To draw attention to The Study Abroad Advantage professional networking group on Linkedin, we prompted our members to nominate a student with the most professional study abroad review. Our winner, Allie Bunch, talks more about her time away from Clark University and what it was like to study at one of the most elite universities in the world, The London School of Economics. Allie will soon be completing her degree at Clark and is ready to be hired! Read this interview and learn about her growth and maturity through study abroad.
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1) Tell us a little about your background, did your parents attend college? Do you have siblings in college?
Both of my parents attended college – my father graduated with a BSc in Education and my mother with an AA in Apparel Design. They have always encouraged and supported me in my pursuit for higher learning, and as their oldest child they are experiencing all of the firsts along with me. This year, my younger sister started at Endicott College, also in Massachusetts, so we are definitely a family driven to be educated.
2) We assume that you studied abroad as a Junior, is that correct?
Yes, I was abroad during my Junior year.
3) You took the path of a full year abroad, and you chose one of the top ranked universities in the world. Two pretty bold steps. Most people don’t know much about Clark, but they do about LSE, tell us more about why you chose this path and what you expected?
I grew up in Seattle, Washington, so when it was time to pick a college, I seized the opportunity to make a big change. I moved to Worcester, Massachusetts to go to Clark University in no small part due to the university’s strong study abroad program. During my Sophomore year, I had the opportunity to work in the Office of Study Abroad/Away and learned about the LSE program during my first week on the job. I remember leaving work that day and calling my parents to inform them that I would be spending my Junior year in London. I was in my second year at Clark I was ready to make another big change, and this program was exactly what I was looking for. I felt that a one-semester program wouldn’t satisfy me: I’d just be getting settled in by the time I had to turn around and come back. Education opens up a lot of doors, but what many people – especially young adults my age – don’t realize is the opportunity that education can give you to explore. I’d already gotten a taste of that when I moved from the West Coast to the East Coast, and I was lucky enough to recognize that opportunity for a second time. As an adult in a professional setting, there are not many chances to travel and engage with other cultures for extended periods of time, but being a student provides almost a built-in excuse to really discover what’s out there.
4) From your review, you seemed to have a pretty remarkable experience, in the review we asked if it was worthwhile, did it also meet your expectations?
I think one of my strengths that has been long in development is the ability to go into things with a very open mind and very few expectations. I went to London expecting only new experiences and challenges, both of which I got in abundance. I experienced living in the heart of a big city, interacting with many different cultures on a daily basis, and being in a location from which I had access to other countries almost as easily as one can access neighboring states in the US. The first trip that I took outside of the UK was to Spain for just three days, and the ability to hop from country to country was unique and endlessly exciting. I am also thankful that I was prepared for challenges, because studying at the LSE is undeniably one of the hardest things I have ever done. I was not only adapting to a new education system, but that education system was also the most rigorous I have ever faced. This was important to me, though. Obviously spending a year at a less-challenging institution sounded appealing, but I wanted my experience to contribute to my future through both experiences as well as education, and I think that my time at the LSE will do this throughout my lifetime.
5) You refer to the GC – the General Course, which sounded like it was filled with foreign students, what percentage were Americans? Are they what you expected? How did you get along with the non-American, non-British students?
It’s funny that you ask this, because as I look back, most of the friends that I remain in touch with were other American students. I think that this is partially due to the house I chose to live in, Northumberland House, which housed more students from the US than some of the others. I didn’t mind this so much though because I was able to interact and engage with students from other areas through my classes and my involvement in the LSE Dance Society. I found that in some cases, the students who went abroad to the LSE with friends from home tended to keep mostly to themselves, but for the most part everyone was friendly and willing to branch out very quickly.
6) Tell us a bit about the differences of the campuses and how you think that will affect the outlook of where you look for work.
Worcester is as different from London as night from day. Clark is located in an area of Massachusetts that has certainly seen better days – Worcester was a booming city in the past, but has since fallen off since the decline of its manufacturing industry. Though there are many colleges and universities in the city, there is very little else when held up next to London. I lived in Northumberland House, which is between Trafalgar Square and the Thames; literally in the center of London. Every morning I walked to school on the Strand with businessmen and women and every evening I made my way back through crowds waiting outside of theaters for the next big musical. I’m no stranger to big cities after growing up in Seattle, but London is a different breed and will absolutely affect where I decide to settle for work. I loved and thrived in the business and bustle of the city and ideally would seek out a job in or close to a similar city, with lots of opportunities to travel and experience more of these around the world.
7) You mentioned tying into the LSE Alumni network, how do you plan to do so, how has it gone so far? Do you have any tips for future students?
Unfortunately, the bulk of the LSE Alumni network caters more to students in the UK and greater Europe. However, there is an organization here in the States called Alumni and Friends of the LSE (AFLSE) that alumni can join for a membership fee. I haven’t pursued this avenue yet, but might consider it in the future. For now, I’m happy working on my own as sort of an ambassador for the program, especially among my peers and younger students looking for a challenging and rewarding study abroad destination.
8) You’ve joined The Study Abroad Advantage group on Linkedin and sound like you plan to use your experience at LSE to separate yourself from other job seekers, how do plan to do that? What are your talking points? How are you translating your comments about growth and maturity into door openers for work? What else can you offer in the way of suggestions to students about to study abroad?
I think that my time at the LSE sets me apart from my peers because my experience is unique and shows my ability to adapt and face challenges head-on. I think that the most important thing for me is that I really proved to myself what my capabilities and strengths are. Of course having the title ‘London School of Economics and Political Science’ on a resume will look good on its own, but I would stress to a potential employer that it’s really what I was able to take from my studies and from my time abroad as a whole that will distinguish me from other job seekers. To students planning to study abroad, I would say avoid entering into the program with expectations of how you think it will be. Prepare, of course, for the rigors of the program and for immersion in a different culture, but be ready to adapt and be excited to be surprised. Regardless of the program, it will be an incredibly rewarding experience.
9) If you’ve not landed a job yet, here’s your chance to show-off – why should someone hire Allie Bunch?
I learned a lot during my year at the LSE, and not just about political science. I learned so much about myself that I am excited to apply to whatever job I find myself in: I’m wildly ambitious and have a much more adaptable mind than I ever realized. I surprised myself, really, by how well I did in the program, and I think that’s because I am driven to go above and beyond everyone’s expectations of me – including my own. I am self-sufficient and determined. I am highly responsible, a practiced communicator, and a fast learner. I showed myself that it is when I am faced with new challenges or when I find myself under pressure that I thrive. It is these skills, and others, which I will bring with enthusiasm and passion to any job.