Dzień dobry! My name is Holly Bouma and I am the new Associate Director of International Programs at the Office of Professional Development. I would like to first start out by telling you a little bit about me and how my international career was launched through study abroad. When I was in high school I did one of the craziest things I think I’ve ever done, but something that changed my life forever – I accepted an invitation from one of our high school alumni to teach English in Poland for the summer, at a Peace Corps camp for children. At that time there was no email or cell phones. I remember sending a physical letter to Poland telling this high school alumna I was coming and praying that she would be there to pick me up at the airport in Warsaw. I was probably the worst English teacher ever, but what I learned was how much I loved to be abroad. This inspired me to study abroad in college, learn languages, and return to Poland to do my graduate degree in Sociology. I ended up staying in Poland for 10 years, teaching at a university, working at various companies, learning Polish, and even starting up my own study abroad company helping American students study in Poland. Even without a drop of Polish blood in my body, I now consider myself half Polish. After coming back to the U.S. with my Polish husband, I decided to focus my career on international education and I’m happy to be at COBA inspiring business students to study and work internationally.
What does it mean to have an international career in today’s world?
Now that you’ve heard my story, what do you think it means to have an international career in today’s world? A lot has changed since I launched my international career, and I believe we need to rethink our definition of “international career.” With the development of new technologies and ease of virtual communication, an international career doesn’t necessarily equate with frequent international travel and/or living abroad. You could have a very successful international career from your home office in the U.S. working via Skype, WebEx, and email. One good example of this was when I was working as a Project Manager for an international translation company called Lionbridge. This was probably one of the coolest international jobs I’ve ever had. I was working at their Warsaw office since I was living in Poland at that time. The Warsaw office had just won the bid to facilitate the translations of Google Advertisements into various languages on a daily basis. Since Google Ads often are short, require multiple language translations, and have a quick turnaround time, Lionbridge developed an effective translation cycle using the time zones in their favor and all of their offices around the world.
The process looked like this: every evening the U.S. office in Seattle would send the Warsaw office the translation requests (while we were sleeping). In the morning, our Polish Desktop Publisher Engineers would extract the text from the images for us to send out to translators across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. As the translations came back in the afternoon, we would communicate with our co-workers in Mumbai, India, who would review the text for corrupted words and then their engineers would combine the text and images and send to the U.S. to be reviewed. If it was a short translation, all of this would happen in one day. Instant Messenger was the main form of communication between offices to discuss translations, and depending on the time of day I might have 5 conversations open on my computer screen talking with Lionbridge employees from Seattle, France, Czech Republic, Egypt, and India all at the same time. This is a great example of how every one of us was working in our home country and having an “international career.”
My experience with Lionbridge is becoming more of the norm now in many international companies. Your future employers will be looking for candidates with strong global and intercultural competencies to work with their clients and employees around the world. Do you have the global career skills necessary for an international business career?
The importance of global and intercultural competence
One of my professional goals at COBA is to show students how global competency isn’t an option anymore – it’s a requirement for a successful career in business. As Dr. Allan E. Goodman, President and CEO of Institute of International Education, put it: “International experience is one of the most important components of a 21st century resume.” Employers will be looking for evidence on your resume and during your interview that you have these global career skills, such as cultural sensitivity, foreign language abilities, strong communication skills, and experience working or studying abroad.
According to the Institute of International Education (IIE) “studying abroad is one of the best ways American college students can acquire international experience necessary to succeed in today’s global marketplace.” I have experienced first-hand how this is true. I would never be where I am today without my first trip abroad to Poland in high school.
Let me help you plan your adventure abroad and launch your international career.
You can start by setting up an appointment with me to discuss your options and what program would the best fit for your major. You can make an appointment here.
And mark your calendars for the biggest study abroad event on campus – UCF’s Annual Study Abroad Fair, on Tuesday, September 29, from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM in the Pegasus Ballroom. Stop by my table and learn about your opportunities in business. Hope to see you all there!
UCF Study Abroad Fair