You may be the kind of person who thrives in situations where you are working in multicultural teams. You love learning from different cultures and perspectives and you enjoy the rush of being pushed outside of your comfort zone to solve problems and think outside the box. You’ve even considered working internationally to fulfill this long standing desire to be part of positive change at a global level. If this sounds like you, you may want to consider pursuing a career in international affairs.
From a person who has experienced the life of a practitioner in International Development, I can tell you that it is thrilling, challenging, humbling, rewarding and, sometimes, taxing. Here are a few things I learned about maximizing the student experience.
Gain “international experience” right here on campus. You don’t have to be in some far-away land to start building your global and intercultural fluency skills. There are so many ways to develop your “international Brand” and intercultural fluency right here on campus and in the surrounding community. But wait, what’s an “international brand”? The experiences you seek out and include on your resume demonstrate your passions, interests and values – or alternatively speaking, your brand! If your goal is to pursue an international career, be intentional and start from where you are.
- Academics. Review the list of academic programs and degrees and consider adding a major or minor. There are language and area-specific programs such as Africana studies, to Russian Studies, Spanish and everything in between. There are also minors in Human Rights, Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention, and Global Studies that incorporate internships and/or a capstone project. These are all great experiences that help you deepen your interest and career readiness skills in intercultural fluency, critical thinking, equity and inclusion, teamwork, etc. They also offer strong skills and experiences to include on a resume and cover letter to internationally focused employers.
- Clubs and volunteer opportunities. Join one of BU’s multicultural clubs and learn from fellow classmates about their history, heritage and culture. Being an active club member is a great way to build your network and gain skills all at the same time! Binghamton University also has an amazingly diverse International Student body on campus. Build relationships with international students and refine your intercultural communication skills by becoming a Conversation Pairs volunteer with the English Language Institute. Students can also become ESOL Trained Tutors to support non-native or multilingual students in their coursework.
- Research. Our External Scholarships and Undergraduate Research Center offers a variety of ways for students to gain research experience related to international topics. Interested in Women’s Empowerment and Climate Change? Check out the Ellyn Uram Kaschak Institute for Social Justice for Women and Girls Fellowship. Gain Global Health experience through the Global Health Impact Project, just to name a few. Be sure to bookmark the page CROP, Campus Research Opportunity Postings to find current listings for international research opportunities. The Undergraduate Research Center has a great newsletter you can sign up for and walk-in services you can attend to explore research programs to engage in.
- Apply for Fellowship and Scholarship programs. This is a big one! Fellowship and Scholarship programs are like a launching-pad into the field that provide tremendous academic, professional development and networking opportunities while getting paid! The External Scholarships and Undergraduate Research Center can help you choose from prestigious and highly competitive programs to apply to like the Critical Language Scholarship, Fulbright, Payne International Development Fellowship, to other equally beneficial programs that are not as competitive. External Scholarships staff members will support you in drafting application materials and the overall application process. Remember, if you don’t apply, you definitely won’t get it. 😉 Be sure to also check the SOAR Database to find hundreds of funding opportunities from external sources. Profellow is another great resource with over 2,400 funding opportunities, blog posts and advice. Here is an article that outlines 28 funding opportunities in international development, for example! The trick is to plan and apply EARLY for these opportunities, at least 1 year in advance.
- Go abroad. Meet with the Study Abroad Office to explore academic and internship programs all over the world. Study Abroad programs are offered each semester, over the summer and even short term programs during winter break! Fun Fact! Did you know that activities like Study Abroad, Research and Capstone projects are considered High Impact Practices (HIPs)? Research shows that when students engage in HIPs, they enjoy higher levels of learning success. Can’t go abroad but still want to explore your options in the US? Spend a semester in New York City interning with a globally focused organization by participating in the New Paltz SUNY Global Engagement Program in NYC
- Do your research. Take the time to read about the field and talk to faculty and practitioners doing the work you’re interested in. The Association for Professional Schools in International Affairs (APSIA) has a website including an international career guide, fellowships, scholarships and graduate school options. Learn the jargon and best practices of your field. Interested in International Development? – What are the SDGs, for starters.
- Talk to practitioners in the field. I can’t stress this enough. Talk to people as much as you can – not just for the purpose of getting a job or an internship, but to learn about the realities of the field, and build rapport with professionals. Sign up for an account in Mentor Match to be matched with BU Alumni in fields of your interest and prepare to conduct an informational interview. (What’s an informational interview? Check pg 28 in our Career Guide) Use LinkedIn to search for BU Alumni working internationally. Go to Binghamton University’s LinkedIn Page and use the “Alumni” search function. Search among 100,000+ alumni by industry, organization, geographic location or keyword to find alumni to connect with and conduct an informational interview. As you read profiles of practitioners doing work globally – take special note of their career path, skills, experiences, projects and research. Use LinkedIn as a tool to learn the jargon and look for themes among various individual profiles you view.
Think broadly and say “yes” to exploring new opportunities!