Study abroad is a life-changing experience, and our program alumni are living proof that the decisions you make abroad can influence where life takes you after graduation. We love hearing from our alumni about how their time abroad has shaped their lives, so we reconnected with some alumni to chat about their study abroad experiences and where they are now. Keep reading to hear from Kirstin, a USAC Lyon, France alum.
Kirstin graduated with a degree in Global Supply Chain & Operations from the University of South Carolina in 2017. During her studies, Kirstin attended the USAC Lyon Program where she earned credits towards her French minor.
Why did you decide to study abroad?
I always wanted to travel abroad, but I come from a family where both my parents had, and still have never, left the country. I knew once I got to college it was the number one opportunity that I wanted to pursue.
Why did you choose your program?
My school had a great study abroad office that allowed me to tell them exactly what I needed. I needed a program that was not super expensive, I wanted a location in France where I could have a real experience, so not necessarily Paris. And a program that mapped back to my French minor. USAC had a great location, very good prices, and allowed me to finish my minor in the best semester of my life!
How did study abroad fit into your academic and professional goals?
Study abroad changed so much for me. I always wanted my life to take on a global presence, I wanted to experience new cultures, I wanted to connect with new people. It allowed me to try stepping into new and uncomfortable places and grow. My professional goals have always centered around connecting with people, and study abroad was the best education in that. Academically, it was perfect, as all my credits transferred back.
When did you graduate? What are you doing now?
I graduated in the Spring of 2017, and I went back abroad to get a master’s degree in Germany. Now I live in San Francisco, where I’ve been for the past two years, working for IBM as a Supply Chain Consultant.
Looking back, how did study abroad play a role in getting you to where you are now?
It confirmed to me how I wanted to continue to live my life. That travel was as important to me as the people I met. It connected me to soooo many people who still are in my life and have guided me with their own experiences and advice. If I had not gone to France, I would have never been so set on going to grad school in Germany, which was a huge catalyst to getting my job at IBM.
Why do you think international education is important?
I work in a corporate business environment. The majority of my team is based in Europe and Asia, so study abroad has allowed me to have an advantage in my field of work. I know how to look past cultural differences and work more effectively with my team members, I can connect with individuals to drive more progress, and I also can draw on my experiences to guide decisions that I could not have anticipated would apply.
What was your favorite class you took while studying abroad?
Honestly, every class. My cohort was amazing and made every class so fun! But if I had to choose, I took a French poetry class that was quite lovely.
What was a typical day like for you during your study abroad program?
A typical day (depending on my class load that day) would be breakfast with my host family and either riding a bike or taking the tram to class. Having lunch with some classmates and then either heading home in the afternoon or spending it by the lake with some snacks. Then at night, dinner with my host family and typically going out with friends!
Is there any advice you would give to students interested in studying abroad?
Just do it! It will be the best decision you make. For me, my biggest concern was money. My family is not wealthy at all. I went to school all on financial aid and worked jobs all through school. I took on debt to pay for it, but I relied on myself for my expenses and spending money. Do some research and budget and save. It will be hard but it’s worth it. And be upfront with your school about needing financial aid and look for other scholarships. Ask your program if there are ways you can earn money abroad.