?
I am responsible for incoming international students in our graduate degree programs, outgoing students studying abroad, visiting scholars, and international partnerships. I've never wanted to do anything else. I studied abroad in college, lived abroad afterwards, and that was it!

Q. Do you have a disability? If so, how does this enhance your work?
Yes, and since I have used a wheelchair, I’ve been to Korea, Ireland and Spain. Every travel experience is an accessibility study, and I love that!

Q. What is your advice to those who want a career in international education?
You can enjoy the benefits of a career in international education even if you don't work in an international education office. Volunteer locally, meet international students, become a host family, join a Sister Cities group, etc.

Are you someone with a disability looking for an international education mentor? Let us put you in touch with Lesley!

Karolyn Wojtowicz

International Student Advisor at Seattle Central College International Education Programs

Q. What made you decide to pursue a career in international education?
I actually fell into it! As an undergraduate, I worked in the study abroad office and worked with admissions to recruit international students. Later, I co-led the school's first faculty-led program abroad to Rwanda and Tanzania. Since then my advising has encompassed study abroad scholarships, improving retention, and helping students translate their study abroad experiences to their long-term career goals.

Q. What do you enjoy most about working in this field?
I love helping people learn about other cultures! I come from a small hometown where most people don't even travel to another state, much less another country. I thought my career pathway would lead me to working in nonprofit or with the government, but I seem to have the academia bug!

Q. Do you have any advice to those who want a career in international education?
Be open-minded to various opportunities within international education! Being in each of the positions I've had has helped me learn more about what the other offices do on campus and has helped me gain skills that make me more marketable.

Are you someone with a disability looking for an international education mentor? Let us put you in touch with Karolyn!

Irene Scott

Study Abroad Advisor at Texas A&M University, Study Abroad Programs Office

Q. How does having a disability work to your advantage in your job?
As a professional with a congenital hearing impairment who has traveled to over 10 countries, I understand firsthand the challenges and benefits of providing services to students with disabilities.

Q. Why were you drawn to this field?
Participation in an international program gives students the opportunity to develop life skills (independence, problem-solving, critical thinking, and confidence), improve language acquisition, bridge gaps among cultural differences through friendship, as well as broaden knowledge and experience relevant to academic and/or professional goals.

Q. What do you love about your job?
Making these experiences accessible for all students!

Continue reading about Irene and her tips for leading by example.

Sarah Kate Hartt

Study Abroad Program Manager at University of Colorado Boulder, Office of International Education

Q. What made you decide to pursue a career in international education?
Studying abroad was a highlight of my undergraduate experience. I made mistakes and learned from them, connected with people I once thought were so different from me, adapted to a new pace, and felt so ALIVE. I wanted to stay connected to that world and make it possible for others to get out there too.

Q. What do you enjoy most about working in this field?
I get to work with some incredibly driven, adventurous students and witness their growth and discovery first-hand. Professionals in this field also tend to wear many hats, so there's always opportunity to learn something new. For example, I coordinate advising, supervise an awesome team of Peer Advisors, and work on diversity and access initiatives.

Q. What would you tell those who want a career in international education?
Gain international experience, work on being able to articulate your experiences beyond "it was awesome," form opinions about hot topics in the field, network and ask questions. The field is becoming more and more diverse as it grows, so there are lots of innovative ways to get your foot in the door.

Are you someone with a disability looking for an international education mentor? Let us put you in touch with Sarah Kate!

Alex Barrasso

Deputy Political/Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Prague

On his role as a Foreign Service Officer:
I ensure that policymakers in Washington have current information and analysis about political and economic developments in the Czech Republic so they can make well-informed decisions.

On why he loves working for an agency that places its employees around the world:
“I joined the State Department because I like learning languages, experiencing different cultures, building relationships, and representing the U.S...I have been fortunate enough to experience hospitality the world over and to interact with people from a wide range of cultures."

On having access to disability accommodations on the job:
"I have been blind since birth...Everywhere I go, the State Department has to ensure that appropriate reasonable accommodations are in place so that I can perform up to the standards expected of all employees.”

Alex's advice to anyone who wants to work as a Foreign Service Officer:
“The Embassy seeks energetic, adventurous employees who believe in the core values for which the U.S. stands, and are willing to promote those values [abroad]. The most surprising thing about the State Department is that it offers jobs for everyone...whether you studied history, biology, it does not matter. There is a job for you with us."

Responses are excerpted from "Government: The Shining Sector" by Katie Mcky for CAREERS and the disABLED. Read the full article here.

Author: 

Ashley Holben