Molly Kisner is AFS-USA’s Alumni Relations intern, an AFS Returnee (U.S. to France, 2010), and she is completing our fall internship program this week. She studied French literature and Japanese linguistics at the University of Washington, taught English for a year on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, and recently graduated from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey with a master’s degree in international education management. Read below to learn more about Molly and her life after study abroad.
How did you get involved with AFS?
MK: I knew I really wanted to experience living abroad and immersed in another culture. When I was in high school, I asked my parents if I could spend a semester abroad at the end of my junior year. I had been studying French in high school and knew I wanted to pursue a career working with foreign languages, so I chose to study in France to give my language skills a boost.
How has your AFS experience personally and professionally impacted you?
MK: I remember vividly that one of the things I overcame was a fear of asking questions. During the first few weeks of living in France, I was too embarrassed to ask questions even though there was a lot that I didn’t understand. Overcoming my fear taught me that people can be really patient and kind when you admit you need some extra support. I came back from France unafraid to raise my hand, ask for clarifications or help. I learned to be confident when admitting I don’t know something.
Professionally, I’d say that this was one of the first sparks in the fire of my passion for study abroad. I had so much fun and learned so much while I was in France. Wanting to share that joy and learning with others is a large part of what motivates me today.
In what ways did AFS change your outlook of the world after study abroad?
MK: AFS gave me great experience in understanding and explaining culture. Every day on my exchange, I studied the French culture by listening, watching, and asking questions about what I heard and saw. Almost as often, I was able to explain things about the U.S. to my host family and friends, which increased their understanding about the American culture. I think that my understanding of the French culture/perspective allowed me to help them make sense of the American perspective. Those lessons in patience and perseverance toward mutual understanding have really served me well and I’ve continued to build on them.
What did you do as an Alumni Relations intern?
MK: As the Alumni Relations intern, I worked closely with my team in reconnecting alumni and providing day-to-day support in the office. I was also able to help work on the Alumni directory and am so excited for it to be completed in early 2019! Some of my daily work at the office allowed me to collaborate with the Communications and Development teams, which really helped increase my understanding of how the organization functions as a whole. In addition to my daily tasks, I completed four projects related to alumni engagement, created an additional activity for volunteers to use during Mid-Stay Orientation, and I was given the chance to volunteer at a few of the Gateway Orientations held at JFK. All in all, it was an incredible four months and I learned so much!
What did you like most about working at AFS-USA?
MK: I love the people. The environment at the office is so welcoming. From day one, I knew I would have an amazing experience working there. Everyone I’ve met has been so genuine and kind, and AFS truly attracts people with a great personality. I can honestly say that everyone is always working with their best effort to ensure our students have an amazing experience abroad. It has been really inspiring to work with such dedicated people.
What’s next for you?
MK: I just graduated with my master’s, so I’m really looking forward to finding my place among international education professionals. My next step will be to figure out where that place will be! Ideally, I would love to work with a youth study abroad program or international school, but I’m open to working at a university. I’d like to focus my energy on program development, and/or working with the intercultural learning part of programs. I’ve discovered that what I’m most passionate about in this field is the work that we do to help students have positive experiences during their time abroad. I truly believe that there’s so much to be gained from experiencing life immersed in another country/culture, I want to help structure programs so that students get as much out of their experiences as they can.
Do you have any tips for Returnees?
MK: One of the most important things for me has been to interact with people who are similarly interested in international relations. I think it’s important for Returnees to be able to continue to build on their experience by having conversations with people who can relate to their interest in other countries, languages, and cultures. I know I’ve found my assumptions and views challenged by my friends who have lived/worked/studied abroad, and it’s a great experience! I think it’s wonderful for us to keep growing with each other.
Conversely, I also think it’s greatly important for Returnees to share our experiences with others who haven’t been abroad or had similar experiences to ours. We can help spread understanding, pass peace forward, and you never know what your story might inspire or what interest you might spark in someone else’s life!