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AUPFA Blog Archive

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This is a series of blog posts contributed by members of your AUPA Board of Directors. Topics cover items of interest for fellow Auburn parents, by Auburn parents. We encourage discussion and welcome your suggestions for future posts. Please contact us at

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One Year Out — A Parent’s View on a Student’s Auburn Journey

By Chris Perez

Flashback to early May 2016 — a time of great pride. My daughter Sarah was graduating from Auburn. She’d be walking across that stage (on time, no less!) after a four-year college career that included everything she or any Auburn parent could hope for.

It was also a time of melancholy. That four-year run flew by, creating a lifetime of memories for our entire family, not just for Sarah. It was exciting to be on the cusp of her new adventure, but it was also tough to say goodbye to the Loveliest Village on the Plains.

Fortunately, we didn’t wallow in melancholy for long. We were blessed when— four days after that graduation ceremony— Sarah accepted a job at 2U (, a DC-based international education technology company that is routinely named one of D.C.’s best places to work. This June, she will celebrate her one-year anniversary.

This outcome mostly resulted from how Sarah followed her passions as an undergrad, carefully weighed her options, then cranked up her networking and interviewing efforts as Graduation approached. As first-time parents of a college grad, my wife and I learned a lot as her sounding board and positive influencers during her journey.

Following her passions

Sarah wasn’t shy about “adjusting” her major as her Auburn experience unfolded. As parents, we were supportive as long as her reasoning was sound. She began college as an early education major. That had been her driving interest all through high school, where she enjoyed internships with local elementary schools and earned a state teaching certificate for the hours spent with her pre-K kids. But then came the Beat Bama Food Drive (BBFD). She became involved with this as a freshman in Toomer Hall. At the same time, her education classes introduced her to an after-school reading program at a local Auburn elementary school. The kids there stole her heart, and their circumstances, along with what she was learning through BBFD, underscored the extent of food insecurity in the local community. Around this time Sarah seriously considered changing her major to help prepare her to be an advocate for those in need. Public relations and communications seemed like a natural fit for her engaging style.

Sarah’s commitment to BBFD continued, and she was selected president her junior year, leading her to serve as BBFD’s first two-term president and bringing about another course correction. Sarah realized that while education was still important to her, nonprofit studies would align with her growing servant-leader inclinations. Fortunately, Auburn has an innovative Interdisciplinary Studies program that allowed her to craft a degree program across nonprofit studies, communications, and business.

Somehow she also found the time to win a spot in the Aubie Family as a Director of Aubie and thus being part of Aubie’s 9th national mascot title. Her experience here would create relationships and connections that also paid off.

Decision time

As graduation neared, Sarah was faced with another big decision. Should she stay on campus and go directly into a postgrad degree or dive into the workforce? Through her work with SGA and Student Involvement, she experienced some great internships. One of these turned into an AU paid postgrad assistantship opportunity, with the huge benefit of free tuition for her master’s program. Music to her parents’ ears for sure, but we realized that was only part of the equation.

She sought and received quality advice from the peers and mentors she trusted the most, who led her to consider to go out into the world and gain different experience. Then she’d have an even wider perspective (and different kind of value) to bring back to Auburn if that’s what she eventually decided to do.

While it was not easy to walk away from the paid grad assistantship, she chose to pursue her post-Auburn adventure and enter the job market. Once again, it was primarily her decision, and she knew she had our support.

Casting a wide net

Now that the job hunt was on, Sarah was looking at all options that fit her interests. She considered offers for paid internships with private companies and also pursued positions with nonprofits in Nashville, which is where we thought she would wind up.

Then she had a conversation with a former Friend of Aubie. Evan was a generous mentor and connector, and made some introductions for her through his own professional network, including one who worked at 2U. Things fell into place pretty quickly. Sarah believes that she clicked with 2U because of a shared sense of mission and purpose. She credits Auburn with providing the opportunities that helped her identify her interests and passions. These experiences focused and directed her job search.

Networking and hard work

Beginning as a freshman, and through a combination of intentional decisions and serendipity, Sarah continually created options for herself. By following her passions and stepping out of her comfort zone, she created opportunities. She broadened her horizons and was able to see beyond her original plans. This led to smart changes to her course of study. She made great relationships that created a solid network, leading to opportunities as well as good counsel from those closest to her. She had to make some tough decisions, but they were the good kind of decisions where no option was a bad one. Her Auburn experience gave her the courage and confidence to believe in herself.

