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
Connecting culture and industry in the GA immersive experience
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.
“I WANT TO WORK ABROAD!” That was my overly-enthusiastic answer to everyone who asked about my study abroad experience when I returned. In response, my study abroad advisor talked about Peace Corps and teaching English as possible options. My mom suggested I get a job at a company in the US that would transfer me. My American friends shared words of encouragement and promises of meeting up for glorious expat parties. Everyone had ideas but nobody knew exactly how to turn my study abroad experience into an international career. It wasn’t until an Australian friend passed through my town and shared news of a job that later took me to Canada and New Zealand that I learned the truth: there’s no fast, direct path to an international career. Instead it’s more of a slow meander, with plenty of pauses for inquiry and conversation.
An international job search involves equal parts research and hustle, plus a dash of right place/right time luck. If your study abroad experience has you dreaming of the expat life, start your international job search during your time abroad. Here are 6 steps you can take during your time abroad to help you tackle the search.
Step 1: Know what you’re good at
You international job search starts with knowing your skills. Employers don’t care that you love (insert your favorite country here). They don’t always care about your global mindset. They care about your skills. What can you do that other candidates can’t? What knowledge do you bring to a position? Knowing the answer is what will help you differentiate yourself in the job search. Try this exercise to figure out what you’re good at or research the skills required to work for the world’s most in demand employers and then match them to your own experience.
Step 2: Master LinkedIn
LinkedIn makes the international job search so much easier. Learn how to use the alumni tool, create advanced searches with key words and set up saved job searches. You can also have a LinkedIn profile in more than one language, increasing your visibility to international recruiters.
Step 3: Read all the jobs
The best advice I ever received came from a friend who read jobs as if she was reading the daily news. She told me to start reading jobs daily so I’d know how to position myself for international opportunities. Job posts give you all the information you need to better understand your target industry or company:
Skills: Do you have them? Take note of the skills you have to gauge how marketable you are in your field; if you don’t have the skills, figure out how to get them (MOOC’s, coding camps, volunteer projects, etc)
Language: When you write contacts or submit your resume/CV you need to use appropriate language for the industry and position. Use keywords gleaned from job posts to better articulate your goals, improve your LinkedIn profile, and include in your cover letter.
Additional information: Job postings often note where can you learn more about the company such as on LinkedIn and Twitter. Use information from these sources as the foundation for informational interview questions or to start conversations at networking events.
Step 4: Keep up with your international friends lives
Sure you’ve shared bottles of wine and traveled to beautiful islands together. But your travel buddies have friends and family in the workforce (plus they’ll have jobs soon too). Don’t underestimate the power of your international network. They may be able to help you find a job. Stay friends on Facebook and find them on LinkedIn too. Check in with them and catch up on their lives and careers. Tell them you’re interested in pursuing a job in their country and ask them if they know any companies or people who hire international candidates.
Step 5: Embrace the Informational Interview Informational interviews are simply casual conversations with professional people. They also open up doors. I know a former student who had over 120 informational interviews with professionals to understand the employment opportunities in his target country and build his network (he got a job too). The goal of informational interviews is two-fold: learn the paths of people who were successful in landing their jobs and get advice. If all goes well your curiousity and willingness to learn about this person will impress them and they may refer you if a position opens up. Ask your host family, site director, professors, and/or friends if they know someone in your industry of interest who is willing to talk to you about their career path. Look up alumni from your school who are living in your host country. Spend 20 minutes talking with a contact and you’ll get insider knowledge about organization and insight into what employers look for in candidates. For outsiders (read: foreigners) this information is priceless as you’ll need to navigate an application and interview process filled with new cultural challenges. Bonus points if you can do the informational interview in the language of the country you are residing in.
Step 6: Start small
Don’t start your international career search with a big-time, high stakes jobs in mind. It pays to start small. You won’t the big expat job like Director of Emergency Services relief for the Red Cross right out of college. Instead, search for entry level jobs at startups abroad. Find English tutoring projects. Or ask a local hostel if they need extra support. Seek out small opportunities to volunteer in your host country. Ask your site director if he or she needs help on extra projects like marketing, event planning, or logistical support for trips. Ask if they have a family member or friend who needs help with English tutoring. Small opportunities lead to bigger ones for people who have an open mind, cultural understanding and a solid work ethic.
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.
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.
This post is the first in a series of three to show off new companies and ideas in international education for NAFSA 2015 week.
Credential evaluators say that any document that has been touched by a student is deemed unofficial. I think that’s what we’ll see with the financial component [in international admissions] as well. The safest and most secure way to transfer any data is a direct confirmation from the institution in response to a request for verification, over a secure platform. – Cheryl DarrupBoychuck, founder and chief architect of FundsV
“How do you intend to pay for tuition and living expenses?” It’s the question every international student must answer. And the law requires international admissions staff to verify that answer.
