A conversation on international student careers

A conversation on international student careers

International Education International students Jobs

Last week I hosted a Twitter discussion about international student careers by hopping onto #IEW2015. The hashtag had a flurry of activity all week with over 1000 posts by international educators. Most of the content focused on study abroad initiatives and the results of the Open Doors report. My goal was to move the discussion from a focus on international student recruiting to best practices in international student success, specifically on careers.

Though the discussion was rather quiet compared to other discussions on the hashtag, there hasn’t been a better time to start talking about international student careers. With a ten percent increase in international students in the 2014/15 year, higher education has a lot of catching up to do to meet international student needs. Karin Fischer, an international reporter from the Chronicle summed it up best:

Below are a few ideas on how to better improve international student career outcomes, common barriers to the US job search, and how internationalize the career services office.

You can join a live discussion on international student careers during the interactive webinar on Dec. 10, 7pm EST. Details here.

International Ed Week: Let’s talk about international student success

International Ed Week: Let’s talk about international student success

International Education International students Jobs

There are 1.13 million foreign students in the U.S., the vast majority in college-degree programs… That represents a 14% increase over last year, nearly 50% more than in 2010 and 85% more than in 2005. – International Students Stream into US Colleges

International student growth shows no signs of slowing down in the US. But with that growth comes new expectations from administrations and students alike. A 2014 NAFSA study found that international students identified career services tailored for international students as a best practice. In a fresh-off-the-press more recent study, QS found that “improving employment prospects and progressing on a current career path” were among the top reasons international students apply to grad school. Careers are clearly on our students’ brain. Yet career services staff and international advising professionals do not feel well equipped to provide this high-touch service. Unlike domestic students, the international student job search is not a straight-forward path. Their path is not as simple as submitting a resume and hoping an employer calls. Visa barriers, cultural misunderstandings, and language ability add complications to an international student’s job search. As an international student career coach supported by a stellar university career services team, I work with students on these challenges daily.

So to celebrate International Education Week, I’m launching Advising International Students on Career Opportunities, a virtual professional development workshop designed to help higher education professionals better advise international students on career outcomes.  I’m hosting an interactive webinar on December 10, 7:00 pm EST. You can look forward to a webinar that doesn’t suck! You read that right. No boring, one-way webinars here. Hosted on Crowdcast, you’ll have the opportunity to chat with one another, share your department’s best practices, upvote most common questions, and get answers to your immediate challenges in international student career advising. For free!

You might be a good fit for this course if you are

  • An international student advisor
  • A career services professional who advises international students
  • A dean or provost interested in improving international student retention

By participating, you will be able to

  • Understand the US job search from an international student perspective, including motivations and search process
  • Recognize barriers and opportunities in the international student job search
  • Help international students adapt to specific cultural challenges in the US job search
  • Evaluate current tools for international students in the US job search
  • Advise international students on best practices in their job search, in the US and back home
  • Create an advising framework that works best for your international student population
  • Make department recommendations on how to improve international student career outcomes

After the interactive webinar you will receive 

  • Recording of the video
  • PowerPoint Slides
  • Curated resources to support international students in the job search

Length of the webinar

  • 90 minutes with plenty of breaks for Q&A

Ready to sign up?

>>> Click here to go to the Crowdcast platform to RSVP <<<

Here’s a peek at the easy-on-your-eyes slides:




What if college majors were designed more like General Assembly programs?

What if college majors were designed more like General Assembly programs?

International Education Marketing

My love affair with General Assembly continues. I’m slightly obsessed with their user experience design program. My love of ethnography, problem solving, and communication has me dreaming of a job in user experience. (true dream job: travel ethnographer). Some day I’ll take a sabbatical from my current dream job and take a GA course. For now I’m window shopping.

When I get an email from General Assembly I click. I click because they’ve got a strong email marketing game. I’m sure I’ve got a mighty fine behavioral score. But I return to their website each time because I know that I’ll find a landing page that answers all my questions: So what’s really going on in this course? How much is it? What will I learn and what can I do when I’m done? 

With an admissions-focused communication and design style, General Assembly nails it. They communicate all the program information a prospective student needs in a single place. Their landing pages are also quite easy on the eyes (hello white space!).

