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Jet-setting students gain advantage in job market

Study abroad offers students more than a chance for personal enrichment. UC students who traveled to the Brazilian Amazon as part of an honors study tour speak about how international education has also expanded their career paths.

Once considered an opportunity purely for personal enrichment and cultural experimentation, college graduates are increasingly finding that a well-stamped passport also gives them a competitive edge in the job market.

National studies indicate that globe-trotting graduates are not only more likely to land jobs sooner after graduation, but to find positions more closely aligned with their majors and at higher starting salaries. 

Exploring and engaging with different cultures also drives many students to learn more about what truly interests them and to discover themselves and their passions before they decide on a major or embark on a career path. 

As a staff member who’s helped lead three University of Cincinnati honors study tours of the Brazilian Amazon, Debbie Brawn has seen firsthand the personal metamorphosis many students undergo after just a 10-day immersion in the world’s largest rain forest.

For nearly every student, the international experience instills a heightened sense of maturity, independence and adaptability, along with an enhanced cultural awareness and appreciation for global communities, said Brawn, the executive director of the University Honors Program. 

“Study abroad provides students with new and deepened perspectives that elevate their capacity to contribute to solutions to our world’s complex problems,” she explained. “This is the type of experience that creates leaders who will generate positive change. 

In today’s global economy, employers are taking note of these sought-after attributes.

We talked to five students who participated in the UC honors study tour of the Brazilian Amazon to see how international education has influenced and expanded their career paths.

Jeff Maler

Jeff Maler
Nursing ‘16

Jeff Maler arrived on the University of Cincinnati’s main campus four years ago, but his educational journey has since taken him around the globe. 

The graduating nursing student has traveled to six countries on five continents through study abroad programs offered by UC.

His sojourns have taken him to the beaches of Normandy, France, and London’s Imperial War Museums in an exploration of World War II; China and South Africa, for hands-on experience in public health; an impoverished stretch of the Dominican Republic, where he helped provide vital medical care to underserved populations; and in an expedition to the Brazilian Amazon, one of the world’s last great wildernesses.

The voyages don’t end there: Maler’s also traveled with his family to Ireland, England, Egypt, Hong Kong and Macau.

His parent’s jobs in the military sparked his wanderlust at an early age – the family called Portugal home for six years before living in five states across the U.S. – but Maler says his travels now are motivated more by a desire to better understand and engage with the kaleidoscope of cultures he encounters at his job as a patient care assistant at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“We get a lot of international patients there and caring for them is different than caring for a patient from the U.S. because they have a different notion of what health care is,” explained Maler. “When I travel, I get to see how culture impacts health care in that country.” 

Maler, a recipient of the 2016 Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence, plans to spend the next four years after graduation working as an active-duty nurse at the U.S. Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. After that, he plans to pursue graduate research at UC with the goal of teaching cultural competency to student-nurses and health care workers.

“As a nurse, it’s really important to understand the motivations of patients and the way they view things,” Maler said. “Understanding their culture and norms helps me be a better provider.”

Chelsea Morinec

Chelsea Morinec

Business ‘16

When Chelsea Morinec interviewed for a highly competitive finance and accounting management trainee program with a Fortune Global 500 company in Los Angeles, she didn’t begin by talking about her hospital finance internship or volunteer work teaching business skills to youngsters. 

Instead, she talked about the self-sustainable water purification system she designed for people in developing nations created as part of a study abroad experience to launch a social enterprise business venture at the University of Cincinnati.

“It’s a priority for me to do something that has a positive impact on the world and people,” said Morinec. “I don’t want to do something just to do it; I want to do something for a reason and that has a purpose.”

The strategy worked. Morinec, who will soon graduate with an undergraduate degree in economics from UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business, snagged one of just two positions offered to a pool of more than 500 applicants.

