By Josh Drzewicki

Everyone knows the facts about MSU’s world-renowned study abroad program. Thousands of students each year, hundreds of trips, all seven continents. But what happens when you come home? Do you just go back to living your normal life? Or does study abroad affect the direction your life will take?

As the effects of globalization reach every edge of the planet, MSU strives to provide global opportunities for its students that go beyond study abroad and into the professional world. Alumni Dan Redford and Dan Coyne graduated from the banks of the Red Cedar and have continued their success overseas – both currently reside in Asia.

MSU alumnus Dan Redford with Chinese colleague at the Terracota Soldiers in Xi'an (July 2009)

Redford graduated in 2010 with a degree in Chinese language and international relations and is a former participant in the Spartan study abroad program. He now works as a fund manager for the Chinese branch of Milwaukee-based FirstPathway Partners, where he helps Chinese clients to obtain green cards, and eventually, citizenship.

“MSU is really such an international university – we have one of the largest populations of foreign students,” Redford said. “In my opinion, study abroad should be a mandatory part of education in America today.

Coyne, a finance major who graduated in 2008, works for the Department of Defense in South Korea, as a civilian budget analyst. His work involves allocating financial resources for NETCOM, a division of the Army that handles information technology.

“My experience has been amazing working overseas,” Coyne said. “I love having the chance to experience a new culture, learn a new language and work in a role supporting the military. I also became a certified National Ski Patrol alpine patroller and I spend my winters patrolling the slopes of nearby ski resorts.”

For current students, study abroad can be the key factor in aspiring to an international career.

Jon Sharp, a junior and an urban planning major, studied Spanish culture and business in Madrid last summer.

“I did an internship where I worked at an immigration program and helped with after school programs, gave tours of the city and taught English,” Sharp said. “I just like Europe a lot and I find myself more aligned more with European views and culture.”

Sharp said he enjoyed his time abroad and was proud of his accomplishments (for example, running with the bulls in Pamplona), including meeting new friends.

“Our group had 17 people I had never met before and I still talk to a fair amount of them every week,” he said.

Sharp plans on returning to Spain to teach English in Spain upon graduation.

Students with experience abroad also have a huge impact while they’re still in East Lansing. Clair Brender,  MSU’s director of international alumni relations studied abroad in China as a student and now works at Michigan State, keeping in touch with 41,000 international alumni.

“Living and working abroad provides an unparalleled opportunity to learn about yourself, and to see yourself and your own culture through a vastly different filter,” she said. “Beyond the amazement of successfully communicating in a second language, the China study abroad brought out a fearlessness I didn’t know I had.”

Through her current job, Brender gets a first-hand look at how those alumni influence the world and also checks in on current international students living in East Lansing.

“International students are strong contributors to Michigan’s economy,” she said. “One of the less-understood points by the average citizen is the fact that the fantastic skill sets international students bring to Michigan to help us maintain our strength in research.”

From sending students to study and work abroad to recognizing the significance of foreign students here in East Lansing, MSU clearly works hard to be a truly international university. Is it successful? It’s hard to say, but for Dan Redford at least, his experiences at MSU led him to a life and career abroad that he loves.

“If you love to learn, love, and don’t mind eating something squishy every now and again, I’d encourage you to come abroad,” he said.

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