Now compare this experience to university websites. Imagine you’re an eager prospective college student, ready to learn all the things. Take a look at the computer science major at Stanford or MIT’s computer science programs page. As you explore your future major, try finding the cost of their programs or career outcomes. Get a feel for the work students get to do or look up faculty. Can you find that information? If you did, how does the experience feel?

Chances are it feels like a chore. And that’s a shame because both schools have killer courses, rockstar faculty, and plenty off opportunities (including scholarships). Now imagine if those college majors read more like General Assembly programs.

Here’s why GA’s prospective student experience works so well:

Clear Learning Goals


No mysteries here. Bold headings tell me exactly what I’ll learn in a clear outline featuring succinct descriptions. Did I mention it’s oh so easy.on.the.eyes?

Financial Aid and Cost

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 12.04.37 PM


Cost is the top factor in college decision making. GA doesn’t hide their program costs and includes the price right alongside the curriculum. I don’t have to play the guess-and-click game to track down the tuition (and ways to pay for it) elsewhere on the site.

Career Tie In with Company and Alumni Spotlights



Career prospects are a key enrollment driver for prospective students, right up there with affordability and academics. As a prospective student, I can visualize a future at the end of the program. If I’m feeling extra motivated (and I am because I’ve had to do so little work so far) I can research the companies that hire in this field.

Put simply, the prospective student experience with General Assembly programs is down right enjoyable. I feel excited and motivated when I look at their programs. I’m not burdened with hunting down important decision-making information; it’s all served up in one scrollable, mobile friendly package. The experience makes me return to the program again and again.

Grant it, General Assembly offers career accelerator programs not degrees. Plus Stanford and MIT can kick back and ignore user experience because they have gleaming reputations that seem to make the user experience all but irrelevant. But marketing and communication teams in institutions without shiny brands should take note and adapt accordingly.

Can higher education marketing teams create better, more enjoyable experiences for prospective students? It’s remains to be seen. A recent analysis on the failure of schools to adapt to an admissions focused experience on mobile doesn’t inspire hope. University departments are so siloed that it takes a feat of mental gymnastics to imagine career services sharing a digital space with academic departments. With the cost of a college education now synonymous with crushing debt and delayed life events, higher education marketing teams may cringe at being so up front and center about their tuition cost.

I did find a bit of hope in my search for a university website that creates a positive experience for prospective students: my alma matter, the University of Oregon, gets closer to the GA style with their computer science major page. They could use a few more graphic elements to break up the text blocks. Information about their tuition is only one click away, under a menu clearly labeled “Costs & Financial Aid.”

So maybe there is hope. Maybe higher education just needs more user experience designers.


General Assembly’s tech intensive experience combines tech skills and study abroad

General Assembly’s tech intensive experience combines tech skills and study abroad

International Education Jobs Study Abroad

Hot damn I love General Assembly. GA’s career accelerator courses appeal to the masses seeking a career change. They also have an option for university students who want to combine tech training with international experiences. Through GA’s tech intensive programs students can immerse themselves in tech communities in London or Sydney while exploring local culture and learning practical skills. It’s study abroad meets tech and it’s quite clever.

Study abroad shapes career paths. It also attracts the type of people that GA wants for their programs: curious, motivated and open to more than one way of solving problems. GA is on to something by offering an option to study abroad. Their programs remind me of the awesome work being done over at Sage Corps.

I can think of several student types who might benefit from GA’s tech immersive experience:

  • Liberal arts majors who want to add concrete skills to compliment their studies (hello user experience design!)
  • Business students who aim to work in tech post-graduation
  • STEM majors who want to work in another country and need a network
  • Student entrepreneurs who love tech and travel and see no practical options at their university
Study Abroad tech

Connecting culture and industry in the GA immersive experience

Study abroad tech

The programs aren’t cheap. But neither are university study abroad programs.

In the future I’d love to see a foreign language component added to the next location. Learn German while networking in Berlin’s startup community! Learn Swedish in Stockholm, the startup capital of Europe!  Language is the gateway to new ideas, impactful professional relationships, and ridiculous amounts of fun.

Throw in an adventure travel component and GA could really take these experiences to the next level. Imagine kayaking wild rivers with overnight camping or an afternoon spent Skydiving. Those experiences create bonds for life – professional and personal.

