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Working Long Distance

Summer vacation is almost here, and it’s creeping up behind MSU students pretty fast. After exams are over it will be staring us in the face. What will you do? Work at a job or internship, party for four months straight? Thanks to Michigan’s economy, many students will have to look elsewhere for summer employment, which means traveling for interviews and maybe even moving to a new and exciting city.

Sometimes traveling along is more dangerous than laying on a beach (photo credit: sxc.hu).

Last year, for the first time, over half of MSU students relocated outside of Michigan for a job said Karin Hanson, a Communication Arts and Sciences field career consultant. “Usually 50 percent of our students relocate, but last year we reached 51 percent,” she said.

If offered an interview or position at their dream job some students wonder if it will be worth making the move alone to a new place. It can be scary, confusing and sometime lonely, but overwhelmingly the response is yes.

“Jump in head first, even if you’re unsure, because you never know what is going to happen,” said acting and advertising senior Matt Kaufmann. “You’re going to work out if you have a good work ethic.”

Hanna Kleiner, child life senior, agrees.

“If you are questioning it, at least go and try it. If worse comes to worst you can leave and go home,” she said.

Antonio Gentile, civil engineering junior, compared his experience to a study abroad trip, which thousands of Spartans go on every summer.

“An internship in a new place is a chance to enjoy life,” he said. “It’s like a study abroad thing; take as much from it as you can.”

In most cases, the opportunities and benefits outweigh the worries that students have.

“The best parts of moving are the new people and change of pace,” said Gentile who moved to Texas for an internship. “It’s like a new life because you can start over fresh. And I liked the weather, too.”

In Kleiner’s opinion the best part was meeting new people and having new experiences.

“Also, it’s fun when you actually get to see what the city has to offer,” she said. “Nashville has so much. The worst part is that you want someone you know to share those experiences with. Sometimes you get lonely, but that doesn’t last for long.”

Kaufmann, who lived in New York City last summer, experienced the same feeling.

“If you are going to a big city just be prepared,” he said. “No one gives a shit about you, and that can be very intimidating. Just know that you have to put on your thickest skin, and it takes a while to get comfortable.”

But once you start to get comfortable a strange city can feel like home.

“It wasn’t until the end of the summer, but I had a routine and friends that I would always call,” he said. “Just give it time.”

It helps to have friends or family around when you are getting acquainted to a new place, but it’s not necessary.

“I had one roommate, and that was the only negative part of my trip,” Gentile said. “I didn’t know the guys that I would be living with, and I did not get along with one of them. He was a religious nut. And when I would call home my friends would be busy. I could understand, but that’s when it would get lonely down there.”

Hanson said that career services does a great job of matching students with alumni organizations in new cities. “Knowing alumni can make the transition easier because MSU has connections and resources around the country and even the world,” she said.

Alumni can help build you network wherever you decide to move. They can also give advice and help students select neighborhoods and housing. This year, the Chicago Alumni Association is throwing a huge event to welcome students who are relocating and get connected in the area.

It is also beneficial to make connections with coworkers like Gentile did to combat the bad roommate he had been assigned.

“The guys at my job really liked me because I could always make them laugh,” he said. “I adjusted really well to life down there because I like meeting new people, and every place you go is different, so it’s interesting to see the kind of people you meet.”

When moving to an unfamiliar city and traveling alone for the move or interview, it is very important to be safe. Just because you have stayed safe in East Lansing doesn’t mean other cities are similar. Traveling for an interview can be some student’s first experience traveling alone, and it is a good idea to take some precautions.

“I am pretty comfortable traveling alone because I do it about six times a year,” said Britt Hegarty, accounting senior who traveled to Chicago to interview with Price Waterhouse Coopers. “I definitely take a lot of precaution, though. I am more aware of my surroundings because you never know who is at an airport. You also want to make sure all of your personal information is taken care if, just in case it gets stolen, you want to be able to get to your location.”

Kleiner also made sure she was aware of her surroundings and also kept her boarding pass, luggage and purse close to her at all times.

“I made sure that I was checking the departure and arrival times on the TVs because I was alone and didn’t want to miss my flight,” she said.

Boarding the plane is only half the battle. Once landed, students must find a way to their hotel or interview destination. This may be riskier for women travelers who can become an easy target for criminals when traveling alone.

“If you’re in a taxi, you want to have an idea of where you are, especially if you are a girl,” Hegarty said. “If you feel like someone is taking you to a weird location, you want to be on higher alert and be able to describe where you are. That is the most important thing: to be alert enough to describe where you are.”

Kaufmann agrees that girls have a lot to worry about when traveling or living alone.

“There’s a heightened statistic that women get taken advantage of, but in New York City it’s such a diverse place. It would be easy for me to get put in the same situation, masculine and feminine men are different. Also, girls are more likely to get help than men if they are being attacked.”

Either way, it is important to get in the habit of traveling safely because many MSU students will soon become business professionals that are asked to travel for their jobs.

Forbes.com reported that many business travelers think they are traveling safe but are not. They have offered some tips that may come as a surprise to some people.

First, secure your home. Many people don’t think they will need to take this step, but something as simple as a few lights left on or an alarm system sticker on the front window can deter burglars from entering your home.

Don’t get absorbed in phone calls or texting while traveling because when you’re immersed in something you exclude everyone around you and are setting yourself up as a prey.

“Criminals strike most when people aren’t paying attention,” Forbes.com warns.

For women travelers, Forbes.com suggests buying an inexpensive portable lock for hotel room doors. The device can attach to the strike plate and slide over the door knob, which keeps it in place. This may be a good precaution.

“Female business travelers need to be extra cautious since they are perceived as more vulnerable than men,” according to Forbes.com.

Finally, don’t connect to an unsecure network at an airport. Hackers can set up these networks just to steal passwords and information from travelers. Surprisingly, many travelers don’t see this as a threat.

If you are still not convinced to try something new this summer, take Gentile’s advice.

“Be open-minded and stay positive. If something gets to you, just remember that it is temporary. If you like change and meeting new people, go for it.”

Hanson agreed and said she hasn’t met a student who wouldn’t travel to a new city again. She also urges students to remember that being flexible can only help your career, and you will always learn something from the experience.

“There is a risk associated with doing it, but it is an experience to build upon,” she said.

Kleiner sums it up best when she said, “there are so many new experiences that you can have, if you don’t go you’ll never know they are out there.”

So go forth Spartans, and enjoy your new summer experiences. Just remember to travel safe while getting there.

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