Programs: University of Haifa, Semester; UMN Arabic Language & Culture, Semester
Class of 2012: International Studies, with a certificate in Middle East Studies
Best advice for returnees: Don’t let that experience be the only one you can draw on from an international perspective. Plan more! – UW Alum Kadie Ray’s words are ones she lives by. She studied abroad in Israel and Morocco, taught English in Peru, worked and expanded her language skills in South Africa, and continues to take advantage of opportunities for international interests through her work in Madison.
What have you been doing since completing your study abroad program?
After my Junior year abroad in Israel and Morocco, I returned to campus for my senior year and continued to study Arabic. Directly after graduating, I traveled to Peru for a few weeks to teach English for elementary and middle school-aged kids. After returning from Peru, I worked in Madison for a while. I was doing some odd jobs trying to determine my next step and not too sure where it would take me. Then, I found the opportunity of a lifetime and applied for a job in Cape Town, South Africa.
I had never visited South Africa before, but knew I would be able to lean on my study abroad, language and travel experiences to help me in a new and foreign place. I worked in Cape Town for two years for a small business (and picking up a bit of a few languages along the way!) before returning home to Wisconsin. I came back to be closer to family, but still wanted to pursue a career with international impacts and where I might be able to use my language skills.
I’ve been at Epic for about two and a half years now. I work with many clients in the Middle East, and have helped with everything from Arabic translation efforts to traveling to Dubai to support end users that are using Epic software. I also get to rely on some of my study-abroad experiences when interacting with clients from around the globe even when not working directly with out Middle East customers. I haven’t relocated as part of my career at Epic (yet) as I’m still enjoying living closer to my family once more, but I know that there’s always that option if I so choose.
A reflection on your study abroad experience: How did your time overseas impact your life, your goals, and your career?
My time overseas has impacted every part of my life, goals, and career thus far. It’s what inspired me to move to South Africa for two years and what inspired me to pursue a job with an international reach once returning home. I will always be on the lookout for ways I can use my languages and ways I can incorporate international travel in to future career moves.
Having the experience of studying abroad has helped me to feel more confident in my ability to tackle issues and conflict with flexibility and to be aware of alternative or differing view points in the workplace. It’s also connecting me with friends (and pseudo-family) all over the world. I love meeting up with old friends from my study abroad experiences and re-connecting with others around the globe. It’s also given me the ‘travel itch’ and has me always on the lookout for my next international trip or adventure!
Share with us a favorite memory from your study abroad days.
I have so many favorites! I think one of my top memories is any day spent walking through the market in the Old Medina of Fez, Morocco on a busy day. Seeing the camel meat under the archway to kick you off down the winding, stone path filled with meats, spices, fruit, vegetables, sweets, and local wares will always be burned in to my memory.
Whenever visitors came, they always echoed that it ‘felt like a movie’ and was so exciting to walk through the market. Not only could I find anything I might’ve been looking for, from dinner to souvenirs, but I also was able to have fun, memorable conversations along the way and get to know my favorite shop owners.
What advice do you have for students returning from abroad?
Don’t let that experience be the only one you can draw on from an international perspective. Plan more! Continue to travel and learn about other languages and cultures! And keep in touch with the friends you made – you never know when that connection might be beneficial down the road!
It will likely be tough when you first return home, many of your friends and family might not completely understand or be able to empathize with the experience you’ve just had. But re-socializing will happen naturally, and soon those relationships will feel easy again. Falling back in to step with your life at home doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten about your study abroad experience either – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Interview conducted via email August 2017.