From Study Abroad to International Job

The key to landing a job outside the US? Gaining previous experience outside the US.

That’s exactly what helped alumna Georgia Kromrei leverage her study abroad experience in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, to secure multiple job offers after wrapping up her dual degree in Latin American Studies and Spanish and Portuguese in 2012.

Originally from Elgin, Texas, Kromrei is now living in Mexico City and working for a major multinational technology company.

In this Q&A, we learn more about why Kromrei decided to study abroad and how it impacted her career.

Why did you want to study abroad?

I studied abroad because I needed to get my Portuguese credits completed, I wanted to travel, and make friends. I was also curious about possible professional opportunities further down the road in Brazil.

Did studying abroad change the way you see the world and your place in it?

I can't say that studying abroad in Brazil radically changed my idea of my place in the world, since I have always been interested in travel, other cultures, and the world around me in general --  but I was thrilled to see the South American continent and discover that, no, food does not get indiscriminately more spicy as you go further south!

What was the most memorable thing you did during your study abroad experiences?

My most memorable experience was seeing a modern dance performance of the different Orixas in Salvador, becoming friends with several of the dancers, and seeing such a different form of cultural expression close-up. It was an extremely dense sensory experience.

What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?

I learned that I do not like having all my meals cooked for me, and that I really appreciate people who are willing to contemplate other worldviews besides their own.

What advice or encouragement would you give someone who was considering studying abroad but was uncertain about it?

I think an undergraduate degree program without a study abroad program, if you have the opportunity, is a waste. Studying abroad will absolutely enrich your life and give you a better idea of where you should go after graduation.

How has studying abroad impacted your career or professional goals?

I studied abroad with the intention of strengthening my language skills. While that was the goal of my trip, having a study abroad trip on my résumé is a quantifiable way of demonstrating to a potential employer or collaborator that I received high-level training from a reputable source to acquire this skill. In addition, I work with people with many different backgrounds. Outside of the US, being bilingual is an absolute basic skill required for any professional, and being trilingual or more is not unusual. The bar is high, and studying abroad helped me be competitive.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience?

Apart from studying abroad being a good move for my career, I am still good friends with many of the people I met on that trip. We have gone to each other's weddings. We have planned international trips. We stay in touch and enrich each other's lives.

Where are you and what are you doing now?

I work at Cisco Systems and live in Mexico City. I manage an internal social media platform for a multi-regional engineering team and I create new strategies for collaboration.

Tell us about living in Mexico City.

I always tell people living in Mexico City, or DF as it is usually known here, is like an extreme sport. There's always so much happening around that it can feel like you'll miss something if you're not out and about. There are many excellent museums. There are many large and small theaters, and theater is very important here. The nightlife is excellent, whether you are interested in wine and tapas, dancing, live music, networking, traditional cantinas, barge parties...definitely something for everyone. There are several independent movie theaters, the biggest being the National Cinema, which is a huge complex showing indie and foreign films that has regular film festivals and premiers. Much like New York and surrounding areas, there are many weekend getaways close by. Mexico City is a very young, cosmopolitan, progressive city... expect a normal Millenial resident to be using all the same cell phone apps you do, know all the bands you do, be familiar with politics in your country of origin, and fluent in at least two languages. This is normal here.

Mexico City residents are also foodies-- the best regional food from all over the country can be found here, though usually not in the big fancy restaurants, but rather from the stands on the streets or in the markets.

For about a month during the dry season the jacaranda trees bloom, and it seems like the entire city turns purple.

It's the economic and political center of the country, (a primate city, like so many others in Latin America) which I think most people are not familiar with. This means that the most important companies have their headquarters here, the best universities are all here, the embassies are all here, and whenever there is a political protest, it is here. Mexico City is also challenged with a liberal city government that sometimes conflicts with a more conservative national government.

Like most other big cities, there are many different modes of transportation available at any given time, and one must choose based on how much you're willing to spend, how fast you want to get to your destination, and perhaps comfort or time of day. There is a learning curve for this city, just like any other complicated metropolitan area, but it's extremely exciting and for people who like high-energy contexts, there is always a lot to do.

 

This interview was edited for length and clarity.