Overall, I’m definitely feeling these courses.

New skill development + career prep + international fun having times = Dreamy.


International students: Where are they now?

International students: Where are they now?

International Education International students

“There are 1.13 million foreign students in the US … a 14% increase over last year [and] nearly 50% more than in 2010 and 85% more than in 2005.” International Students Stream Into U.S. Colleges, Wall Street Journal

If you work in higher education these numbers are no surprise. There is plenty of discussion on international student mobility in the US, much of it centering on international student origins and destinations. Despite the increase in foreign students in US higher education year over year, little information exists on international student outcomes, particularly with regards to employment.

I’m researching the career paths of international students who remain in the US after graduation. Know talented foreign professionals who graduated from a US degree program and stayed in the US for work? Share this short introductory survey with your network so I can connect with them for a Skype discussion.

Survey link: http://goo.gl/forms/hF32oZBzux

Got questions or interested in this subject? Connect with me on LI (send a personalized message) or @pdxnicolle.

Could MOOCs be a new tool for international admissions?

Could MOOCs be a new tool for international admissions?

International Education International students Marketing

In a way, we’re kind of a lead generator… [t]here are many universities that are very well known in U.S. that are not very well known abroad, and the visibility they get through Coursera is in a way a very efficient way to reach new students. – Richard C. Levin, Coursera CEO in Wired Campus, As Coursera Evolves, Colleges Stay On and Investors Buy In

MOOCs as lead generators: I’d love to see this happen.  And apparently so do Coursera’s investors as they just served up $49 million in VC funds to support Coursera’s new experiments in international markets. While most of the Coursera coverage focuses on MOOCs as professional development tools and mini-degree providers, the quote above introduces a new marketing tool for international admissions. Three-quarters of Coursera’s users are outside the US. For international admissions departments that are as open to experiments as Mr. Levin, the move raises loads of fun questions. A casual list:

  • How do you define an international student on Coursera and what are their motivations? How do online-learning habits differ by country or culture? 
  • How do you identify a future international student – the one who is interested in attending the university hosting the course rather than just gaining new knowledge?
  • How are future international students using Coursera?
  • What’s the value of 40,000 student emails who signed up for a specific university MOOC but didn’t complete it? How does that value shift when 60% of that list completes the course? Would those who complete a MOOC earn a high value score and sky rocket to the top of your engagement list? 
  • How would MOOCs change if part of the course goal was lead generation (i.e. would they include rockstar professors who have a knack for engaging across cultures and platforms? Would they include strategic university swag placement!?)
  • How will university departments – faculty and administration – muster the willpower, curiosity, and design-thinking skills to collaborate across departments to experiment with Coursera as a recruiting platform for future international students?

This last question might actually be the hardest to answer.

Intl Admissions Teams

I wish I were back in college to take this cultural anthropology class

International Education

Imagine never being bored again. That’s what college is really all about. It’s not just about getting a job. It’s about learning all kinds of stuff so that the world becomes alive. And you might actually purposefully not open your phone every time you have a moment because you just want to be with the world. Let’s put that as the ultimate goal of the class.

Professor Wesch takes his class on the ultimate journey and he kicks it all off in the coolest way possible.

And if you liked this, spend some time with his fascinating work in digital ethnography. Watch An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube and The Machine is Using Us.

Fluent City: The coolest way to learn a new language as an adult

Fluent City: The coolest way to learn a new language as an adult

International Education Language Study Abroad Travel

Last April at NYC Tech Day 2015, I stumbled on the language company Fluent City amidst a sea of tech and finance startups. I was positively giddy to find out they exist. As French major whose language exposure is now limited to foreign friend’s Facebook updates, Fluent City offers those who have relapsed in their language skills an easy way to reconnect with their old languages or start brand new ones. Imagine practicing your Spanish over wine and cheese pairings. Or learning Mandarin with a teacher cool enough to have a beer with after class. Fluent City teaches “old school in-person classes … taught in an awesome and refreshing new school way.” They bring together all the globally curious people for language learning and cultural celebration. They’re also probably the most fun you’ll have in language class.

I spoke with Mandy Menaker from Fluent City to learn more about all the ways they’re bringing language lovers together to celebrate culture!

