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Saint Mary’s alumnae share how study abroad experiences impacted their lives in virtual panel

| Friday, October 23, 2020

The Saint Mary’s Career Crossings Office and Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership co-sponsored an alumnae panel discussion on the impact of studying abroad through Zoom, Thursday night. Two alumnae, Jungquie Guan (’11) and Nellie Petlick (’16), shared stories about their times at Saint Mary’s, their study abroad experiences and the impact studying abroad had on their career paths and lives as a whole. 

Guan is originally from Chengdu, China, and studied abroad at Saint Mary’s while majoring in economics and French. While at Saint Mary’s, she studied abroad in France for a semester her sophomore year. 

Her unique “double” study abroad experience opened her eyes to an entirely new world, Guan said. She realized her love for dancing, especially ballet, while taking a dance class offered by Saint Mary’s. 

“Dance became a vehicle for me to make French friends while abroad,” she said.

Guan also met one of her best friends while abroad in France. In the trips to Europe following her study abroad experience, Guan visited her life-long friend, and still communicates with her often.

After graduating from Saint Mary’s, Guan earned her masters in International Education Policy from Harvard University and an MFA in Dance Performance at the University of Iowa. She is currently working on her doctorate in Culture and Performance at University of California Los Angeles. 

Petlick studied in Rome in the spring of 2014, and shared some of her experiences in the Zoom panel. She was a history and theater double major at Saint Mary’s, so traveling to Rome encompassed all of her interests, she said. 

From the time of her commitment to attend Saint Mary’s, Petlick knew she wanted to study abroad, and she was set on going to Rome. She said she did not necessarily think of going to Rome as a tool to help her future career, but she wanted to focus on her history major and knew Rome was the place to be. 

Petlick said her time in Rome challenged her American ethnocentrism and pushed her outside of her daily way of thinking and living.

“It was just humbling to be in another country where I was the outsider,” Petlick said. “[I] realized America was not the center of the world … I began to view things as not right or wrong but just different.” 

Her time in Rome exposed her to things she would have never experienced otherwise, she added, and influenced her to be open to situations where the impact might be different from what she was expecting.

After graduating from Saint Mary’s, Petlick strayed from her intended career path, entered the Peace Corps and moved to Ukraine from 2016 to 2018. 

During that time, she worked in Ukraine at the State Department for EducationUSA, where she talked with international students about her time at Saint Mary’s. She now attends Yale University, where she is pursuing her master’s of Public Policy. 

After graduating in 2022, Petlick hopes to join the U.S. Foreign Service as a diplomat. 

Both Guan and Petlick encouraged students to study abroad while in college, an experience that offers the unique opportunity to live and immerse yourself in a culture for an extended period of time. 

Both women said their study abroad experiences and their years at Saint Mary’s empowered them in unimaginable ways, and opened up doors they did not know even existed.

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