Nadine Maier was a 4th year Arts Major at Simon Fraser University. With her degree coming to an end, she still didn't feel prepared for what was to come in the "real world." Understanding the importance of gaining career relevant experience, she applied to Semester in Development program and ended up spending 3 months studying, interning and traveling in Uganda.
Nadine truly believes this experience really broke her our of her shell both personally and professionally. She feels that this semester abroad played a significant role in her landing a job with the company of her dreams soon after returning home.
PROBLEM: AFRAID TO GRADUATE, AFRAID TO TRAVEL
You may think that after putting in 4 years of hard work that students would be excited to finally enter the work force as educated adults. However, with graduation fast approaching, like many students today, Nadine found herself fearing , rather than welcoming, her upcoming graduation.
"I was afraid to graduate. I didn't want to leave the safety of being in school. In my mind I kept telling myself... I won't be able to find a job. I won't be employable. I won't be competitive."
She knew that what she needed was to start taking on opportunities that would help her stand out in the increasingly competitive job market.
"I wanted to start gaining work experience relevant to my degree to make myself a more valuable candidate when I did enter the work force and I wanted to do it abroad. That being said, I didn't start university until i was 22, so I didn't feel like I had the luxury of losing time. As much as I understood the importance of gaining relevant work experience, I also didn't want to delay my graduation."
She did face another challenge. As much as she wanted to take off to gain work experience abroad, she also had a lot of fears around this.
"I've always been a shy person. I was not someone who ever reacted well to change. I'm not an adventurer. I'm very cautious and safe. I was afraid to travel. I was afraid that an experience like this wouldn't suit my personality type."
SOLUTION: SEMESTER IN DEVELOPMENT TAKES NADINE ABROAD
After discovering the Semester In Development, a program that combines studying, interning and travel all into one international experience, Nadine felt like she had to apply. Through the program, she would have the opportunity to gain relevant hands-on work experience, while living and travelling abroad, all without delaying her graduation. What excited her even more was the fact that the program takes place in Uganda.
"I wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t as typical as where my friends were going. A lot of my friends were going to South East Asia or Europe. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to go to Africa."
Even though Nadine was afraid that, based on her personallity type, she might not succeed in a program like this, she took a leap of faith and went for it. Looking back, she's so glad she did.
Nadine claims that studying and earning credits was just a side benefit compared to the incredible growth she experienced by working and living in Uganda. She interned with Straight Talk, a community health based NGO that uses magazines and other forms of communication as outreach. Nadine feels Straight Talk Uganda really challenged her, and pushed her to grow.
"I had to learn a lot about subjects I had no experience with and they assigned me work beyond what I'd ever done before. I had to work hard to keep up with them. I wrote an entire issue of their magazine, cover to cover, by myself.
Then, towards the end of the Semester in Development, I did a 17 hour drive up to rural Uganda for a week long field trip to do research for UNICEF on conflict resolution. I was literally working in rural Uganda, surrounded by mud huts. I didn’t really believe this existed anymore. I got to research something that's actually important and that I believe will make a difference. This was a once in a lifetime experience for me that I will never forget.
After my time working with Straight Talk and living in Uganda, I proved to myself that I can handle a lot more than I thought I could. I was just an arts major from Canada and this experience allowed me to gain new confidence around the idea that if I put my mind to something, I can do it!"
RESULTS: NADINE FINDS MEANINGFUL EMPLOYMENT AND BREAKS OUT OF HER SHELL
While her fears weren't completely put to rest, Nadine left Uganda far more confident that, after spending 3 months studying, interning and living in East-Africa, she'd be able to find meaningful work.
“The Semester in Development made me really stand out to potential employers. Thanks to the program, all of my interviews went really smooth. Living in Uganda was a big conversation topic during an interview. The experience made me seem like a more interesting and well-rounded person. I was able to get a job with the company of my dreams soon after returning home, and I credit a lot of that to my experiences abroad, and my abilities to convey what I did in Uganda."
Nadine claims that besides landing her a great job, since returning home, her life has been very different.
"The Semester in Development was something I wasn't sure I could do, but I overcame it. I became more independant. I am now much more willing to embrace change in my life and alot less afraid of mixing things up. I am far more confident in that I can do anything I set my mind to.
I made life long memories with a group of people who have become life long friends. I met my boyfriend in Uganda and my two female roommates are now some of my best friends. I can’t imagine life without these people.
In the last year since coming home, I’ve done so many more things that I would have never tried before. I am more adventurous. I used to say no to things a lot. I now say yes to opportunities a lot more than I ever used to, or could have imagined.
After finishing the Semester In Development, I feel like I have no limits!”
Interested in reading about more student experiences? Click here to read: A Semester In East Africa Led UBC student Jacob Cutts to develop New Perspectives on Development