According to the Career Resource Center’s (CRC) First Destination survey, the nation’s flailing economy has motivated many recent Wesleyan grads to grab their passports and hightail it out of the states. The survey, which was conducted in August, reported that 35 students from the class of 2009 chose to head abroad after graduation, a significant increase from the 15 students in the class of 2008 who did the same.
“There is definitely an uptick in [people going abroad],” said CRC Director Mike Sciola. “And there is great opportunity if you are going to live cheaply. It is easier to do that abroad in developing countries than it is in Brooklyn.”
Going abroad is not a novelty for Wesleyan students. Director of the Office of International Studies Carolyn Sorkin reported that approximately 45 percent of all University students go abroad for a semester or a year. The office does not track summer study abroad and Sorkin notes that if they did, the percentage would be substantially higher.
The class of 2008 spread out evenly around the world with two students each in China, France, Japan, and Mexico. For the class of 2009, Japan was a hotspot for graduates—the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) was one of the top five employers, hiring four graduates in contrast to two from the class of 2008.
While at Wesleyan, Keiko Hamano ’09 spent her entire junior year abroad with the Associated Kyoto Program at Doshisha University in Kyoto. Hamano discovered JET when she was in high school.
“I contacted a few Wes alumni to get their opinions about the program,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “I knew I wanted to return to Japan after graduating, and I felt like the JET program was my best and most secure option (pending my acceptance, of course).”
Hamano is currently in Kishiwada, Osaka, about 45 minutes southwest of downtown Osaka City. She is teaching English at one of the 11 junior high schools in the city.
“I was extremely worried about what would happen to me if I hadn’t gotten into the JET program,” she wrote. “I saw how many alumni even from the class of 2008 were still unemployed, and it made me quite uneasy about my situation.”
Sorkin said that recently she has seen an increase in overseas fellowship applications such as the Rhodes Scholarship.
“Given the substantive increase in applications to the overseas post-graduate fellowships I oversee, I’d say the economic downturn is causing Wesleyan students to think more broadly about their options after graduation,” Sorkin wrote.
Sciola noted that working abroad can be a distinguishing factor on a resume.
“That immersion in cultures and languages is highly valued in the workplace now,” he said. “Getting fluent in another language, particularly Chinese or Spanish but even now Hebrew or Arabic is giving you a distinct advantage.”
Some students find themselves staying abroad even longer than they originally planned. Emily Greenhouse ’08 moved to Paris following graduation to intern at The New York Times bureau. She intended to return to the US once the internship ended, but a job opportunity kept her in Europe.
“I had resolved to move back to New York in spring but then found myself hired by a literary magazine [Granta] in London, and knew the opportunity was too great to pass up,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Argus.
Working and living abroad, Greenhouse said she has encountered many Wesleyan alumni.
“Wes is undoubtedly a network, a web that stays with you and keeps on giving – almost always for the better,” she wrote.
Although both Greenhouse and Hamano are many miles from Middletown, both appreciate the education they received at Wesleyan.
“Don’t stress out too much about your situation,” Hamano wrote. “Everything always works out in the end, even if it doesn’t seem like it will. Just have faith in the fact that you have a great education, a great system of support, and a lot going for you as a Wes alumni. Take advantage of the resources available to you, and do what you love. Do what you want to do, because there’s no better time in life than now.”