Ben

Study Abroad Impacts on Careers

Ben Van Zee Swarthmore '11

Now, in hindsight, I see that the BCGS program’s impact went far beyond improving my German language ability; the program concretely shaped my career trajectory in ways that I had not anticipated at the time.

When I was first looking to study abroad, I chose the BCGS program because it offered the most immersive German language experience. That was ten years ago. Now, in hindsight, I see that the BCGS program’s impact went far beyond improving my German language ability; the program concretely shaped my career trajectory in ways that I had not anticipated at the time. The BCGS’s emphasis on having students integrate into the German university system taught me mundane yet important skills that have been invaluable to my academic success since. After I graduated college, I moved back to Berlin on a one-year research fellowship. Having learned in BCGS how to navigate German bureaucracy and write academic papers in German, I then felt comfortable enrolling in a German-language master’s program in history at the Freie Universität. As one of the few native English speakers in that history program, I was offered a job working as a copyeditor for an English-language encyclopedia at the university. In total, I ended up spending three years in Berlin completing an M.A. The academic relationships I made during this time and the experience of long-term research and study in Germany made me a very strong candidate for PhD programs in the U.S. I was accepted at most I applied for. I am now nearing the final years of my PhD in history at the University of Chicago. Looking back on it, I am certain that if the BCGS program had not challenged me to learn those rather boring skills necessary for managing life independently in Germany, I definitely would not have known how or felt confident enough to enroll in that master’s program and take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves.