UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Over two days in New York City, students at the Penn State School of International Affairs saw firsthand the diverse careers they can pursue after graduation, gained valuable insight on jumpstarting their careers from successful professionals in international organizations, non-profits, and private industry, and made important contacts with distinguished SIA alumni as part of the school’s annual New York Career Exposure Trip.
On Feb. 16 and 17, the 30 students visited the U.N. Population Fund and the U.N. Headquarters; spoke to members of the American branch of BRAC, the largest nongovernmental organization in the world; and toured one of the major offices of Bloomberg.
Although each employer offered different advice tailored to their own sector, common themes included the importance of volunteering and having on-the-ground experience for students interested in nonprofits and international governmental organizations, taking advantage of internship and fellowship opportunities to get a foot in the door at companies or organizations students are interested in, taking advantage of every possible opportunity for academic and career advancement both in and out of school, and the importance building and maintaining a professional network.
“These trips are always great; they give me a chance to meet people in the kinds of fields I’m interested in, exchange information, and follow up later to connect more and learn about opportunities,” said second-year SIA student Tiffany Louk. “Plus, being able to meet SIA alums is also always invaluable, as they’ve been where we are and done what we want to do.”
In that vein, the students on the trip had the opportunity to connect with SIA alumni in the New York area during a reception at da Tommy Osteria restaurant and meet alumni who have found successful careers in the U.N. and Bloomberg, who were more than happy to pass along their tips for success to the next generation of SIA students.
“One of the biggest parts of SIA is the learning that you do outside the classroom – and that includes trips like these, where you meet alumni and make connections for your professional network,” said 2014 SIA alumnus Carl Boswell. “The School of International Affairs is a small community, but we’re tight-knit and we’re growing, and I’m excited to be part of it and have an opportunity to give back.”
In addition to Boswell—who helped set up the visit to Bloomberg and arranged for a diverse panel of Bloomberg employees to share their experiences and their tips for success—students also met U.N. employees and alumni Said Maalouf and Esra Sergi, who gave their advice on how and why to pursue a career with an international organization like the U.N.
“You learn new things and meet people from different cultures every day,” Sergi said of her work at the U.N. “I don’t feel like a minority here; I really feel like I belong.”
For first-year student Mohammad Sarhan, SIA’s career exposure trips—which also include regular visits to diverse employers in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, and help contribute to SIA’s career placement rate of over 95%—have been an important introduction to the world of possibilities available after graduation.
“These trips have helped teach me what different kinds of employers need and look for and how to tailor my resume for different jobs,” Sarhan said. “It’s also been great to meet our alumni and see their success. It shows that SIA really works.”