What’s the difference between your language school and taking a course at a university?
Courses at the university level are usually quite formal. You may come away knowing the grammar but you don’t always come away with the vocabulary and the conversation skills that you need to travel. Our role is to enable our students to walk into a bar and buy someone a drink, ask where the bathroom is located, and figure out how to get to their hostel in a foreign language. They get conversation skills they actually need while hopefully not sounding like a foreigner while doing it.

As adults we don’t have that many opportunities to take language and culture classes.
Absolutely and that’s what so cool about this. With our classes you are introduced to culture while meeting like minded individuals in your neighborhood. You may come in with the idea of taking a class to meet people in Spain or France but when you’re here you’re meeting people that are interested in travel and culture who are looking to expand their horizons as well.

What are the language classes like?
Our classes are fun. We put personable, energetic, approachable teachers in front of our classroom. They are the kind of people you want to get a drink with after class. Our classes are about putting interesting people with interesting teaches so they can learn the language and do interesting things. We focus on making classes approachable. I think a lot of people have a fear of language because it seems scary. I’m not a language person because I’m terrible at it. But I love language and I’ve taken Spanish, Hebrew and I’m about to start Italian with my boyfriend. So if I can have fun with them, anyone can. We also structure the classes so they fit into your existing schedule. We have classes on weeknights and afterwork at convenient locations. We also have weekend options for flexible schedules.

What types of people try your classes?
We are open to anyone that is open to cultures. People take our classes for work because they want to use the language with their international clients. We’ve worked with the Red Cross in DC to help them communicate better with diverse communities. We even have couples who are marrying across cultures take our classes because they want to communicate better in the kitchen. They’re trying to impress in-laws. They’re meeting grandma for the first time and want to fit into the families. What’s so fun is that it’s not just open to travelers.

In addition to language classes you also offer events like international scavenger hunts, cooking classes, and film nights. Are you a language company or a cultural events company?
We are definitely a language company. The original owner is a Southern boy from Georgia who went to France and fell in love with it. He moved back to Brooklyn and wanted to be able to go to classes and share the culture. But there wasn’t really anything happening in the city that was fun. There were language classes but they were very structured and expensive. Since he spoke enough French he decided to teach his friends. He taught classes in his living room under the name “Sam Teaches French.” People loved it and starting asking if he offered other languages so he eventually brought on other teachers. There was so much interest that he had to move the classes of his living room and Fluent City in its current form was born.

language class brooklyn

Happy and relaxed language learners!

How are the languages incorporated into your cultural events?
We have cultural events, movie screenings, cooking classes, things that allow you to put your language skills to practice. Having a casual atmosphere helps you feel more comfortable. But more important than trying the language is that when classes go out together they really form a bond that helps them connect with each other. Students tend to stay with the program longer when they’ve connected with their classmates and teacher. We also have events in English. We offer a mix of both because we want students to practice their language but don’t want them to be excluded from events just because they don’t speak the language. We do panels with a focus on topics like how to start a travel blog, how to take your startup global, and how to volunteer abroad.

You offer Mandarin, Russian and Hebrew among others as language learning opportunities. How do you choose which languages to offer?
We started with French and Spanish because people take them in high school so they have a background in them. It’s intimidating to start something new as an adult. It’s easier to start a language that you know a bit about. They’re popular languages. But some people are the opposite and will purposefully pick Japanese because they want to start from the beginning and learn something new. We also did some surveys to find out what language people were into and now we offer 10 languages.

With so many options, where should a language lover start?
Our open houses are perfect for curious people and their friends. They offer a chance for people to experience our classes. We do a free 45-minute workshop with donuts and coffee and they’re a ton of fun. It’s often a mix of potential students and current students who are interested in a taking an additional language. People come out because who doesn’t want a free 45-minute language workshop and brunch!? I love running the open houses!

Browse language classes by location and learn more about Fluent City at www.fluentcity.com.

Sage Corps brings a major dose of global entrepreneurship to study abroad

Sage Corps brings a major dose of global entrepreneurship to study abroad

International Education Networking Study Abroad

This is the second post in a series exploring startups in international education for NAFSA 2015 week. Read the previous post here.

Ultimately I want to build a global community of students and entrepreneurs. Once you’re part of Sage Corps, you’re part of the community for life.

