Undergraduate University: University of Florida
Undergraduate Major: Journalism/Communications; Minors in French; Portuguese; Latin American Studies
Current Job: Program Officer, Western Hemisphere (Central America, Caribbean, Mexico and Colombia), Foreign Fulbright Programs Division, Institute of International Education (IIE)
Background: I was born and raised in Guatemala, and I moved to the U.S. when I was 18 to attend college.
*As an undergraduate, I studied abroad in Ireland and Brazil, and volunteered in Guatemala and Portugal.
*As a graduate student, I participated in study abroad in Ghana and completed internships with Fulbright Taiwan in Taipei and with IIE-Latin America in Mexico City.
Other academic experiences:
After graduating from the University of Florida, I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and spent two years living in Taiwan. The first year, I worked with the local Bureau of Education, taught English in a public elementary school and volunteered locally through programs coordinated by the American Institute in Taiwan (U.S. Diplomatic Mission). After my Fulbright, I stayed in Taiwan an additional year to complete an intensive Chinese Language and Culture program at a local university.
What is your favorite part of your job?
An important part of my job consists of me acting as the main liaison between the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the various U.S Embassies and Fulbright Commission’s abroad. However, because of the culture of the countries in my caseload, I also receive daily personal e-mails and phone calls from my students and, on occasion, from their families thanking me for the work that I do. The majority of my students don’t have the personal funds to afford their studies abroad, and they are extremely appreciative and humbled by the opportunity to come to the U.S. to pursue their graduate studies. For that reason, I would have to say the most rewarding part of my job is the feeling that I am helping open doors for Latin American students and that I am having at least a small personal impact on their lives and the lives of their families.
What was your favorite part of the IE program?
My favorite part of the IE program was, without a doubt, studying abroad in Ghana through NYU Steinhardt’s Comparative Perspectives of Education and Diversity program. The three-week course was led by Prof. Jonathan Zimmerman, who goes back to Ghana each year and is extremely knowledgeable about the local history, customs and educational system. Prof. Zimmerman or “Prof,” as the Ghanaians call him, is easily the most charismatic and caring professor I have ever had.
The course consisted of visits to local schools, NGOs and the Ministry of Education to learn about the current state of the educational system in Ghana and also to think about how education in Ghana has been molded by the country’s history and culture. Even though the focus of the trip was academic and we did spend a considerable amount of time reading or completing assignments, we were also able to visit different parts of Ghana to learn about local culture. We visited Elmina Castle and Cape Coast Castle, where the Trans-Atlantic slave trade took place, and we went to reggae parties with locals on the beach, visited the largest outdoor market in West Africa and had traditional clothing made for us by a local tailor.
My experience in Ghana definitely added a new dimension to my understanding of educational challenges (and successes) in developing countries and motivated me to enroll in international development and NGO management courses during my last semester at NYU.
How did NYU prepare you for your current job?
Personally, I think that a key to my success in the program was using the resources available (study abroad, world-class professors, internships abroad, part-time work at the Office of Global Services, access to international education events and conferences) to network and to plan beyond graduation.
Do you have any advice for current or prospective students?
As a continuation to my answer above, I think the biggest piece of advice I can give students who are entering the program is to be active. Working, volunteering or interning throughout the program will help students find out what area of international education they enjoy the most and will give them an advantage when it comes to applying for jobs after graduation. It is also important to build relationships with professors, either at Steinhardt or in other departments, to ask for advice, find a mentor or get connected with potential employers.
Do you have any last thoughts that you'd like to share with prospective students about the program?
If you are a student who has lived abroad, has done Peace Corps or is a returning Fulbright grantee, make an effort to connect with other local alumni, do language exchange (if you’ve learned another language) and find ways to get involved locally that will help you maintain your cultural fluency. Don’t limit yourself to just attending class; look for ways to educate yourself outside of Steinhardt. It will make you a much more impressive candidate to employers and it will also make your time at NYU so much more fulfilling.