What we learned as parents

With Sarah as our oldest, we had no baseline for this college and post-college experience. Looking back, we identified some takeaways that I’m sure we’ll apply to our son’s college experience as well:

  • Let your students learn an appreciation for the consequences (positive and negative) of their own decisions. Give candid feedback, but be willing to let go, unless of course you see them heading for a cliff. This requires a good level of trust and communication.
  • Encourage smart risks. Support decisions that are well-thought-out and values-based, and describe them as such when discussing them. Accept that very few decisions are entirely risk-free or guaranteed to produce a perfect outcome.
  • Realize that some decisions that may seem like mistakes at the moment, can turn out to have a long-term upside. This can come from a new insight gained, confidence from recovering from a stumble, or a new opportunity that never would’ve happened otherwise. This brings to mind an old saying: “I don’t lose. I either win, or I learn.”
  • Encourage your student to network and build connections. The best networkers are the ones who give more often than they seek. Taking advantage of Auburn’s extensive student involvement opportunities is a great way to build a network.
  • Show your support by actively buying into the Auburn experience. Join the Auburn University Parents’ Association. Get to know your region’s AUPA Board member. Join your local AU Club and build your own network with other Auburn families. Make a point to meet your students’ peers and the campus officials and staff they work with most closely.
  • There will be moments of self-doubt, feelings of being overwhelmed at times, peer pressures, and all kinds of other stressors on our students. While we tend to focus on the joyous times, these darker moments are still a part of the learning and growing experience. Help your student keep those things in perspective and maintain an even keel. And if your parental alarms start going off, there are so many campus resources just waiting to assist. Use them!
  • Remain in the moment, because these years zip by!

Here’s wishing you all the very best that Auburn has to offer to your students and your families. War Eagle!

Chris Perez is an Auburn Dad from the Maryland suburbs of the Washington, DC, area. He is an alum of the Auburn University Parents’ Association. He was a two-year member of the AUPA Board of Directors and served as the board’s 2nd Vice President in his final year. Chris and his wife Jan are already planning an Auburn football weekend this fall.

Mental Health and Your Student

By Michael Ramsey, MD, FAAP AUPA Board President

It is the best of times. It is the worst of times.

Attending college can be a gateway to future success and happiness – but it can also be the cause of great anxiety and mental stress. While students are excited about the prospect of living on their own, meeting new friends, and training for their future careers, many worry about grades, financing their education, and living up to the expectations of their parents and family. As parents, memories of the stresses we experienced during that time have often faded, leaving a nostalgia that can make it difficult to empathize with the difficulty of navigating this transition. Because of the sacrifices we have made to get them there, we often don’t want to believe when things may be falling apart.

The two most common forms of mental illness, depression, and anxiety, affect between 13 and 16% of college students. It is normal for college students to occasionally feel sad or anxious. According to the 2014 National College Health Assessment, over 85% of students had felt overwhelmed by all they had to do, and almost 50% had felt totally hopeless at some point in the past 12 months. When these feelings don’t pass within a few days and they begin to affect activities and relationships, there may be something more serious developing. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety might be difficult if your child isn’t living at home.

Signs and symptoms that a student might be experiencing depression during college include (from

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that aren’t your responsibility
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
  • Academic problems not consistent with her or her previous performance.

Anxiety symptoms may be different based on the specific condition or disorder, but common symptoms include (from

  • Excessive, irrational, or uncontrollable feelings of worry and dread
  • Sensations of panic and uneasiness for no apparent reason
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Ritualistic behavior
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle tension
  • Inability to remain calm
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Rapid breathing, or hyperventilation
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Stomachache

It is often frightening and confusing for parents who realize that their child may have a problem. The student may feel embarrassed about seeking help, although thankfully this stigma is declining. A recent Harris Poll showed 60% of college students view seeking professional mental health services as a sign of strength.

If you suspect that your child may be dealing with anxiety and depression, talk to him or her about what is going on and listen. Recognize that your child may not be able to express exactly how they feel. Initially, many students are hesitant to disclose their feelings; many worry about disappointing their parents. As difficult as it may be, encourage them to see a counselor. Depression and anxiety may not get better on their own and can worsen without treatment, leading to other mental and physical health symptoms. They can also increase the likelihood of detrimental behaviors such as substance abuse, binge drinking, and unsafe sex. They can also increase the risk of suicide, one of the leading cause of deaths on college campuses.

While your child is receiving treatment, you can take steps to help them cope. Encourage them to avoid doing too many things at once. This can help prevent becoming overwhelmed and falling into unhealthy thought patterns. Remind them to take good care of their physical health with daily exercise, eating well, and resting. Avoid drugs and alcohol which can worsen symptoms and trigger crisis moments. Also, ask them to spend time with friends and family. Although this can be difficult, this connection helps them to stay grounded and can help them realize that there are many people who care for them.
Auburn University takes the mental health of its students very seriously, having wonderful support systems in place. Recently, faculty, staff, and students participated in Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) training for suicide prevention. QPR teaches how to recognize someone at risk of suicide and how to direct them on how to get help. This is a wonderful program that helps overcome the inertia of feeling uncomfortable or not knowing what to do when a friend is in trouble.

