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Adding International Flavor to your Résumé

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by Black Issues

Adding International Flavor to your Résumé

Back in the 1980s, Anthony Pinder was trading futures for a living in Chicago. When the Chernobyl nuclear accident devastated the stock market, he decided the timing was right to do something he had thought about for years. He joined the Peace Corps. Pinder’s 2 ½ years in Ecuador changed his perspective about the world. It also gave his résumé a new sheen.
“My main job in Ecuador was as an economist with the coffee growers and fishermen. We helped them market their products to neighboring countries,” he recalls. He also helped with the farmers’ and fishermen’s internal accounting systems, which were primitive.
Pinder later became a national recruiter for the Peace Corps. Today he is associate dean of Global Studies and director for the International Center for Economic Freedom at Dillard University in New Orleans. He strongly believes that international study and work provides the type of knowledge and skills that open career doors.
“The more a student or faculty member can become a world citizen, the better,” he says.
Charles Baquet served for 35 years in the Foreign Service and is a former U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti in northeastern Africa. He says foreign study or work listed on a résumé indicates several attributes.
“If you have on your résumé that you know a language and haven’t been off campus, that’s not that impressive. But when you see someone who has studied or worked in Martinique, you see a person who has learned another language and is comfortable with another culture,” says Baquet, who serves as director of the Center for Intercultural and International Programs at Xavier University of Louisiana. “Employers think, here’s a person who is adventuresome, intelligent and probably creative. If they’ve been in a developing country, they’re not afraid of difficult situations.”
Global citizenship makes an applicant stand out — they have gone the extra mile to gain experience, says Dr. Robert Miles, director of the Study Abroad program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “International experience, if not required, is highly desired at any global company. Those without it may find themselves passed over.”
International experience is increasingly important for faculty promotion at smaller colleges and is becoming routine at large universities, says Miles, a former chairman of the department of sociology and former associate dean of social sciences at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. 

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Networking
Opportunities
International experience has another perk for both students and faculty — networking. Faculty and students who have spent time in other countries build extensive international networks.
The number of American students studying abroad increased 61 percent from 1995 to 2000, according to the Institute of International Education. Foreign study increased 11 percent from 1998-1999 to 1999-2000. There are approximately 144,000 American students studying abroad.
Interest in studying abroad has traditionally been high at UNC-Chapel Hill, which currently ranks No. 8 in the nation among large universities sending students abroad. Overseas study for this summer and fall is up 5 percent over last year, Miles says. But he says data suggests African American students are still underrepresented. Miles feels the university could do a better job in disseminating information to minority students and parents.
Baquet sees an increase in students studying abroad at historically Black Xavier University, “but the numbers are still low,” he says.
He says one reason is that many minority students are the first in their families to attend college.
“The students may have worked to save money. Maybe their parents are in debt. Their goal is to get their education and get that degree,” he says. Though a student may want to go to Seville, parents may feel it’s an extra. Still, Baquet tries to stress that studying abroad is an important opportunity.
“It’s not about pretty sunsets. It helps your résumé by giving you a leg up on job opportunities at higher salaries,” he says.
Pinder is optimistic about an increase in study abroad interest at Dillard, which has an enrollment of 2,200 students. Before the university’s International Center for Economic Freedom opened several years ago, 10 students studied abroad. Now there are 40.
“I tell students to create as many options as you can,” he says. “Studying abroad doesn’t take away from your plan. In Spain, France, Austria, China or India, you’re taking the same courses as here. But think of the benefits of a German major taking German in Germany. Or a business major understanding economics as it relates to another country.”

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Work experience abroad
Many students decide they want to work abroad after college. A large number of governmental and private organizations offer opportunities for service in other countries, with varying commitments. The Peace Corps normally has a 30-month commitment. In the Peace Corps, all training, including language, is done in the country to which the volunteer is sent. Volunteers learn the primary spoken language, such as French, as well as a local native language.
The International Red Cross, Save the Children and Habitat for Humanity are among the many agencies offering positions in developing countries. Crossroads Africa sends young people to Africa for a variety of projects. The Teach Africa program is designed for those with a college degree to teach English for a year in African countries.
Students and faculty sometimes obtain short-term overseas work with the United Nations on such projects as monitoring elections.
A career in the Foreign Service provides unique travel and work experiences. Baquet recommends a liberal arts education. The first step is taking the Foreign Service Exam, which is offered several times a year at no charge.
All Foreign Service employees are required to learn a second language. But strong English usage skills are extremely important for writing reports back to Washington about people and situations around the world.
As globalization increases, university administrations push for more international exposure for their institutions. Having faculty in international research and other positions has increased, but short-term positions are very competitive, according to Baquet. Still, there are many opportunities for faculty to add international flavor to their résumé. A Xavier biology professor recently received a grant to attend a conference in Costa Rica on the plight of the Caribbean sea turtle. The professor remained to work on a project with several Caribbean governments and even brought along some Xavier students.
Networks of scholars throughout the world focus on vast research projects. Countries provide funding and grants for scholars to attend international conferences to present research findings. When looking for opportunities and financing, Miles suggests faculty start with their own department heads for ideas. In addition, often a university provost’s office has the responsibility of raising the university’s profile and can provide grants and travel opportunities.  

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