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An Intercultural Conversation with Owls Around the World

Though we could not come together in person this year, the Office of International Affairs took advantage of virtual technology to bring our Owls back to the nest. We invited some of our many globally engaged alumni to join us for an intercultural conversation about living through COVID-19, life after Temple, and being a global citizen.

International and U.S. alumni with life-changing education abroad experiences joined us from around the world. Moderator Leah Hetzell, EdD, director of International Student Affairs asked insightful questions, and our esteemed panel of international and study abroad alumni answered. Here’s a sampling of their thought-provoking responses.

Note: For these questions, study abroad refers to either U.S. students studying in another country, or international students studying in the U.S.

🌍︎ What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your early career, and how did Temple prepare you to meet those challenges? 

Nhi Nguyen, FOX, ’20 (Vietnam to U.S.)—“When you graduate into a pandemic, there are a lot of challenges you have to face. Important lessons that I learned were understanding myself and my abilities, and how to seek help when I needed it. My study abroad experience, specifically, helped me to significantly improve my communication skills, how to work with people, and how to work virtually.”

Alex Voisine, CLA, ’18 (U.S. to Mexico)—“Finding a job in another country was definitely a challenge—from adapting my resume or translating things into another language to using the vocabulary of job searching in a different space. My experiences at Temple, especially my study abroad programs, taught me how to be adaptable and flexible, and build up a network in a way that’s very personable.”

“My experiences at Temple, especially my study abroad programs, taught me how to be adaptable and flexible, and build up a network in a way that’s very personable.”

Alex Voisine, CLA, ’18

Rayanna Ruani, FOX, ’19 (Brazil to U.S.)—“A challenge for me getting a job after graduating was that I didn’t have as much professional experience on my resume as I would have liked. However, interviewers would always ask me about my experiences working with the International Student Affairs office and participating in different groups and organizations on campus. This gave me an opportunity to talk about my leadership and communication skills.”

🌍︎ What advice would you give to students who are preparing to study abroad and to students who are returning home?

Daecia-jame Smith, CEHD, ’17 (U.S. to U.K.)—“You need to take that time to do your due diligence and research where you are going to be spending your time. It’s imperative that you are respectful and step into your humility as you’re going to someone else’s homeland.”

Rachel Rhodes, KLN, ’18 (U.S. to South Korea)—“Wherever you’re going, you need to do your research on that culture and that country before you go. As an American, it is easy to fall into the trap of assuming everyone else has the same American experience. Not every country has the same references; you always need to remember to have dual perspectives.”

Chi Liu, Temple Law, ’88 (China to U.S.)—“To receive an education in America is to understand American culture and business, and to return to our home country to help people and to be a part of the ‘global village.’ For that reason, all of Temple’s programs, including its international campuses, are extremely valuable.”

🌍︎What were some of the cultural challenges that you faced while you were a student studying abroad?

Roger Barascout, BYR, ’05, CEHD, ’08 and ’12 (Guatemala to U.S.)—“Coming from Guatemala and adjusting to the U.S., you have to be open-minded and willing to adapt to a new environment. We don’t [want to] lose who we are, where we come from, but [you may find] bringing all your traditions and customs [to a new place] might be difficult.”

Nathan Pham, FOX, ’19 (Vietnam to U.S.)—“When I came to the United States, it took me a week to realize I had learned Vietnamese English and not American English. Even the way that classes are held at Temple was very different from what I had in Vietnam; here you’re expected to be active and speak up in classes, which I’m not used to, and [it] was a challenge for me. Everything changed when I admitted that I was struggling and I reached out for help.”

Danna Wang, FOX, ’17 and ’18 (China to U.S.)—“I think [the] language barrier and culture shock are the biggest challenges. Temple has a really good program for international students, including an orientation with helpful resources to address these challenges. There is also a great opportunity to make a lot of friends.”

“Temple has a really good program for international students, including an orientation with helpful resources to address these challenges.”

—Danna Wang, FOX, ’17 and ’18

🌍︎ How have you all been able to navigate this pandemic, personally and professionally, and what are the positive takeaways? How do you connect that back to being a Temple Owl?

Roger Barascout, BYR, ’05, CEHD, ’08 and ’12 (Guatemala to U.S.)—“I think looking at the positive side of things—we are able to develop new skills. This has forced us to communicate better because we don’t have the same social interaction that we would have in hallways or classrooms. I have become more precise in the way that I communicate and I always try to be clear.”

Daecia-jame Smith, CEHD, ’17 (U.S. to U.K.)—“I’m going to step out of quarantine to be a better individual and a better employee. This is the time for us to work on ourselves and not to stay stagnant. I’m going to step into my greatness, and I know that because I am Temple Made.”

🌍︎ What’s one piece of advice that you would give to students preparing to enter their career in our globalizing world?

Rayanna Ruani, FOX, ’19 (Brazil to U.S.)—“Keep an open mind about the opportunities out there. Step outside of your comfort zone and try something that you wouldn’t normally and see how it goes. Maybe you end up liking it, maybe you will confirm that you don’t like it.”

Danna Wang, FOX, ’17 and ’18 (China to U.S.)—“Embrace the change. Don’t be afraid to go to places you have never been; be brave and be ready.”

Alex Voisine, CLA, ’18 (U.S. to Mexico, Italy, and Spain)—“It makes a really big difference to enjoy the people that you’re around. That makes the work so much more rewarding and interesting. This will also allow you to grow a lot more as an individual.”

For the full conversation, watch the video below.

Alumni Bios
(From illustration above, left to right, top to bottom order)

Daecia-jame Smith graduated from Temple University in 2017 with a bachelor’s in education. Daecia currently lives and works in New Jersey where she teaches English and language arts at the Global Leadership Academy. 

Alex Voisine graduated in 2018 with degrees in global studies and Spanish. Recently named Temple’s first Gates Cambridge Scholarship winner, Alex works on improving the treatment of LGBTQIA+ migrants and refugees at the United Nations’ Mexico City office.

Nhi Nguyen, an international student from Vietnam and a 2020 Fox School of Business graduate, currently serves as an accessibility analyst at Level Access in the U.S.

Nathan Pham, also an international student from Vietnam, graduated from the Fox School of Business and now works as an analytics and technology consultant for Deloitte in Philadelphia. 

Rayanna Ruani, an international student from Brazil, graduated from Temple in 2019 with a degree from the Fox School of Business and now works as an operational excellence intern at Kuehne and Nagel in Hamburg, Germany. 

Roger Barascout, now assistant dean of Strategic Initiatives in the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, is a three-time Temple University graduate from Guatemala, with a bachelor’s in music and a master’s and doctorate in education. 

Chi Liu is a Temple Law graduate of the class of 1988 and works as a partner with Jun Ze Jun Law Offices in China, his home country. 

Rachel Rhodes, 2018 graduate from the Klein College of Communication, returned to her study abroad destination of Korea for several years after graduation and now works as an associate producer at Wonderful Machine.

Danna Wang received both her bachelor’s (2017) and master’s (2018) degrees from the Fox School of Business. A former international student from China, Danna now works as a market analyst for VanTop Technology and Innovation in Shenzhen, China.

By Evan Bossio, Coordinator, Education Abroad
Illustration by Harry Cen, TYL ’21

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