Recently, I have noticed a pattern of student appointments that I’ve conducted who are interested or will be participating in Elon University’s Study USA program. For a little more context, Study USA is a program unique to Elon in the sense that the University offers three different centers: Elon in Los Angeles, Elon in New York, and Elon in San Francisco. Participating in any of these programs would require successful completion of an internship and at least one course taught by an Elon University faculty at each site, so it’s a great way to complete any Experiential Learning Requirements!
Additionally, I have been asked to assist in some pre-departure presentations/workshops for students who will be participating in the program during summer 2018. Initially, I was trying to piece together why the pre-departure information could be that helpful or even necessary—they are staying in the U.S. so there shouldn’t be any big changes, right? Wrong.
Transitioning to a large city (especially from rural Elon/Burlington, NC) can pose challenges for students in the way of culture shock and homesickness, not to mention the stress and anxiety caused by trying to secure an internship in either given city!
With this framework in mind, I spoke with Cindy Sweeney, Associate Director of Career Services, (who formerly worked in the Global Education Center), and Victoria Thompson, the current Assistant Director of Study USA. I asked about the program details and how career advisors can best serve students who may be opting to participate in either Study USA here at Elon, or any other city-specific national program.
Preparing for such a unique experience presents challenges that students may not have to face abroad or even here at Elon. I think successful preparation and assistance to students boils down to three things: Articulating your story in a real-world setting, identifying mentors, and understanding work culture.
It’s one thing to meet with a career advisor to practice for a mock interview, or even strut your stuff at the bi-annual Job & Internship Expo, but it’s quite another when you’re having to talk about yourself outside of the classroom. In a larger, more diverse area, it is important to be able to efficiently talk about your skills and experiences. The more you practice or attend employer meet-and-mingle events, the more comfortable and authentic this will feel.
During my conversation with Victoria, we talked a lot about the value of utilizing LinkedIn to identify mentors in one of the Study USA programs. Though there are many networking/LinkedIn philosophies, it boils down to intentionality. What messages are you putting out there? Further, are you being considerate of who you are connecting with? Recent graduates may be more willing to help and can paint a clearer picture of realistic 5-year goals.
Finally, successful preparation for a Study USA experience boils down to understanding and defining work culture. Students’ experiences may be limited thus far to their own internship opportunities or even what they see modeled in a ‘9-5’ workplace environment. This may look very different for companies in LA or San Francisco where socializing with coworkers is common in the evenings. There may even be nights where you will have to work until 8 or 9pm but then have the flexibility to start later the next day.
The bottom line is that career advisors can absolutely be influential to students embarking on such a unique experience. It’s just a matter of listening and preparing.