Know that your family is not alone in dealing with depression and anxiety and that there are many resources you can access in the Auburn family. Student Counseling Services has expertise in dealing with college students and mental health. They have screening and counseling available for students 5 days a week. The Office of Parent and Family Programs has put out a wonderful video with their Navigate Webinar Series
Recognizing and reacting to signs of depression and anxiety early can help your student recover and have a happy and healthy college experience everyone envisions.

Other Articles and Resources you may find helpful:

Internships — An Integral Part of the Full College Experience

By Robbye Fox, 2nd Vice President for the AUPA Board of Directors.

A 2015 Job Outlook Survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that 92.6% of hiring managers indicated a preference for hiring new grads with work experience. In fact, for non-technical positions, internship experience is what matters most to employers, above even academic major, GPA, or college reputation.

So how do our Auburn students figure out how to get that experience?

Through the AU Career Center.

The AU Career Center is a resource our students should access well before they begin job hunting their senior year. “Depending on the major, our students are not as good as utilizing our resources as we’d like them to be,” states Nancy Bernard, director of the AU Career Center. My guess is this is because students aren’t familiar with all the Center has to offer and the importance of utilizing these services.

Auburn’s Career Center offers comprehensive services to help students explore possible majors and careers, including personality and interest assessments, as well as resources for identifying and securing internship and employment opportunities, resume development, interview prep, and job listings.

In my conversation with Bernard, I learned that requirements and resources for internships at Auburn can vary by department or major. “At Auburn, many majors require an internship,” Bernard states. “Within those departments, some may pair students with an internship, while in other departments, students are responsible for finding their own (with the help of the Career Center, if they choose).” For example, the College of Business has its own career center and has a very heavy focus on internships. The College of Education is a very structured program that matches students with internship sites, while apparel merchandising majors are responsible for finding their own internships. “Either way,” Bernard explained, “departments that require internships have their own internship coordinator to tell them what’s required — how many hours they will need to work, what the evaluation process will be, etc.” If it’s for academic credit, students need to check with their advisor to make sure it meets requirements. These departmental resources are in addition to the ones offered by the AU Career Center.

Regardless of what’s required, Bernard states that employers now definitely want at least one, if not two or three, internships prior to graduating, whether for credit, pay or volunteer. “With some majors, this can be tough to do, but we encourage students to try to build this into their schedule and recommend they use their summers to accomplish this.”

But Bernard also cautions students to not do an internship just so that they can list it on their resume. “Don’t be a passive participant — students need to make sure they’re asking the right questions and doing their research to make sure it’s an opportunity that will give them some real solid experience that will benefit them as well as the employer,” she says. “Ask themselves, what are they going to get out of the internship? What skills are they going to develop or what will they get to do or learn?” To be a real internship, the position has to meet government guidelines as identified by the Fair Labor Standards to avoid situations where students are doing volunteer work that offers them no true value. “Not every position listed as an internship actually is one,” Bernard says. “If something sounds too good to be true it probably is.” The Career Center can help students identify legitimate opportunities.

As parents, we know the value of real-world experience, but what can we do to help our students get started? Bernard suggests the following:

  1. Talk to our students about the importance of internships and what type of experience they should be looking for. This includes being clear on what may be required by the student’s major and what the financial ramifications of that might be. Internships for credit will require tuition. When our older daughter chose to do a required 6-credit internship during the summer, we failed to note that she accepted a 12-credit internship, which meant paying for 2 sessions of summer tuition rather than 1. Fortunately, the work experience she gained through the position was well worth the investment. Students accepting summer positions away from home or campus will likely have additional housing costs. Bernard also mentioned study abroad experiences as being considered internship experience. “They’re not called internships but can be counted as an internship in some cases, and can provide valuable experience.” Cooperative education (co-op) experiences are also valuable and are coordinated through the Co-op office, mainly for engineering majors, but some opportunities apply to other majors.
  2. Encourage them to start early.“Students don’t understand the importance of getting involved and using the career services available to them early and often,” Bernard says. Even freshmen should be familiar with the AU Career Center and its services as well as what resources are available through the student’s program of study. Students looking to secure an internship, either during the semester or summer, should start at least 6 months prior. “Most students like to do them in the summer, but it’s tough to find something if they wait until April,” Bernard says.
  3. Be familiar with Auburn’s resources to point students in the right direction. Familiarize yourself quickly and easily by clicking on the Families tab on the Auburn Career Center page for a wealth of information, including a Parent Guide. The Career Center utilizes the extensive Handshake platform— which recently replaced Tiger Recruiting Link — and is seeing more employers list positions in this platform. Using their Handshake account, Auburn students can update their profile, post their resume, identify positions, and be contacted by potential employers. Students can meet with Career Center counselors to learn more about Handshake and other office resources. They also can network with faculty and professors for valuable assistance and direction.
  4. Identify other networking opportunities — Research shows that students have a 1 in 72 chance of getting a job they apply to with no connection. Those odds improve dramatically when students network through their personal connections. “Parents have a great network, so help your students explore and learn to develop their own network without being their voice.” What opportunities might you help them identify through friends, neighbors, family members or co-workers? Students don’t have to be alumni to access valuable, vetted contacts through your local Auburn Club. A simple post on its Facebook page can get the ball rolling. Students can also utilize LinkedIn to create a professional profile and network.

