GoAbroad Interview

Melissa Comiskey - College Relations Manager

Melissa Comiskey - College Relations Manager

Melissa received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her master’s of education in counseling with a concentration in college student development from DePaul University. Prior to joining IES Internships in 2013, Melissa counseled students on career development and exploration at DePaul University Career Center and The University of Chicago’s office of Career Advancement. In her current role, she advises for IES Internships programs and works with partner schools around the country.

Prior to working for IES Internships, you worked at the University of Chicago as well as DePaul University. How does your past professional experience help you in your current role?

My previous roles at the University of Chicago and at DePaul University allowed me gain experience working with a multitude of individuals. From employers and recruiters who kept me informed of current trends in the jobforce, school personnel, leaders, and faculty who helped shape my knowledge of the field of higher education, and, most importantly, students from all walks of life; every one of whom, in very different stages of their academic careers, shared with me their personal stories and goals and collectively make up the profoundly unique culture of each institution. These experiences allow me to continue to maintain humility when engaging with school partners and compassion when working with students everyday.

Women at Guinness in Dublin, Ireland
Melissa learning to pour the perfect pint with college and university partners during an IES Internships reception at Guinness in Dublin, Ireland

In your experience with university students, in what ways have you found international internships most valuable?

Any internship has the potential to kickstart a student’s career by offering real-world experience and exposure to professionals in the field, while building one’s skillset. An international internship offers all of these things in an unfamiliar environment, thus allowing students the advantage of further developing the characteristics that help them stand out to employers and succeed in the workplace. This includes adaptability, building a tolerance for ambiguity, and learning to tackle problems independently.

What international experiences of your own inspired you to get involved in the field of international education?

It was actually my limited exposure to international education that intrigued me to join IES Abroad, because of its rich history and strong mission for making study abroad and global internships more accessible to all students--including those like myself who may be non-traditional or first-generation students for whom global study may seem like a far reach.

IES Internships table at a university career fair
Melissa representing IES Internships at a university career fair

What sets IES Internships apart from internships with other providers?

IES Abroad has been a leader in providing students with the highest quality academic and cultural experiences since 1950, and has been placing students in part-time global internships on standard study abroad programs for more than 40 years. IES Internships, a unit of IES Abroad, maintains the same excellence by building on our existing infrastructure and tapping into our vast employer network to place students in well-vetted and quality internships.

We provide career guidance to students prior to departure to help them secure the best possible placement. Then once on-site, students explore and reflect on their experiences during their internship seminar, allowing them to acquire the leadership competencies and skills needed to be more career-ready following their experience on our program.

You earned your undergraduate degree in psychology. How do you think participating in an international internship psychologically changes the way interns see the world?

International work and study can greatly impact an individual’s worldview. A person’s confidence and general outwardly perspective is rocked when placed in a foreign environment and faced with unfamiliar encounters. The experience challenges an individual to reassess the way they’ve perceived and understood the world around them from their subjective viewpoint. Students often return feeling a renewed curiosity about other cultures and ideas, an enhanced tolerance for complex situations, as well as greater self-awareness of their own personal preferences, emotions, and biases.

Selfie at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland
Melissa overlooking the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

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

Every work day is different, which is what I love most about my job. In a given week, I could be en route to visit a partner institution where I collaborate with Education Abroad, Career Services, and faculty members to lead a session or information table to inform students about how our programs can guide their academic goals and launch their careers. When I’m back at the Chicago office, I’m coordinating with colleagues across a number of teams to ensure that our students, their families, and our school partners receive the best possible support when it comes to preparing students for global work, life, and study.

Other days, I’m fully absorbed in helping students secure their summer internship placements by conducting mock interviews and engaging with prospective employer hosts to match students with the perfect internship.

What is your favorite part about working for IES Internships?

I absolutely love getting to interact with so many different students and school partners from colleges and universities all over the United States. Each one is so unique in every way. It’s such a privilege to not only get to visit many of these campuses, but to be graciously welcomed and often viewed as an extension of their institution in our shared mission to promote global mindedness and intercultural competence in our students.