A Nonlinear Path to the Council on International Education Exchange
My path to CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange) is anything but linear. While studying at Hamilton, I focused my coursework on government and Hispanic studies. I dreamed of becoming an Immigration Lawyer and using my Spanish to help navigate others through our difficult legal system. I wanted to make a positive impact on others lives. This desire led me to my first job as an Immigration Paralegal in Boston, Mass.
The law firm in which I worked was small and only specialized in immigration law. There were two paralegals and four lawyers, for a total of six in the firm. None of the lawyers did trial law, so a typical workday included responding to emails, making calls to clients or government officials, filing, processing checks, and mailing visa paperwork out to the government. We processed H-1B, non-immigrant working visas, as well as TN visas, some F1 visas, and green card applications.
I remember one conversation in particular that shaped my future career decisions. One lawyer told me that in law school you can’t pick what you specialize in until close to graduation and all law students are required to stick to a pretty structured curriculum. This resonated with me because the only type of law I was interested in was immigration law. I started to think that the investment and time to pursue a law degree to only take 1-3 courses on subjects of interest wasn’t a good choice. I also missed interacting with people; working in the law firm was relatively quiet and independent. By the end of my year at the firm, I knew a law degree wasn’t for me and I started to look at other ways to work in international settings.
The next two jobs I held in Boston, introduced me to education. My first position in education was at a student travel company called Explorica Educational Travel. In this role, I did sales and consulting to teachers all over the U.S. planning trips with their students abroad.
I loved this work as it allowed me to work with educators and use my own experience traveling abroad to influence their decisions. In this role, I learned two important things that forever changed my professional goals. First, I liked sales and second, I liked working in education. After two years, I landed a dream job at the Boston University School of Law. In this role, it combined all of my prior interests. I worked with college level students coming to the US to earn a law degree. I felt privileged to work at one of the most renowned schools in Boston, plus professionally it allowed me to take classes at their School of Education to put towards a masters degree. My path into education wasn’t traditional, but I felt like I was finally in the field that I was destined to be in.
BU Law was an incredible experience. I gained exposure to lots of different sides of higher education including: admissions, budgeting, marketing, event planning, and professional development. I would have stayed in this role forever, but my then fiancé at the time and I decided to move to Maine. At this same point in my life, I started an online Masters in Education at Northeastern University which I finished after we moved to Maine. Maine is incredible, but it has taken me several years to get back to where I was in Boston. There is very little in the sense of international student work in Maine. Some colleges have positions for international students, but these are few and far between and competitive to get. I’ve held positions at Kaplan University and the University of New England, doing student advising and outreach. Then after a few years in Maine, I landed my current job at CIEE.
CIEE is a nonprofit that began back in 1947. CIEE’s work and mission focuses on academic exchanges on a variety of levels. The different lines of business include: high school inbound and outbound, college student abroad and GAP year programming, teach abroad, TEFL certification, camp, work and travel, intern and trainee, marketing, IT, finance, and HR. As a young professional, it’s great to work for a company with such diverse lines of work. As an educator, it’s fulfilling to work with a company that values intercultural exchanges. My team, F1 High School Study USA works with high schools all across the U.S. We send high school students from all around the world to study on semester or full year exchanges. F1 students can stay at public high schools in the U.S. for one year and earn a diploma or play sports. Or, they can enroll for multiple years at private day or boarding schools (and earn a diploma/play sports). It’s a great place to work.
The advice I’d give to new graduates at Hamilton is below:
- Extracurriculars Matter: think about your passions and what has been the most fulfilling experience for you in college/life so far.
- Take a Personality Test: this will give you some insight into what type of work suits you best and also what type of working environment suits you best.
- Don’t be Afraid: rarely you’ll find a job that meets all your needs, don’t overlook a job if there are aspects that will help you develop for a better, future role.
- Be Realistic about Compensation: if you have debt, make sure your salary will cover those payments.
- Don’t be Embarrassed about Your Career: family and friends may not always agree with your decisions.
- Stay Connected to Hamilton: sometimes connecting with alumni is all you need to get back on track and figure out what direction to go in next.