Dwight Hall Hosts International Opportunities Panel with Yale Alumnae and Staff

On December 9, 2022, Dwight Hall hosted a panel on behalf of its Alumni Mentorship & Career Development Task Force for students interested in pursuing public service opportunities outside of the United States. The event, titled “Exploring International Opportunities in Public Service,” brought together four panelists with extensive experience in international service: Chendan Yan ’18 M.E.M., Lisena DeSantis ’05, Michelle Rosenthal ’05, and Emma-Jane Rose. The event was moderated by Alvaro Perpuly ’23, Chair of the Alumni Mentorship & Career Development Task Force at Dwight Hall.

For many of the panelists, their interests in international service began and were nurtured at Yale. Michelle, an independent social impact consultant, emphasized how the vast array of resources offered to Yale students allowed her to explore international opportunities. For instance, she credits a Yale alum she met through Dwight Hall for helping her find a program through which to work in India the summer before her senior year, and her professors for helping her decide to study abroad in the first place. “If you know you want to do something,” Michelle said, “just putting that out there and starting to talk about it…plants the seeds, and then an unexpected person will respond to an email or refer you to someone else.” Lisena and Chendan also emphasized how crucial Yale and its resources were to finding programs, internships and jobs throughout their time at the school, and even after graduation.

The panelists discussed some of the best and most difficult parts of working abroad. For each of them, the struggle to learn and adapt to different work environments in different countries was a major component of working abroad. Lisena, former Chief Executive Officer at the Clinton Global Initiative, described her first job in Guinea, and the culture shock of going from Yale to a country with a different language and culture. “Communication was the hardest, most rewarding [part of the experience]. And ultimately what I’ve taken away from all my international experiences…is figuring out how to communicate in these circumstances [with large cultural differences].” Those communication skills, she reflected, are applicable everywhere, and were of help in her jobs domestically as well.

Chendan, current Senior Associate in Climate Finance at the European Climate Foundation, agreed, and added that as someone originally from China, American culture seemed foreign to her when she first arrived. For instance, whereas in China Chendan recalls working long hours and spending lots of time outside work with her colleagues, “in the U.S., the line between work and life is much clearer.” What is considered “normal” work culture, then, is dependent on one’s background.

For those interested in international service, Yale offers advising, funding, and more to students at any stage of their job or program search. Emma, Associate Director of Fellowships at the Yale Center for International and Professional Experience, explained how to take advantage of these resources, including the Office of Career Strategy website and advisors, as well as a host of fellowships Yale can provide.

Above all, the panelists emphasized that though international service can be challenging, it is also an experience they encourage Yale students to explore. “Just have fun with it,” Michelle concluded. “Don’t hold it too tightly, and embrace the unknown.”

Overall, fifteen Yale students attended the gathering in the Lovett Common Room in Dwight Hall, and several students joined the hybrid event online. Following the conversation, many students were inspired to connect with alumni and to explore the resources offered by Emma. 

This event was the second in a series of panels organized by the Alumni Mentorship & Career Development Task Force. To stay up to date on upcoming events, follow @dwighthallatyale on Instagram!

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