Embracing the unknown: Study abroad helps rising senior realize her potential

Alumni Association intern's confidence soars following study abroad experience in Italy

One semester, four months, 10 countries and 36 cities — one dream come true.

For as long as I can remember, I always had plans to study abroad, yet I had so many unanswered questions that I didn’t know where to start. Absolutely everything ahead of me was unfamiliar. As much excitement that there was contained inside of me, there were angst and nerves, too.

Rising senior and Alumni Association intern Corinne Findlay details how her time spent studying in Europe enhanced her Penn State experience and boosted her confidence as she prepares for the fall semester. Credit: Corinne Findlay All Rights Reserved.

I was forced to embrace the unknown, and, boy, I am so glad I did. 

Flashback to my sophomore year of college: curious, motivated and passionate. I was a third-semester student looking to build my experiences outside of the classroom. Since day one of college, I enjoyed networking with Penn State alumni and accomplished professionals. The idea of learning from individuals who were once in my shoes greatly interested me, and it surely never failed to inspire me.

Combining my desire to learn in a real-world setting with my love for networking, I knew the opportunity at the Alumni Association was ideal. The job listing stated that is was a communications role, and, as a public relations major, it was practically meant to be.

Almost two years later, here I am, still interning at the Alumni Association as I enter my senior year of college. I have had the opportunity to manage analytical reports, track the organization’s digital footprint using various software programs, generate insight to grow the connection with the young alumni demographic, and conceive new ideas for the social media calendar.

I also have attended prestigious events that have positively impacted me as a student and an aspiring professional. However, much has happened since my first day at the organization in November 2017.

Thinking back to the person that I was then, and the person that I am now, allows me to reflect on the growth that I have experienced. My growth is primarily credited to my study abroad experience. This past spring, I was able to live and study in Florence, Italy, for four months as part of my academic career at Penn State. I was able to attain a global and international studies minor through this global experience, but not only that, I was able to mature, educate myself on worldly issues, be exposed to societies and cultures that I never knew existed, and grow to become more confident than I could have ever imagined.

I have always believed that one does not grow to their fullest potential unless they are pushed outside of their comfort zone, and studying abroad did exactly that. With dear friends by my side, I navigated Europe for four months with little prior knowledge. I was put in situations that made me feel uneasy. I experienced cities that made me feel too far away from home. I exchanged currencies I never knew existed. I even communicated with people that had completely different backgrounds and beliefs. Most of all, I embraced these experiences, and I allowed myself to be exposed to the unknown.

If it weren’t for the opportunities that Penn State’s Education Abroad Office provided me, I would not have encountered countless situations to grow and learn. Today, I am far more strong, confident and educated on a global level than I ever thought possible as a young 20-year-old woman. The lessons I have learned have not only helped me in my personal life, but they have also helped me in my professional life as well.

Today, I am far more sure of myself when approaching distinguished professionals in a crowded room. I am capable of holding my own in an intimidating space. I also gained more of an understanding on others’ cultures, backgrounds, interests and goals. I understand that perspective is everything, and each person in this world has something to bring to the table.

This summer, I am interning at Comcast’s headquarters in Philadelphia as a corporate communications intern, supporting Xfinity consumer products. Transitioning from my time abroad to an internship at a large corporation has been a whirlwind. Yet, I am continuing to learn during my time at Comcast, and just like abroad, I am learning something new every single way. Each day, I am one step closer to the established professional I aspire to become. The adventures and opportunities that 2019 has brought me thus far are humbling, motivational and inspiring all in one.

I am now less than one year away from walking across the stage in the Bryce Jordan Center to accept my diploma. I am only 327 days away from entering the real world, and I can confidently say that because of the educational and travel experiences that my study abroad opportunity provided me, I am ready to embrace the unknown — all over again. 

Last Updated August 19, 2019