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Study abroad a springboard to success for guest speaker

| Denise Olson

Are you considering a semester of study abroad, but still have questions or doubts about whether this experience is right for you? Or whether taking the time away from campus and degree plan will pay off in the right ways?

On March 8, the Center for International Education (CIE) welcomed UW-Eau Claire alumna Jennifer Sallis ('92 French and Spanish) to talk about how her study abroad experience continues to play a positive role in her international career.

Sallis, who spent semesters abroad in France and Spain, began her career with a first job in Paris after graduation, where she worked for 5 years followed by an MBA then a 12-year tenure with L'Oréal in Paris and New York.  Most recently she was employed for 5 years at the Ralph Lauren Corporation in New York, working on the internal Change Management team for an enterprise IT implementation.  Her role with Ralph Lauren also involved traveling on a regular basis to the company's European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.  For Sallis: “My undergraduate degree at UWEC, coupled with studying abroad, definitely prepared me for a wide breadth of career opportunities. 

As a guest speaker on campus, Sallis helped students connect the dots between what could seem at first a largely cultural adventure - study abroad - to interview-relevant skills and attributes. She is a walking example of how study abroad and a liberal education can help prepare students for a career, not just a job.

"Most people who are successful in their careers - no matter what their field of study - are skilled at interacting effectively with a variety of people who hold different perspectives and cultural values.  They can adapt with resiliency to workplace and industry changes," Sallis said, "and can take up new or unfamiliar responsibilities.  Studying abroad provides a powerful platform to test and grow these skills.”

Sallis encourages all students to consider a semester or summer studying abroad, regardless of their area of study.  For students who have not studied another language, this should not be considered a deterrent.

"We can all learn the basics of a language enough to be understood," Sallis pointed out. "To bring some humor to this mother would say, 'We all smile in the same language,' and in fact, in some cases even a rudimentary knowledge of the local language is enough to start a study abroad program."

Networking and connections are vital.  Sallis commented on personal connections one can make while studying abroad, and the potential impact of those connections.  "Someone I met while I was at UWEC had studied abroad in France prior to me, and subsequently put me in touch with her contacts there during my semester abroad" Sallis said. "They happened to know someone employed by a company which turned out to be the first company I worked for in France after graduation.  This example may sound coincidental, but successful networking simply requires knowing key people who can help connect you to potential opportunities."
While the academic value of studying abroad cannot be overlooked, Sallis has found that the friendships and professional partnerships forged abroad have also been invaluable.

To explore your own study abroad possibilities, call the Center for International Education (CIE) in Schofield at 715-836-4411.