GEARE Alumni Panel - Spring 2023
By Will Wilsch-Lehmann
For the second alumni panel of the semester, we heard from recent GEARE alumni Tessa Groll, Loïc Fabriès, and Alejandro Lavernia. To start off the panel, the alumni reflected on their time in GEARE and reminisced over their travels, most notably their opportunities to bond and share experiences with people of a different culture, and of course our classic GEARE barbecues.
When prompted about workplace differences between the United States and the countries the alumni traveled to, they prefaced their statements by acknowledging the impact Covid might have had at the time they were in GEARE. Although they studied in different countries, all three alumni worked in Germany. A common theme they noticed was a clear divide between work and play. It was expected that when in the office, you would be doing your best work, and if you were unable you would stay home. For example, if you were sick in the US, you might be commended for still coming into work and trying to contribute, while in Germany the opposite is true. Even for GEARE students not going to Germany, workplace differences seemed to stem from cultural differences. Loïc commented that all fields of work would have similar differences across cultures based on what each culture values most. Consequently, his advice was to research these cultural differences ahead of time to be prepared for their impact on the workplace.
The panel also dove into how GEARE affected them professionally as they transitioned into the workforce. In terms of finding work opportunities, Tessa mentioned that personal experiences will create a lot of great answers to common interview questions. You will invariably be in situations where you have to work with a difficult teammate, work through an issue with your boss, or other uncomfortable scenarios that show your strengths in an interview. Loïc also brought up how GEARE has helped him learn how to interact with people who are different from him, either culturally or in mindset. This is very transferable to the workplace where you will be teaming up with people of all sorts of backgrounds and personalities, even within the US. Lastly, Alejandro expanded on this by mentioning how he learned to deal with bias. In European countries there is sometimes an “anti-American bias,” which you may have to work through when abroad. This helped Alejandro empathize with foreigners in the US and helped him identify sources of bias in general.
As the meeting drew to a close, the panel offered a lot of general advice for current GEARE students. For those of us who are worried about our fluency level as we go abroad, the panel clarified that your language proficiency is not a big factor because most people in Europe do have a solid understanding of English. Loïc did his work abroad in Germany after having been in the French cohort and didn’t know any German, but was still fine because of the high level of English proficiency in Berlin. In order to find an internship, the panel recommended getting ahead in your search as well as trying to make an internal connection at the company before you apply. Additionally, the panelists emphasized preparation (especially for Industrial Roundtable) but also stressed remaining flexible. You should go in with a rough idea of companies you want to visit and keep your spirits up if things don’t work out. Tessa was the only panel member of the three that found her internship through IR. Alejandro also advised us to try and make deep connections with the people you meet while abroad. Some of his friends are still close with the people they met abroad, which has been very fulfilling.
We had a great time listening to our GEARE alumni’s reflections and recommendations from their experiences abroad, and appreciate the time they took to meet with us. If there were just a few things we learned, it would be these: although the cultural differences we encounter will be intimidating at first, they will ultimately enrich us and make us more interesting people. You shouldn’t be afraid to take risks and make new friends - the more risks you take, the more fun your experience will be!