It’s not often you hear stories about American undergraduates devising go-to-market strategies for global startups in Argentina or translating slides for a fundraising pitch to Korean venture capitalists. But these are the stories coming out of Sage Corps, an experiential learning program that sends top US college students abroad to help entrepreneurs build companies. Students are immersing themselves in startup communities around the globe, trying new roles, applying their skills and gaining access to influential makers and leaders along the way. It’s transformative learning at its best and the most captivating new program in the international education space.

Founded by Matt Meltzer and located in Chicago’s thriving tech hub 1871, Sage Corps has been sending students abroad to work in global startups since summer 2013. And with 1871’s incredible network of co-working spaces around the world and Matt’s personal network, there is no shortage of startup projects for students: Working with 3D sensor technology in Buenos Aires. Developing next-gen baby monitors in Singapore. Creating sustainable housing in Singapore.

Yet the student experience doesn’t end after the 12 week program. When students return from abroad they are paired with a Sage, a global business leader – often a Vice President or higher – who is tasked with helping the student figure out how to leverage their experience abroad in a professional context.

Below I talk with Matt to learn more about immersive professional experiences abroad and what Sage Corps participants gain from this unique global experience.


What is the goal of Sage Corps?
We are really focused on teaching students global company building and global networking. That’s our two pronged mission for college students.

There are many places outside the US where the local consumer market is too small to support a robust startup community. So out of necessity someone who wants to create a business in those markets has to think globally from day one. That’s global company building. If you look at a place like Israel the local consumer market is tiny. So Israeli startups need to figure out how to sell products or services internationally, across markets, languages, and geographies. That’s a much different process than starting a company in NYC or LA. In the US you walk out your door and have access to a billion dollar market. But we think it’s increasingly important for students to understand how you build a global company as opposed to a local one. At Sage Corps students are learning how to sell a product that is made or developed in one continent and sold in another. They’re learning how to sell it to consumers in multiple languages and across time zones.

The idea of global networking is really based on the idea of expanding your professional network beyond just your local borders. We took our students to a networking event in Hong Kong last summer. One of our students approached a speaker who was from the local startup community, in ten minutes had a job offer, and then went to work for him. We had another student in Argentina and we took him to an investor conference. He connected with an entrepreneur who was moving his startup to Chile. They kept in touch and the following summer that student went down to work with them. There are real opportunities now especially with startups because they need the help.

How did Sage Corps start?
It started with my own personal experience having spent a year in South America, primarily in Argentina. I worked for a small early stage newspaper and I taught corporate executives to pay the bills. I was getting access to higher ups at multinational corporations. In the process I became fluent in Spanish. When I returned in 2004 I went to law school and was able to leverage my experience abroad into a niche practice representing Latin American companies. That was due in part because of my global work experience and the network I built overseas. So my idea is to help students open doors to form real professional relationships with people across borders.


What type of students participate in Sage Corps?
We are looking for students who are self selecting who want to do this. We have poetry and literature fanatics who work with startups on creating a narrative for their customers. We have comp science majors. We have huge opportunities for engineers and those on the business side. We have a mechanical engineering student going to Ireland who is building a sensor for a company that will purify and kill bacteria in the air. We have three mechanical engineers going to Singapore to build a prototype of a new baby monitor that’s placed underneath mattresses to detect the baby’s heartbeats.

The great thing about this is that there are no rules. Students are not pigeonholed into a department and given assignments. Students have the freedom to dabble in other areas. They may be at a startup for sales and marketing but if they want to learn how to fundraise, they have the freedom to do that. And CEOs think that’s amazing.

How does Sage Corps benefit student’s careers when they return? 
Our alumni have gone on to work at other startups, consulting firms, tech companies and even investment banking. The anecdotal feedback we get is that students are walking into interviews and recruiters are looking saying, “Wait a minute, you rolled out a market strategy while you were in South America? That’s amazing.” We’ve had incredible outcomes for our students. One student from Dartmouth came back, started a digital marketing company out of his dorm room and launched a student innovation center.

We tell students that if you go through this program with the right mindset and open yourself up, there will not be a job in any corner on the earth or professional opportunity that you would be scared to take on once you come out of this experience.

