Currently, I live and work in Japan, but what really sparked my interest in living abroad permanently was my first trip to Japan as a student. Study abroad is so important to me and I hope to make my career helping others travel and study in other countries. Here is something I wrote about my time as an intern when I was an undergraduate.
Before I even left my home university, I was already talking with my study abroad advisor about doing an internship at the study abroad programs office. I told her to definitely keep me on her list of candidates and then I set off for my academic year abroad in Kyoto, Japan. My first week back on campus, I had an interview and was chosen as one of eight interns in our office.
At our first meeting, we were selected for specific roles and came up with ideas for getting the word out about studying abroad. I worked in the office once a week, answering phones and setting up appointments for our information sessions. First, students would set up an appointment to attend an info session, where two of us interns would give a presentation to the prospective students on the process of finding a program and applying. Then, we would answer their specific questions and personally go through our databases to help them find a few programs to look into.
The information sessions are some of my favorite memories from college. I got to help nervous-looking students, who thought they had no chance of finding nursing or engineering programs abroad, find the perfect program as I watched their eyes light up. We interns would calm their fears about fees, tell them about scholarships, and talk about our own personal experiences abroad to eager listeners. We felt like superheroes, guiding each student to their perfect program.
We also went out all over the campus, passing out flyers, t-shirts, and advertising in chalk on the sidewalk. We went to classrooms and spread the word about the many programs available, answered questions and told stories about our lives abroad. We were also in charge of the pre-departure orientations for students who would be jetting off to their host countries. We explained what the stages of culture shock felt like and how to cope and who to call in case of an emergency.
My work as a study abroad intern was the best thing I could have done as a returnee. Well after my friends were sick of hearing about my time abroad, students seeking to go abroad themselves were dying to hear what I had to say. I got to work with other students who were just like me, and we understood and encouraged each other as we talked about our future travel plans.
Interning was the perfect ending to my undergraduate career. I networked and learned more about working in an international programs office, I met hundreds of students from dozens of other countries, and I found a way to make immediate use of my international experience. My first few weeks back to school after a year abroad were lonely, but my internship was the best cure.
If you are returning from study abroad, consider becoming an intern or getting involved in study abroad events. Meet other international students, and talk to others with study abroad experience. You will make lifelong friends and find a great way to feel like a leader on your campus. The experience you achieved abroad was one-sided. Return with purpose and experience the job of helping others succeed abroad.