International funds verification isn’t the hottest subject in international education but it should be; it’s at the heart of global international student mobility. Students who pursue degrees abroad must show proof of their ability to support themselves while in country. Though the technology in international student recruiting has improved dramatically, the technology to improve funds verification and lessen the risk of financial fraud lags behind. The current state of funds verification is a chaotic solution of paperwork, ripe for fraud, and inefficient for all parties involved.
FundsV is changing the status quo. Designed to improve the efficiency and integrity of the funds verification process, FundsV is an electronic data transfer platform that empowers students or their sponsors to point their financial data to the authority who requested it. So when a student is asked to prove how they intend to cover tuition and expenses they can simply create a profile on FundsV and send their or their sponsor’s bank account data to the requesting institution. With 4,000 banks in the FundsV network and a goal to reach 10,000, FundsV is a simple and efficient solution to funds verification challenges faced by administrators and students alike.
Talking to Cheryl DarrupBoychuck, founder of FundsV, about the years of research and beta-testing is a fascinating journey into the unique intersection of international education and financial technology. After all, how do you solve a problem that involves gaining students’ trust, ensuring privacy and robust data security, all while engaging a network of banks across the globe?
Below is an excerpt from my interview with Cheryl about how FundsV is solving the funds verification problem, engaging the millennial generation, and what she’s learning along the way.
How did FundsV start?
FundsV stands for funds verification and it percolated out of USjournal.com. We serve US college and universities and English language programs who want to recruit international students. About ten years ago one of our advertisers did not renew, which is rare. So I wanted to get to the bottom of what happened. They said they appreciated the inquires that we generated for them but wanted to know if there was any way we could financially qualify students earlier in the process so they could dedicate their limited resources to students who were most likely to get approved for their student visas.
Back in 2006 I didn’t think it was possible. We had privacy issues and online banking wasn’t anywhere near where it is today. So we tried to ignore it but the whole concept kept percolating. With the ability to track and access bank account data it’s a whole lot easier now that the industry has matured. Consumers around the world are getting more comfortable with the technology. It’s very gratifying that the pieces are coming together and the market is ready.
How are university administrators integrating FundsV into their admission process?
Some campuses are integrating FundsV through their international admissions page. They tell prospective students that they must provide proof of sufficient funds and give two ways to do it: paper or electronically. But the law is vague by design. It says students have to prove sufficient funds, but the government doesn’t tell you how.
But we are finding that the greater opportunity for FundsV is integrating the functionality via an API within existing processes. So if an organization is using Terra Dotta or any of the other similar international student application management systems, the seamless approach would be to integrate a FundsV component into the software. In the future, the student and admissions counselor won’t need to go outside of their systems. So really it’s a matter of working with those larger clients; of course that takes more time, but that level of customization is really in demand.
Who is currently using FundsV technology?
There are a number of schools. Lewis University in Chicago is one example. Southern Illinois in Carbondale just signed on with us. There are also a number of beta participants.
How does FundsV minimize the risk of fraud?
Within FundsV’s network of 4,000+ banks, only data is transferred so there are no images to manipulate, there are no signatures to forge, no bank logos that can be photoshopped. Only the data flows. For example, for students who verify their accounts online, we can track when another user in the FundsV system accessed that same account. If you have a goofy agent overseas who might manipulate bank statements for 25 of his students, we can track that. That functionality has been used more often than I thought it would be. Credential evaluators say that any document that has been touched by a student is deemed unofficial. I think that’s what we’ll see with the financial component as well. The safest and most secure way to transfer any data is through a request from the owner over a secure platform to the authority who sent it.
Not all methods of funds verification are created equal.
What are some of the additional benefits for students and universities using FundsV?
In many countries millennials and students have never written a paper check. They’ve never received a bank statement in the mail. Colleges, universities, and other institutions need to ‘meet’ the students in their native online environment. And FundsV provides that convenience for students so they are able to complete an international student application in one sitting.
We’ve been exploring so many different options over the years and getting feedback from our beta participants to whom we will be forever grateful. They have found it really improves the efficiency and the integrity of the financial verification process but also in situations where a student has a status change or needs a tuition refund. Offices are also trying to go paperless so our functionality fits in well with advancing that goal.
What is your role like on a daily basis?
Busy! It’s really just identifying new opportunities to serve the market and identifying what tasks need to be prioritized. That’s really the challenge. Early on, as with many start-ups, I felt compelled to pursue every little tangent. As we’ve matured, we’re more disciplined and focused.
What have you learned throughout this process?
It’s all about the relationships that you build. We are based in Corning, NY which it’s gorgeous but it’s not exactly a mecca for networking with other financial services or international education colleagues. One of my original contacts with Bank of America from ten years ago was at a conference and approached this other data management organization. She told them they should talk with me and that conversation has just lead to one episode of serendipity after another. Clearly that opportunity would not have happened if I hadn’t shaken her hand. Our whole business is designed around technology but the bottom line is that you really need to hone those relationships and there is nothing in the world that can duplicate those relationships.