Hear from Courtney Imel, Director, Paid Media, about her global journey to LEWIS.
What led you to study abroad?
Ever since I was young I had wanted to live in another country. It was during a trip to Guadalajara, Mexico when I was 18 that inspired me to learn Spanish. In college, my Spanish professor was planning a month-long class trip to Salamanca, Spain and I decided to participate. It was the greatest month of my life and when I returned I decided that I was going to apply for the California State University International program through SF State, which was a year-long program studying at the Complutense University of Madrid with students from all CSU programs. I got accepted and spent a full year studying along with other American students and immersed with Spanish students as well.
Upon graduating with my degree in Communication Studies, I decided a couple of years later that I wanted to go to graduate school and study Business and Marketing. I decided to go back abroad and got my Masters in International Management, Sales and Marketing at IE Business School in Madrid. I stayed in Madrid a few years after getting my degree and worked in Digital Marketing and Social Media at two agencies in Madrid, which was a good complement to my experience studying abroad.
How did the experience impact you professionally?
Studying abroad impacted me professionally since it led to the experience of working abroad. It was very challenging to work fully in another language since the language used in a professional setting is very different than the language used when speaking to friends or in the classroom. I remember the first weeks of work — going in meetings and only understanding around 10% of what my colleagues were saying, but I kept at it and loved a good challenge. Working abroad opened up my career to working with multiple markets in EMEA, working on international accounts & projects, and working with teammates that I’m still in touch with to this day.
What do you bring from that experience to your work at LEWIS?
Working at an agency and on multiple accounts & projects at the same time, you must be agile and flexible when solving the challenges of our clients. Studying abroad and living in another country taught me that if you want to be successful, you must go out of your comfort zone and make mistakes to learn. There is a learning curve that comes with learning a new language and this has led me to be more open to learning new things and improving my problem-solving skills.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to live abroad?
First of all, I think everyone should study or live abroad at one point in their life, if given the opportunity. Being far from friends, family, and all that is familiar allows you to really get to know yourself and forces you to be independent and grow as a person. You learn so much about the world and even get a new appreciation for your own country once you step outside of it. I recommend being very organized with the application and student visa process since there is a lot of paperwork and strict deadlines. I promise it’ll be worth it and will likely be the best experience of your life and open up many doors in career and life down the line.