Lyons Plans to Use Study Abroad Experiences for Edge in Job Search

By Purnell T. Cropper | December 13, 2011

By Erica Lamberg

International Business and Culture major Margaret Lyons ’12 never had trouble finding fresh avenues to explore her interests at Arcadia. Testing her business savvy and knack for language learning, she studied abroad three times and completed coursework in French and Chinese. As she looks forward to graduation in May, Lyons is confident she will be ready to work for a global corporation and continue defining what it means to be a global citizen.

“I knew that I wanted to study abroad as much as I could and Arcadia has allowed me to do just that,” she says. To that end, Lyons participated in Arcadia’s First Year Study Abroad Experience (FYSAE) program, studying in Limerick, Ireland, as a freshman. During the second semester of her sophomore year, she lived and studied in Paris, France, through the Arcadia in Paris program. (Lyons minors in French.) Finally, Lyons’ awareness of China’s growing international influence led her to Shanghai University of Finance and Economics via Arcadia’s Alliance for Global Education and its International Business in China program.

“There were around 40 students from other American universities participating in the [International Business in China] program,” Lyons recalls. Each student lived on campus in dorm-style housing with a Chinese roommate while studying Chinese language, international business and economic development. Excursions and site visits to business and factories supplemented coursework. Lyons went on a weekend trip to Shaoxing in Zhejiang Province and completed a weeklong field study through Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong Province. “Both were great experiences and I learned a lot about rural and southern China,” she says.

Immersed in the local culture, studying Chinese three hours a day, four times a week, Lyons truly began to value what proficiency in multiple languages could mean for her prospects. “While beginning to learn Chinese in Shanghai, I realized how important communication and culture are for successful business transactions,” she says. “I’ve continued learning Chinese [in Glenside] because I believe it will be a great asset to my future career. I fully intend to be prepared as China continues to grow.”

In addition to Chinese language and business courses, Lyons took calligraphy lessons. “It was a lot of fun and a great cultural experience that not too many students get to do. Every week we’d go to [the professor’s] studio and paint different types of flowers. He’d first show us how to prepare our brushes and ink. Then he would demonstrate the different strokes needed for the particular painting and guide us as we painted. He was very particular about posture and using the correct strokes and angles.”

Edith Stetser of Arcadia’s Modern Languages Department says Lyons’ international experiences add to classroom discussions in Glenside. “It’s a joy to have Margaret in the classroom as she always has something relevant and fascinating to add to the topic we are discussing as a result of being a world traveler. We often compare cultural aspects of French and American society, and because of Margaret’s experience in Paris she is able to share her insights with the class.” Stetser has also incorporated Lyons’ trip to China into classroom exchanges. “Several times, I have asked specific questions about China as our discussions in class often reflect a global perspective.”

Arcadia’s Office of Career Development works with students to help them identify the skills and value obtained during study abroad and also with the development of a strategy to communicate those skills and values. “The practice interview is one of the best tools we have to do this,” he says Mike Hertel, Director of Career Development. “It’s amazing to me how many students study abroad but then never actually mention it during a practice interview. Once we instruct them on how that experience can be utilized to separate themselves from their competition, they are able to advocate for themselves more effectively in an interview setting.”

Lyons recognizes this edge and says a position at an international company is likely her target after Arcadia. “I know that I would like to work for a global corporation where I would be required to use my language skills and knowledge I acquired while living abroad.”