GoAbroad Interview

Madelyn Sullivan - Front Desk Coordinator

Madelyn Sullivan - Front Desk Coordinator

Madelyn graduated from Temple University with a degree in international business, and even spent a year studying abroad in Korea, giving her ample personal experience and inspiration to help her with her daily responsibilities. Having availed many of the university’s international opportunities and programs for study abroad alumni, she is a huge help for prospective, current, and returnee study abroad students. Madelyn enjoys working for her alma mater, specifically in the study abroad office, so she can help other students embark on the same type of journey that changed her perspective on the world.

You are a Temple University graduate and study abroad alumni. Why was studying abroad meaningful to you during your undergraduate studies?

I actually chose to attend Temple because of its study abroad programs. I was the student who came into the office two years too early to start planning! I had dreamed of studying abroad since high school, so study abroad was a huge priority for me. In a lot of ways, my undergraduate studies revolved around study abroad, before, during, and after.

Before I went abroad, I made connections with recently returned students who studied in Korea along with Korean exchange students. I left for Korea nervous and excited about what was to come, and came back to the United States confident and ready to take on the next challenge. Finally, after my year abroad, I stayed involved with the study abroad office to stay as connected with my experience as possible.

A woman getting ready to paraglide in Danyang, South Korea
Getting ready to paraglide off the mountains in Danyang, South Korea

How do you use your own international experience, in locations as different as France and South Korea, in your current role?

Besides offering advice to students looking at going to Korea for their study abroad experiences, I use my knowledge of other locations as well to better understand students’ goals and what they want to get out of their study abroad experiences. By doing so, I can better help them when they are looking for a program that fits their needs, and also connect them to alumni who recently returned from those locations.

What does a typical day of work look like for you?

As the front desk coordinator, I manage all general inquiries that come into our office through email, phone, and in person. I also manage our student workers who sit at the front desk with me, answering many of those questions and also doing informal advising to students looking to go abroad. Once those general responsibilities are taken care of, I also work on maintaining our events calendar, coordinating each day’s information sessions, and assisting the communications manager on outreach efforts. I also manage the Study Abroad Ambassador program, a program for recently returned students to volunteer at events hosted by our office and process their study abroad experiences.

A woman eating udon in Seoul, South Korea
Enjoying sushi and udon in Seoul

What is the most frequently asked question you receive from prospective study abroad students?

“I want to study abroad; what do I have to do?”

In terms of prospective study abroad students, we probably get asked this question the most. Many students have never been abroad before and are totally confused by the process, costs, and what they need to do. We assure them that they should attend our Foundations of Study Abroad info session first, as it gives them a starting point. We will also tell them to start looking at programs in their location(s) of interest, so they’re planning as far in advance as possible.

You took language classes while studying abroad in South Korea. Do you recommend that students learn the local language while abroad? Why do you think this is a valuable part of study abroad?

Absolutely! It was probably the most difficult, yet rewarding, part of my study abroad experience. It’s extremely valuable to take language classes or even learn the basics of a language when going to a different country, not just to expand your own horizons, but to connect with the people from the country you’re in. My experience abroad was much more memorable because I was able to speak to my friends in Korean rather than dealing with significant language barriers. One of the things I loved the most about my language classes was that it was full of students who were from different countries and spoke different languages. Since Korean was our only common language, we had to It was also encouraging when Korean people would compliment me because of it!

Temple University staff at a study abroad fair
Wrapping up the first day of Study Abroad Week!

How does Temple foster language learning during study abroad programs?

We always encourage students to take language classes if they are going to a country that does not primarily speak English. For our semester in Rome program, students are required to take Italian 1001 if they have not yet taken a basic Italian course. We do not have the same requirement for Japan, but it is highly encouraged. We also have a number of programs that are language intensive, where students live with host families and are in situations where they are forced to use their language skills to get by in everyday life.

You were quite involved in the international community at your home campus after studying abroad. What opportunities do study abroad alumni have to continue being involved when they return home?

At Temple, there are a number of programs that exist that are focused around internationalization. Here at the study abroad office, we have some recently returned students work in our office as Peer Advisors, and we also have a Study Abroad Ambassador volunteer program, where students will volunteer at some of our events. Some other opportunities outside of our office include the Conversation Partner program for international students to practice English with native speakers, International Student Association, and more.

How does Temple University continue to innovate and evolve to meet students’ needs and desires?

One of the things that we are constantly trying to do is broaden access to our programs to students of all different majors. For example, we will be having a number of engineering courses available in the Spring of 2017, which will allow students with rigorous majors to study abroad when it wasn’t an option before. We are also doing our best to make students aware of all of the options they have available to them, rather than just our biggest programs.

A woman at Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Taiwan
Visiting Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Taiwan! The xiaolongbao (pork soup dumplings) were the best I ever had.

What is your best piece of advice for students considering study abroad?

If you’re thinking about studying abroad, don’t wait; start planning now! By planning early, you will allow yourself to get everything prepared from your application to your visa without worrying about completing things at the very last minute. You will also be able to plan better academically, making sure you are on track to graduate even with that summer, semester, or year abroad. Also, it pays off too; the sooner you start saving, the more money you will have abroad, and the more scholarships you will have access to and be prepared for.

Why do you enjoy working for Temple University?

I enjoy working for the study abroad office at Temple because all of the staff is so positive and uplifting, and the university is a big advocate for internationalization. Everyone working in this office want students to go abroad and to succeed, and are here to help every step of the way. I couldn’t ask for a better workplace!