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Personal Stories
young woman sits on the bridge of a canal, with bicycle and canal visible behind her

Empathy as Employability

With the busiest season just behind her, Shannon Kelly reflects on the role she and her colleagues played in the experiences of over 2000 students from around the world who arrived in the U.S. this summer through Spirit Cultural Exchange, where Shannon works as an intern:

"These students are thousands of miles away from their families and friends; we're here to be advocates for them."

Personal Stories
Elana with a green hillside behind

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: An Internship in Australia

From the beginning of her studies at Boston University, Elana knew she wanted field experience helping children with and without disabilities to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

“I thought it would be cool to do an internship overseas because it would give me a unique perspective from another culture for my future career.”

So she looked into all her options, and took an active role in getting necessary accommodations for an internship while studying abroad in Australia for a semester.

Personal Stories
vegetables at a market

Compelled to Do More in a Complex World

Sean didn’t know what to expect on his first journey abroad, so he focused on the usual.

“I wondered how easy it would be to get around, what people’s reactions would be to me, and how different it would be from what I’m used to in the United States.”

What he discovered in Nicaragua was the travel concerns ended up being much less of an issue, for which he now admits he may have over prepared. Instead, he found himself grappling more with the cultural contradictions he discovered there.

Personal Stories
Xuan in her wheelchair outside Buckingham Palace

Using Vocational Rehabilitation for a Personal Assistant Abroad

What if your major is International Studies or your degree requires you to take classes overseas? How can you study abroad during your college experience, and pay for your personal assistant while traveling? These questions were always lingering in the background waiting to be answered for Xuan Troung, a student at North Carolina State University who has osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. To find the answers, she turned to her Vocational Rehabilitation counselor.

Personal Stories
Alexandra Futty with festival dressed Trinidadian

Explore the World Around You

Alexandra Futty has always been determined to not lead a “small life.” As a senior in high school she raised $10,000 and convinced her parents and Catholic school to allow her take a half year to go on a cultural exchange to India. “I grew up in a small town in Ohio that was very homogenous, very working class, very white, very Christian. And my whole life I have straddled the place between the sighted and non-sighted. I always felt this strong sensation that there was a larger world than what I experienced.”

Alexandra’s explorations continued as a senior in college when she went to Trinidad for two months to do independent research for her undergraduate thesis. After graduation, she spent a year in Trinidad on a Fulbright Student scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

Personal Stories
Philippines rainforest; Photo by: pixabay.com, Creative Commons Deed CC0

Go Abroad, Join the Foreign Service

Jessica Chesbro first learned about the Foreign Service while she was living in a bamboo hut in a small farming village in the Philippines. At the time, she was serving in the Peace Corps and working with abused children.

“The Peace Corps experience was life-changing. I learned so much about life there, and really strengthened my passion both for travel and for helping people.”

It was also life-changing because it led to her current career with the Foreign Service.

Personal Stories
Christie with class in China

Disability Research in Hong Kong

When Christie Gilson received an offer to teach at Moravian College in Pennsylvania, she was ready to make the move. “I was not at all intimidated by the thought of pulling up roots and moving far away from home by myself. After all, I had successfully done so in Hong Kong beforehand.”

Personal Stories
Beth near Berlin gate

Study Abroad: Stepping Stone to a Career

According to Beth Ocrant, “Every job is a stepping stone.”

For Beth, who is blind, the stepping stone that led to her first job was a study abroad experience at the University of Sunderland in England.

Personal Stories
Carla Valpeoz in Arabic covering dress

Middle East Experiences Lead to Career Path

Carla Valpeoz wouldn’t take no for an answer. When her application for the Peace Corps was unsuccessful, she decided to contact a friend in Yemen to brainstorm other ideas for an international exchange. 

“I asked him if he knew of any job I could do for six months that was social justice based. He then emailed me and said he had something waiting, so I went."

Personal Stories
Jack Godwin with statue of father-son Bulgarian writers Petko and Pencho Slaveykov

Lifetime Connections as a Fulbright Alumnus

Dr. Jack Godwin has made international education his life mission. He is changing the assumption that it’s just about one study abroad experience as an undergraduate. Throughout his professional career as a university administrator, he has participated in the U.S. Department of State-sponsored J. William Fulbright Program to different countries every few years.

While an international experience is voluntary, he finds those who choose it to be most interesting.

Personal Stories
Dwight Richardson Kelly dressed warmly on fall day at Oxford

Accessing Information and Insight in the UK

One reason Dwight Richardson Kelly chose his study abroad program was to work on his writing. The writing intensive aspects of the Oxford University system were appealing, even though he knew with his learning disability he would need the right accommodations.

“I absolutely wanted a rigorous experience, but I knew that without appropriate accommodations I would spend all my time writing the required essays and wouldn’t be able to experience the other parts of the program, which is really important, like the cultural pieces and to integrate into the university.”

Personal Stories
Anne is seated on a bridge covered in thousands of locks.

Exchange Launches Career in Social Media

In her work as a social media strategist and communications guru, Anne craves the chance to build connections with people around the globe. “I've always had a fervor for meeting people and finding ways to bond, and people gravitate toward that both online and offline.”

What’s Anne's secret to success? On her website, she mentions her “willingness to adapt,” which “spawns innovation." In today’s competitive economy, these qualities make job seekers stand out.

Personal Stories
Group photo with Francis and three friends

In Search of a Different Career Path

Sitting in class with Deaf peers and a teacher signing in American Sign Language, I realized how fortunate I was to be at Ohlone College in Fremont, California.

There, I studied English and Math, made friends with Deaf international and American students, learned from signing instructors, and played on the college soccer team. What would I have done had I not come to the United States? When I finished high school in Zambia, I likely would have lived with a friend and tried finding odd jobs to get by.

Personal Stories
Denise's guide dog rests on the floor of a stage

International Exchange Launches - and Enhances - a Career

Denise works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service. She has been blind from birth and has always loved languages. Her study of French and Spanish began in high school and continued through college, where she was a language major. As Denise enhanced her language skills, she sought out opportunities to get involved in international exchange, but encountered barriers related to her disability.

Personal Stories
Asian Temple

Reflections on an International Career Teaching English

After earning a college degree in Japanese and Chinese, taking seven trips to China to work and study, and twelve trips to Japan and Korea to teach English, one might consider me an expert, but I don’t feel like one.