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Widening students’ international options

Successful diplomats for the Department of State possess empathy for foreign cultures, curiosity for the unknown and vast knowledge of U.S. traditions, said senior Foreign Service officer Mary Thompson-Jones.

“It helps to know a lot about America,” she told some 50 students at Northeastern’s first Global Careers Forum, many of whom are preparing to take the Foreign Service exam. “Don’t underestimate the importance of explaining America to the world.”

The forum, held last week at Northeastern, was designed to prepare students for global careers or experiential learning opportunities. More than a dozen worldwide employers, including the Department of State, Monster and Pfizer, Inc., introduced students to their organizations, answered questions and offered advice on working abroad.

“We wanted students to have face time with employers in a non-interview setting,” said Maria Stein, Northeastern’s director of career services. “By understanding which skills they need to be marketable, they can begin to build a global career while they’re still here at Northeastern.”

Students who attended the forum — which is intended to become an annual event as part of Northeastern’s mission as a global university — were seeking full-time jobs, short-term volunteer experiences or global co-op opportunities.

Sophomore political science major Ali Zelisko considered the event a stepping-stone to her first co-op job. She was particularly interested in learning more about WorldTeach, a non-governmental organization for students who want to teach English, science or math to children in countries such as Chile, China and Costa Rica.

“I’m starting to look at co-op opportunities,” said Zelisko, who plans to complete a Dialogue of Civilizations program in Europe next year. Her long-term goal is to practice international or environmental law.

As she put it, it’s not too early “to find out what’s available.”

Senior Patrick Durigan plans to take the Foreign Service exam, but he’s not sure where it will lead.

“The forum gives me a chance to explore different career paths,” said Durigan, a political science and international affairs double major who expressed interest in working in Algeria or Morocco. “Working abroad is an interesting way to learn about different parts of the world and incorporate what I’ve learned at Northeastern.”

International employers praised Northeastern students for their career focus, motivation to succeed and passion for global issues.

“Northeastern students have a clear idea of what they’re looking for professionally,” said Jonathan Hass, a human resource manager for United Planet, an international peace-building nonprofit organization with volunteers in more than 150 countries. “They’re highly motivated, well-traveled and good communicators.”