What’s next for Sage Corps?
We are rolling out part-time programming during the semester for the first time. So if you are studying abroad you can work with a startup 10-15 hours a week and join our event programming on the ground. It all takes place after hours so it doesn’t interfere with your studies. We aren’t looking to replace study abroad; quite the contrary. We are a niche opportunity to compliment student activities. We give you that immersive professional experience to compliment your study abroad experience. We are already working with University of Michigan business school and Illinois engineering school on that. We are obviously looking to connect with other schools who would be interested in offering this to their students who are studying abroad.

Learn more on the Sage Corps website and get connected with Sage Corps on Twitter


6 ways to make networking less awkward at NAFSA

6 ways to make networking less awkward at NAFSA

International Education Networking

We all know networking is key to getting things we want – new jobs, new ideas, new partnerships. Yet when I ask students or colleagues about their networking efforts their answers fall somewhere between “networking is so awkward” or “OMG I hate it.”

Networking at its simplest is about conversations. Talking to strangers can feel awkward, no doubt. But your willingness to push through the awkwardness, engage strangers and actively listen opens the door to potential. And with a bit of preparation, a few opening lines and a dash of bravery, anyone can be a conversationalist. You never know where a conversation might lead. It may be a hint about a unadvertised job opening. Or an invite to a coffee chat about your new idea. They can lead to insightful career advice. Or maybe even a fantastic travel tip.

So here are six ways ways to network at NAFSA 2015. Use the opening lines to get those conversations started.

Find Your People

The key to good conversations is finding commonality with other people. NAFSA is huge but they make it extremely easy to find your people through the Knowledge Communities and Member Interest Groups. Look through the list before you attend. Find a meeting with your people. Show up, find the host, and introduce yourself.

Opening line: “I didn’t know this group existed. How long have you been part of it?”

Ask All the Questions

Fun fact: plenty of people love talking about themselves. The trick is to get them started talking. This is the best tip for introverts and non-native English speakers. Approach a group of people like you are a cultural anthropologist and learn about them. When they’ve answered your questions, ask follow up questions. Let them do the talking until they ask about you.

Opening line: “All this talk of study abroad reminds me I need to take a vacation. Where do you want to go this year?” Or try any of these awesome conversation starting questions.

Chat up the Presenters

Post-presentation chats are the perfect opportunity to connect on a topic you’re interested in. I love the questions and ideas that audience members ask after a presentation. As a presenter I’m always willing to share more because I can’t fit everything I want to say into a presentation. So say hello to the presenters and ask them a question about their work.

Opening line: “I really enjoyed your talk and learning (summarize what you learned). I was curious about how you (what do you want to know?)”

Treat the Expo Hall as a Career Center

The Expo Hall is where to find out what’s hot in international education. Go beyond the free stuff and engage the representatives. Ask them what attracted them to their company and what skills they look for in potential hires. Ask them what the most innovative new program or idea they’ve seen in international education. Use the expo hall as a place to get up to speed on what’s new in the industry and to find out where you might fit in, now or in the future.

Opening lines:

“How did you get your job at this company?”
“What do you like most about working for this company?”

Go to the Parties, Seriously

NAFSA is full of learning opportunities and professional decision-making but don’t forget the fun. You’ll be mingling with a fabulously interesting group of globally curious people who love language and travel. Pick an after party and join in the revelry. You’ll probably make a friend or maybe even a future work colleague.

Opening line: “Have you ever been to (country sponsoring the party)? I would love to go!”

Jump on the #NAFSA15 Hashtag

It’s no secret that the #NAFSA15 hashtag is the online party happening all throughout the conference. Share photos of speakers or exhibitors that you’re excited about. Tweet or retweet the people that you’re interested in. Job seekers: Use Twitter to tell people you are a job searching and show what you’re learning at NAFSA. Put your LinkedIn profile in your twitter bio so people can learn more about you.

Opening tweet: @(person of interest) I’m very interested in the work you are doing. Are you free to meet up today? #NAFSA15.
Need more tips? I’ll show you how to make networking less awkward so you can mingle throughout the NAFSA conference. Join me at the renamed-by-NAFSA-but-I’m-still-calling-it  Networking without Pants on Tuesday, May 26, 9:00am.