Record number of recent graduates working and living abroad
April 28, 2011 By Leigh Cocanougher
of 2010 working abroad, is currently a “North American
Language and Cultural Ambassador” in Galicia, Spain.
Jeff Glidden (above, right) is spending his time teaching English,
hiking and sightseeing in South Korea.
Cara Newcomb (above, left), who currently works in Germany,
has had plenty of time to visit cities around Europe, including
Each year, Centre College students who study abroad (and 85 percent of them do) fall in love with foreign life. Many of them, in fact, have such extraordinary experiences abroad that they are inspired to head overseas upon graduation to live and work. And the most recent class of graduating students, those who left Centre as alumni less than one year ago, have set a record for the percentage of graduates who began working abroad following commencement.
Thirty-four members of the class of 2010—a remarkable 12 percent—left the United States for international adventures after graduating last May. And those students are scattered around the world, living in countries including Belgium, Cambodia, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia and South Korea.
Living the Spanish life
Alex Headley, who studied abroad three times as a Centre student, is currently serving as a “North American Language and Cultural Ambassador” in Galicia, Spain. Working through the country’s Ministry of Education, she is helping local youth improve their English.
“I was placed in a fishing village in Galicia in a secundaria, a high school, more or less; the students are aged 12-17, and there are about 130 students total,” she says. “I have class with every student in the school, and I also work with some of the teachers who are learning English.”
The school, she says, is “lucky enough to have a bilingual department in English, so a group of 10 students are taught three of their subjects solely in English. I spend a lot of time with the teachers in that department, collaborating on lesson plans in math and technology.”
Outside of school, Headley enjoys the companionship of the Spanish family with whom she is living and “having big, typical Spanish lunches and enjoying each other’s company,” she says. “I also joined a competitive women’s volleyball team, I teach private English lessons, and I travel at every opportunity.”
An internship that involved teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) in Boyle County schools helped prepare Headley for her current work. “Life here is pretty amazing, and I do have Centre to thank for giving me some prior knowledge about the much larger world outside the ‘Centre bubble.’”
Her ability to delve so fully into a foreign culture, she says, is due to her study abroad experiences as a Centre student: Puerto Rico and Andalucia, Spain, for CentreTerm trips; and Merida, Mexico, for a full term.
“Study abroad may very well be the best thing I got out of my Centre education,” she says. “I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.”
Teaching adventures in South Korea
Although fellow 2010 graduate Jeff Glidden is also teaching English overseas, he is having a much different cultural experience living and working in Gumi, South Korea.
He teaches both elementary and high school students, and he says he “loves teaching both age groups. I have a lot of freedom to be creative with my lesson plans, and it’s very special to connect and bond with students from another country.”
He adds that although “Korean students are very smart, they often lack the confidence that most Americans have. Many of my students are from poorer families or orphanages. Even as a teacher in a foreign country, you realize your job is much more important than teaching the alphabet; you’re also there to motivate, mold and guide students in their paths to becoming adults. Even as I make them laugh with funny faces or silly dances, I’m conscious of being a role model for them. I love teaching here!”
When he’s not teaching or preparing lessons, Glidden is busy “hiking in the mountains with my adopted Korean dogs, visiting a Buddhist temple, weaving through busy markets with singing grandmothers, sipping coffee and playing games with Korean friends or just trying to figure out what my neighbor is saying to me. And weekends and vacations give me more of an opportunity to get out and explore the country.”
Because he spent his junior year studying abroad with the Global College in Taiwan, Thailand, India and Turkey—as well as spending one summer with a fellow Centre student in Jamaica—Glidden was prepared for the challenges of living overseas.
“My experience at Centre really helped me gain more of a global perspective, which is essential to have when living abroad,” he says. “Often, it’s easy to be ethnocentric and even judgmental, but many of my classes and conversations at Centre helped me empathize with the other and analyze cultures and issues from varying perspectives.”
Visits to communities of the World War II Korean comfort women feel like extensions of Glidden’s human rights class, he says, and conversations with his friends about Korea’s place on the global stage could easily have been a debate in a previous Centre macrosociology class.
“Centre prepares you to think critically and to exercise your analytical mind—both essential for maximizing your time abroad and really understanding a foreign culture. It’s hard not to find bits and pieces of Centre wherever you are—no matter how far away.”
Travel and troops in Germany
Fourteen students chose to spend their first months as recent college graduates working as civilian employees for the United States Department of Defense in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. There, they (like young Centre alumni in past years) worked at Edelweiss Hotel and Resort, which is sponsored by the Army and provides active and retired soldiers with the opportunity to relax with their families.
Studying abroad with the Centre-in-Strasbourg program as a junior was what “definitely inspired” Cara Newcomb to apply for an Edelweiss position.
“It was such a incredible experience,” she says. “I got my first taste of living in a foreign country, dealing with the challenges of a different language and lifestyle. In addition to becoming familiar with the Alsace region of France, I learned so much about getting around Europe and making the most of trips to other countries. I loved how you can travel a couple hours outside of the city and experience a completely different culture.”
When she returned to the United States, she says, she knew she wanted to go back to Europe as soon as possible. “Edelweiss made the move back to Europe a lot easier by offering me a job and housing in Garmisch-Partenkirchen—very conducive to traveling around Europe,” she says.
On one of her recent trips, in fact, Newcomb traveled to France to get together with current Centre-in-Strasbourg students.
“It’s great to have the Centre network so that I could meet up with familiar faces in Europe,” she says. “It was absolutely wonderful to be back. I visited my old apartment and classroom and my favorite restaurants and shops. Since I haven’t been back to the United States in nine months, it felt like going home, in a way.”
Traveling around Europe is also one of the perks that fellow alum and Edelweiss employee Mark Carr has been enjoying. “Meeting lots of other people, travelling with new friends and realizing that when I go back to the States I’ll be visiting friends in California, Seattle, Colorado and more has become one of the best parts of this job!” he says. “Centre helped in this venture by making me realize that it was okay to travel by myself abroad and to take advantage of a situation like this.”
To learn more how Centre prepares all of its students for lives of global citizenship, click here.