Job shadow: UWEC graduate returns to Eau Claire campus as study abroad coordinator
By Ali Mundth
What comes to mind at the mention of the words “study abroad”? Most college students probably think of glamorous destinations, exotic food, and, of course, no actual studying whatsoever.
Although I had worked with the UWEC Study Abroad Office previously to organize my own study abroad experience, I have to admit that I was one of those students. And it wasn’t until I returned from my summer study abroad program in Puebla, Mexico and spent a morning working with UW-Eau Claire Study Abroad Coordinator Courtney Brost that I realized just how much not-so-glamorous work goes into organizing these kinds of international education programs for students.
When I walked into the office, I was greeted with a warm smile from Courtney and plenty of questions about my summer in Mexico. She had been the coordinator for the Puebla study abroad program, and she wanted to hear all about my experience.
So, after chatting for a while, we began the day by tackling one of Brost’s most important daily responsibilities: reading and responding to what seemed like an endless string of emails.
According to Brost, simple communication accounts for a vast majority of her work in the Study Abroad Office, where her central task is maintaining portfolios for several Spanish-speaking study abroad programs. Whether she is scheduling international classroom speakers, organizing promotional events, or updating online resources for program participants, she is constantly in contact with students, colleagues, and other university offices and departments.
In addition to fulfilling her communicative responsibilities, Brost advises potential student travelers by answering their questions and helping them decide which program will fit them best.
“Working with the students – that’s what I like the most. It’s as simple as that, really. That’s why I come to work each day and why I stay motivated to do what I do,” Brost said.
A 2013 graduate of UW-Eau Claire, she had originally planned to pursue a degree in English, but like so many of us, she was unsure of what kind of career she would end up in. After declaring a Spanish minor and spending a semester abroad in Costa Rica, she realized her passion for cultural immersion and decided to add a Latin American Studies major to her degree plan.
Upon returning from her study abroad program, Brost worked as a peer advisor for the Costa Rica program in the UWEC Study Abroad Office. It was during an advising appointment with a student that she suddenly realized the potential career opportunity at her fingertips.
“I suddenly made the connection like, wow, people do this for their jobs. This is how they make a living, and it’s something that I really enjoyed doing.”
Her work as a peer advisor eventually landed her a position as a general advising intern in the UWEC Study Abroad Office, where she learned more about the many behind-the-scenes responsibilities that are necessary to organize UWEC’s study abroad programs. After working as an intern in the office for a year, she accepted the full-time position of study abroad coordinator.
Earlier this fall, Brost celebrated her three-year anniversary in the position. For her, the opportunity to see firsthand the heightened confidence and personal transformations in study abroad program returnees is the most rewarding part of the job.