We’re kicking off a new series featuring alumni! We’re sharing with you how study abroad has impacted our alumni’s academic, professional and personal goals.
In our first edition of Where Are They Now?, ASU alumna, Raquel Thoesen, reflects on her semester abroad at the WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar, Germany.
1. What did you major/minor in while at ASU?
When I studied abroad I was a Business Management Major with a German minor, working toward an international business certificate. I graduated ASU with a Business Tourism major, German minor, and an International Business Certificate.
2. Where are you located now? What are you doing professionally?
After spending the past year living in Germany for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, I am now back in Phoenix! I am working as a creative strategist for a local, all-natural peanut butter company. Essentially, I fulfill all the company’s marketing needs!
3. Could you describe a “day in the life” for you now? What skills did you learn on study abroad that you use in your day-to-day?
After having my life painted with a further 10 months abroad after graduation, it’s hard for me to compartmentalize what parts of me are just from that initial study abroad experience! Perhaps in a parallel dimension, non-study abroad Raquel would have been a lot more hesitant to plunge into unknown situations.
4. Knowing what you know now about study abroad, what would you have done differently?
I studied abroad a lot earlier than most people do. I still hadn’t really taken any core classes for my major, so taking the equivalent to 400-level businesses classes abroad with classmates from around the world was a bit of a shock. I don’t regret for a moment the timing of my study abroad program. However, looking back I may have chosen to take different classes to ease the transition a bit more.
5. What did you gain academically from your study abroad program that you couldn’t get based in the U.S.?
The most apparent academic advantage I gained by studying abroad was an international business education that I wouldn’t have gotten back home. Studying international business internationally really makes the field more tangible and gives a very real perspective. My host school abroad had a world-renowned reputation as a quality business school, so I had very unique opportunities. We had guest lectures by companies such as Capri Sun (it’s a German company) and L’Oreal. Of course, the best part was the free dry shampoo samples from L’Oreal after the lecture.
6. How did study abroad impact your career?
My experiences pushed me to apply for a Fulbright grant to teach English abroad in Germany after graduation. I was convinced that I would continue working within the international education field to help facilitate similar programs for others aspiring students. However, one thing led to another and I decided to take a different route and instead embraced my business background. International mindfulness will always be there, and I continue to use those skills in various aspects of my life.
7. How did study abroad impact you personally?
As a 19-year-old living abroad for a semester, my biggest growth was definitely personal. I learned to be self-sufficient and depend on myself. I did an exchange program, which is the most independent study abroad option that ASU offers, so going in I knew my hand wasn’t going to be held. From the moment I boarded the airplane to when I came back home, I was responsible for crafting my very own experience abroad.
8. What inspired you to study abroad?
I participated in a short-term exchange to Germany in high school through my German class. My host sister, who is a year younger than me, was starting university at coincidentally the same university that ASU offered as a study abroad option. My decision to go to that university was practically a given.
9. What advice would you give to an ASU student who is debating whether or not they should study abroad?
Having worked at the Study Abroad Office for over two years, I would consider myself an expert at convincing students to study abroad. Speaking from a purely personal perspective, I would still say there is no reason not to study abroad. There are funding options to break down financial barriers and short-term programs to accommodate those with very strict majors. The only possible, legitimate hurdle I could think of is fear or just disinterest! Take the leap and do it, because you won’t get too many other chances as easily to live abroad.
10. How did study abroad help you get to where you are today? Describe any impact studying abroad has had on your life.
It’s tough to say exactly how study abroad impacted me, as I can’t imagine my life without all the international experiences I’ve had. When I went abroad, it was my third time in Germany and that number is now five! Inarguably, studying abroad shaped the rest of my college experience. I returned to work at the Study Abroad Office, maintained and continued to develop an international perspective, and hopefully inspired countless other students to do the same. I grew as a person and overcame many fears just by being plopped onto the other side of the world completely alone.