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Foreign Language Proficiency Leads Alumni to Varied Careers

A panel sponsored by the Career Center’s Connect Team gave students the opportunity to learn first-hand about the career paths of three Hamilton alumni who had one thing in common — a passion for foreign languages and cultures.

Hank Arnold ’98, finance manager at Johnson and Johnson, Dan Keys ’89, financial benefits manager at Corning, Inc., and Sara Schonfeld ’99, staff scientist at the National Cancer Institute, shared their experiences at Hamilton and beyond. Facilitated by Career Center student employees, the conversation focused on the study abroad experiences of the panelists and how foreign language proficiency allowed them to explore various career fields.

Arnold, a Spanish major, took advantage of Hamilton’s open curriculum his senior year and took a Russian course, inspiring a love of the language that eventually led him to Siberia where he taught English with the Peace Corps. Keys, a Russian studies major, spent a year in Russia developing his language skills and immersing himself in Russian culture. Schonfeld, also a Russian studies major, studied in Russia while at Hamilton and received a post-graduate Watson Fellowship to pursue topics in global health.

Students asked the panelists questions about the role of foreign language in their lines of work and the most valuable takeaways of studying foreign languages abroad. Though all three panelists acknowledged that they don’t routinely use their foreign language skills in their current jobs, they all noted the impact of their foreign language experience on their individual career paths, particularly underscoring the importance of studying abroad in an immersive setting.

“Three years of a language in the U.S. is not the same as three months living with a family in Russia,” Keys said. “I use those skills all the time: the communication skills, the cultural sensitivity skills, just understanding other people and their viewpoints. I think that’s something everyone can use.”

This panel discussion was one of 12 career-related events organized so far this semester by the Career Center's Connect Team. Other events have included student panels discussing “How I Got My Internship” in fields such as finance and consulting, communications, law, and non-profit work.

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