Be Open to Opportunities : Video Transcript

Alyssa Hopun (BA International Studies, Spanish, and Latin American, Latino/a, & Caribbean Studies, Miami, 2013) [country director for Community Empowerment Solutions in Leon, Nicaragua]: I became first interested in my major because of a trip that I took with my father to Peru, following my high school graduation. International Studies was a field that I had decided on, to be honest, a little bit arbitrarily. When I was in high school I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but after actually traveling abroad and interacting with local people and seeing a completely different culture and way of life, I was inspired to keep moving forward and really defined what I wanted to do, towards international development.

Miami gave me an abundance of opportunities. So, I was constantly getting different perspectives from, from everywhere. From my classes, from my professors, from guest speakers, from the different experiences I had in different student organizations. I think my favorite part of my experience was my extracurricular involvement. So, I was in different organizations, including the university steel band. I was in an organization called Global Business Brigades, which facilitated my first experience with international development, and closest to my heart, I think, was my involvement with the Association of Latin and American Students.

International Studies prepared me well. It was a very special degree, in that it was interdisciplinary. It combines economics with history, and political science, and anthropology, and even more into this really comprehensive worldview, that was then able to, it allows me to tackle problems from lots of different angles. I'm not only looking at, "OK, you know what is the financial factor here?" rather than being, "OK, well, how does this also affect someone's way of life, how does this play into their culture?" You know, "What are the limitations that are coming in from their government?" So it provided me a broad perspective.

Every student needs to know every option that they have available to them. I've heard so many stories about students that start out in one major, and end up in another just because of a Miami Plan course that they took. They allow people to see different opportunities that are available. Having the opportunity to take a variety of classes allows you to not only see what you want to do, but also make you a more well-rounded person. And honestly, at the end of the day, when you’re looking for a job, they’re not looking necessarily to see that you’re super specialized in a certain area. Rather, they want to see someone who can handle a variety of tasks, be prepared for anything that might come at them.

In my field there are so many different options for students coming out with international studies majors, Spanish majors. There's a path where you can go into government type of work, there's diplomacy, foreign affairs, sometimes translation. But there are really a variety of avenues. Some people get involved with diversity affairs on different college campuses, in an academic setting. Other people do work, like similar to what I do, working in nonprofit organizations, social projects, often in different countries. It's great because you have the preparation, the knowledge, the understanding of what you need to know to be able to travel and apply your skills in a different setting and a different country.

Be open to opportunities, especially in such an open-ended field, as international studies. There are going to be so many different directions in which students could potentially go that they should not be concerned necessarily about defining a particular field that they want to really develop a career in, but more look at "OK, what can I learn next?" because there are so many different directions in which you can go, that you should really run with the best of what presents itself to you.

[October 2016]