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Post-graduation Experiences and Future Plans
After graduating in summer 2005, I seized an opportunity in Washington, DC to work for Futures Group International, a public health company that works to improve the health policy environment in developing countries. It was a perfect fit as I left Illinois, because the position sought a Spanish speaker with developing country experience and it gave me exposure to international work, international colleagues, and our country’s cosmopolitan capital city. Outside of work, some of my favorite activities were playing saxophone in a Cuban band, volunteering with Special Olympics, and playing in a basketball league.
After several years working primarily on contract management and administration, my employer presented me with the opportunity to base myself in Lima, Peru on one of our projects and take on greater responsibility, including research and project coordination. I jumped at the chance, learned a lot and enjoyed it.
While in Peru, and as I became increasingly interested in the role of businesses in social and environmental issues, I applied for a third time to the Henry Luce Scholars Program <http://www.hluce.org/lsprogram.aspx> (I first applied during my Senior year). I suggest students get to know the National and International Scholarships Office <http://www.topscholars.illinois.edu> at U of I. Director David Schug has been extremely helpful year after year, even post-graduation, and his office exists to provide scholarship opportunities that are often perfect for us International/Global Studies majors.
I earned a 2009-10 Luce Scholarship and just completed the Luce year in Beijing where I researched corporate social responsibility and sustainability at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management. For the near-term, because of the pace of change in China and the challenge of learning Mandarin, I plan to continue working in Beijing and at the intersection of business and society.
Advice for incoming Global Studies students
As entertaining as Woody Allen is, he is no joke. His famous quote is spot-on: “Eighty percent of life is just showing up.”
So if showing up is 80%, then I would say the next 10% consists of bringing a can-do attitude and your genuine interest in the people or subject at hand. The final 10% is out of your hands, so do your best!
- Take technical courses. As long as you are paying for an expensive college education, try to take a few of the courses that provide the most “life-skill” for your dollar. Whether you are taking an intro to bowling class or a vanguard computer science course at one of the finest universities that teaches the subject, tuition is the same. So try a basic engineering course, accounting, stats, web design or other computer science courses. As grueling as the course may be compared to that other GenEd class, do the best to get a decent grade. Knowing how to apply new and useful skills will matter more long-term than a GPA loss of a tenth of a percentage.
- Build relationships with your professors. You have heard it before, but for good reason: it cannot be over-emphasized! See them, learn from them, and befriend them.
- Pursue summer internships and jobs that build skills toward your desired career. If you are unsure as to your career direction, then try to build these essential international career skills:
- Teamwork and interpersonal relationships
- Public-speaking and presentation skills
- Technical skills (research, writing, even specialties such as Engineering, IT...)
- Language skills (including navigating life and work in a foreign country).
- Invest your time wisely, with the long-term in mind: Sacrificing better pay in a summer job can be extremely tough in the short-term, but well worth the pay-back long-term.
- You are an International/Global Studies major, so do your best to make at least two of these summer jobs either international in nature or (better yet) actual foreign postings.
I began my freshman year as a Spanish major, with the plan that I would later complement it with another major. After my Sophomore year on the LAS Academic Year Program in Barcelona, Spain, I added the International Studies major with a focus on the European Union. I was most interested in the Mediterranean region and EU-North Africa relations. After arranging with the Study Abroad Office to study my Junior year Spring semester in Istanbul, Turkey, several shocking November bombings and a State Department travel warning meant I was not destined for Istanbul, nor was I registered for Spring courses at U of I. The Study Abroad Office helped to reroute me to a town near Marseille, France and a program with the Institute for American Universities in Aix-en-Provence, where I studied French and logged more International Studies coursework.
- Freshman year I lived in the Global Crossroads dorm - I recommend it to anyone interested in enjoying foreign study abroad students as room and floor-mates.
- The summer after Sophomore year in the LAS Barcelona program I stayed to teach English at a youth summer camp.
- After the Junior year spring semester in France AIESEC <http://www.aiesec.org> Illinois helped me secure an internship in a pilot State Department-funded Arab-American relations program, called Salaam, working with disadvantaged youth in urban slums in Morocco.
- Senior year: after returning from the Morocco program, I supported the AIESEC Illinois chapter to promote the Salaam program, speaking to student groups to encourage Illinois students to apply.
- Senior year spring semester I joined a group of fraternity and residential learning community brothers to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to help build a community center and interact with youth of the Oglala Sioux tribe.
- Spoke to fraternities and sororities across campus to encourage study abroad.
- Kept tabs on the many lectures and meetings that take place with famous and inspiring guests that we are fortunate to have visit campus. I recommend Illinois CAS events <http://cas.illinois.edu/Home/Default.aspx> .
- Summer after Senior year: Worked as an Outreach Assistant at the campus EU Center <http://www.euc.illinois.edu/> and volunteered with the Illinois Intensive English Institute <http://www.iei.uiuc.edu/> by meeting with a Korean student to help him improve his English.
Most Valuable Experience of Undergraduate Years
Gaining experience overseas, getting to know my professors at Illinois, and building friendships.
Fondest Memory of Undergraduate Years
My Senior year, the 2005 Illinois basketball team’s race to the championship game
Most Challenging Moment as an Undergraduate
Fearing I was not performing as well as I could in my classes. Solution: visit my professors to learn the tough subjects directly from them and build a relationship. I admit I did not do it enough.
For further details or questions, you can reach Mark Wehling by phone or email:
Beijing mobile: (86) 136 9326 4240
US Cell (only when in US): 202.531.0311