International Education Month 2020 Panel Recap by Catelyn Meredith

For International Education Month, PackAbroad Ambassadors hosted a panel covering opportunities after graduation. We had speakers from Fulbright, the PeaceCorps and JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program. They shared information about why they wanted to go abroad, how they applied/the selection process, their experiences and lessons learned. This was followed by a Q&A that covered reasons to go abroad post-grad. The list of reasons included but not limited to was growth in interpersonal skills and cross-cultural communication, development of career skills through higher education or entering the workforce in a foreign country, and an incredible experience exploring new culture broadening your perspective. 

An NC State graduate spoke on the Fulbright Scholar Program and her experience participating in it last year as a graduate student at Duke University. Chloe Shevlin was able to find a program that specifically fit her unique interest regarding Healthcare in the UK. During her time she was able to connect with the culture around her and meet new people forming connections that are valuable to her still. The Fulbright Program awards students the opportunity to perform graduate work and research abroad. By completing her Master’s program abroad, Chloe is one step closer to her professional goals. 

The Eastern North Carolina recruiter for PeaceCorps, Rashad Thacker, (a returning guest speaker for PAA meetings) spoke again about his experience and the benefits of PeaceCorps. On top of receiving healthcare and a monthly stipend (that covers the cost of rent, food, travel and more) volunteering with the PeaceCorps will get you a Diplomatic Visa for your stay. You also receive access to a strong networking system that recognizes its volunteers and connects returnees to further job opportunities. There are PeaceCorps volunteers in over 60 countries working in one of six different fields: agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth development. When he wasn’t mentoring kids and creating local Arts programs, Rashad spent his time traveling and immersing himself in Peruvian culture during his two years there in 2016-2018, before taking his current position with them. 

For the JET Program, it is expected that applicants are U.S. citizens and have a Bachelor’s Degree by the time of arrival. The contract period is a year beginning the day of arrival and can be renewed up to 4 times. Maura McCarthy shared that it is important to consider the cost of living in your city as well as factoring travel costs when there. To stand out in the applicant pool, having background experience working with kids or teaching as well as a degree in education like a TESL minor or certification can show the magnitude of your interest in the program. But anyone is encouraged to pursue this opportunity as a way to spend a gap year or when taking a break between graduate school programs like Med/Law school. Some of the benefits of this program she stated are that every skill that you develop studying abroad is amplified when working abroad: cooperation with others and managing stressful situations, developing and demonstrating patience and a strong work ethic in a foreign country, deep immersion in another culture and forming lifelong connections. There is a strong community that comes after involvement in JET. The JET Alumni Association supports you socially and professionally after taking part in the program through networking and connecting with past students/coworkers.  

Although this season of study abroad (and the year 2020 itself) has not been what any of us expected – what with impromptu departures, fleeing and fearing COVID, and cancelled classes in-person and abroad – having the opportunity to hear personal stories about available programs is an asset that we can all take with us into a new year of travel and international opportunities, as well as into our career fields with an advantage and awareness of global importance. 

Thank you again to our presenters who shared their passion for going abroad and for so freely giving advice. Go Abroad! Go Pack!

Catelyn Meredith ’23 | Vice President of PackAbroad Ambassadors