She credits her international savvy as what most set her apart from the competition. Her resume includes an eight-month business exchange program in Bordeaux, France, where she learned to speak French; a week in Montreal developing the social enterprise model; and the honors study tour to the Brazilian Amazon, where she learned about endangered tropical ecology, sustainability and Brazilian culture.  

“Those are the things that none of the other applicants got to do,” she said of her study abroad experiences. “When I explain to people why I came to UC and why I love UC so much, it’s because of opportunities like this.”  

Juliette Arnold

Juliette Arnold

CCM, A&S ‘16

Juliette Arnold envisioned a future career as an orchestral bassoonist when she arrived four years ago at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music.

But after traveling to the Brazilian Amazon in 2014 as part of a UC honors study tour, the avid nature lover was inspired to combine her passion for performance with her love of the great outdoors.

Arnold changed course, adding a second major of biology and later landing an internship with the Cat Ambassador Program at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens. Her goal now is to pursue a professional career as a show trainer and performer for zoos and aquariums.

“I really like being hands-on and in nature and the Amazon trip helped show me that,” said Arnold. “It was my turning point from shifting from music into an animal career.”

Monica Hemmelgarn

Monica Hemmelgarn

Nursing ‘18

Nursing, you might say, is in Monica Hemmelgarn’s blood.

After growing up hearing stories from her mother, a retired nurse who now works in patient care management, Hemmelgarn followed in her mother’s footsteps and enrolled in the UC College of Nursing.

The sophomore signed up for the UC honors study tour of the Brazilian Amazon to experience a different country. The 10-day expedition, she says, not only sparked a newfound appreciation for nature and wildlife, but she’s also now considering pursuing a career in travel nursing.

Demand for travel nurses – registered nurses who travel the country helping hospitals and other health care facilities in need of experienced, temporary staff – reached a 20-year high last year and is expected to increase another eight percent in 2016, according to a report by trade group Staffing Industry Analysts. For Hemmelgarn, it’s a chance to further broaden her horizons.  

“Coming here to the Amazon and experiencing a different place makes me want to see more places,” said Hemmelgarn.

And now with one international experience under her belt, Hemmelgarn says she plans to sign up for other study abroad programs offered by UC that give nursing students the chance to expand cross-cultural nursing skills through clinical experiences in distant places like the Dominican Republican, Ecuador and Nicaragua. 

“I think that setting up clinics for those people for whom that might be the only health care they get all year would be quite the experience,” she said. “This trip definitely made me want to do that even more.”

Evan Talker

Evan Talkers

Business ‘16

When environmentalist Evan Talkers saw the opportunity to travel to one of the world’s most important and biologically diverse ecosystems as part of an UC honors study tour, the fourth-year business student rushed to sign up.

“I wanted to see the [Brazilian] Amazon before it becomes a different place,” he said, pointing to the construction of hydropower dams in recent years that’s contributed to the displacement of indigenous peoples and poses a threat to wildlife. “Through UC giving us this opportunity and setting it up for us, it was a no-brainer. I just had to do it.”

Talkers explored the Amazon region’s medicinal use of plants and herbs in the independent project he tackled as part of the tour. His findings, he hints, could result in the launch of entrepreneurial start-up at his family’s Kentucky farm.

“I’m looking at the medicinal plants people in the Amazon use and if it would be beneficial to adopt them in the U.S.,” he said.

For now, the graduating International Business major plans to continue his travels before seeking a career at a company that will allow him to focus on the environment and sustainability. He’s confident that his far-ranging international experience – study abroad programs in Brazil and Chile, along with family trips to Germany, France, England, Belgium and Mexico – will give him a leg up on the competition.  

“Study abroad taught me that everywhere around the world, people are looking for the same things.  They want to have a family and be loved, to be financially secure and know where their next meal is coming from. They want clean water and to know that things will be good.  That’s the duty of all of us to make that a reality for everybody in the world,” he said.

“Study abroad gives you that view that we’re all in this together,” he added. “I think employers will look kindly on that.”  

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