On Becoming “Health Independent”

By Michael J. Ramsey, M.D., F.A.A.P.

I think that I am one of the luckiest people in the world.

Not only am I able to enjoy participating in the lives of my children, but as a pediatrician, I can be a part of thousands of families. Now that I have been in practice almost 19 years, I have a large cohort of patients that I have seen from their first minutes of life until they transition away from my care when they enter college. It is a bittersweet time knowing that they have “outgrown” me; however, it reassures that I have done at least part of my job right.

As my own children began their transition to college, I noticed that I had some catch-up work to do on them. Growing up, it was so easy for me to take care of everything regarding their health. They never really had to worry about knowing much about their personal health history or how to interact with the healthcare system. All of their doctors were friends of mine, so I gave them a “head up” prior to each visit. The pharmacy was just next to my office, and refills were as simple as just mentioning it to my nurse. With all this convenience, my children were able to float above it all, knowing that they would get the care they needed.

Now, two of my children are in college: Rebecca at the University of Colorado and Wilson at Auburn. Not only have they journeyed from home, but also my sphere of professional influence. Calls of “I’m sick – what do I tell the doctor?” or “Am I allergic to anything?” sounded alarm bells for me. We needed a crash course in how to advocate for their health. This also has made me more aware of how to instill this “health independence” in my patients.

First: Know Your History

It is so important for young people to be intimately familiar with their own health histories. Did they have asthma when they were younger? What type of surgeries have they had and when? If they have a current health problem, like seizures or ADHD, what medicines have they been on in the past, and how well did they work? Are they allergic to any medication? Most young adults know that they had some medical problems when they were younger but understandably did not pay attention to the details. Some patients find it helpful to keep a written health journal to remember important information. I would suggest keeping it on their phone so that it can be readily available.

Keeping up with specifics on current medication and dosages is difficult for parents, so imagine what this is like for young adults. However, this information factors into every treatment decision that a physician makes. Not having this information can lead to harmful drug interactions or ineffective prescribing. Including this information in their health journal, or taking pictures of prescription labels to show a healthcare provider is beneficial.

Second: Know What’s Going on Now

Being able to describe symptoms accurately is the most influential factor in receiving the right care for any illness. Just as important as learning to write a college essay, young adults should be able to tell their own story of their current illness, including:

  1. When did everything start? (two days ago? Two weeks?)
  2. What went wrong and in what order? (Cold symptoms for one week and then fever? Cold symptoms and fever both for one day?)
  3. How severe are the symptoms, and are they getting better or worse?
  4. Are there any extenuating circumstances? (Contact with anyone else sick? Travel to a foreign country?)
  5. What have you tried previously to make this better?
  6. Is it affecting any of your other medical problems?

Being competent and comfortable in telling these things to a physician will make their office visit not only more efficient but more enjoyable as well. Young adults can be insecure or embarrassed about discussing some symptoms, but most of the time it is just a lack of experience. Rehearsing or writing down answers to these questions will give any healthcare provider an excellent base from which to start.

Third: Know Where to Go

There are many options for accessing healthcare, each having their optimal role to play. Most common illnesses like colds, strep throat, stomach viruses, and sinus infections do not require emergency room visits. They are best served by outpatient clinics like student health services, acute care clinics, and private medical offices. Similarly, patients with chronic health conditions benefit from the continuity of seeing the same provider(s) over time. Going to the emergency room should be reserved for only severe or significant medical problems like those mentioned here. Having a plan helps reduce anxiety when they are sick. If they don’t where to go, Auburn University Medical Clinic provides a 24-hour nurse line at 866-389-6770.

Health insurance is sometimes a difficult concept for young adults to grasp. They should know that anywhere they go to seek care will ask for this information. Keeping a picture of your family’s insurance card on their phone can be extremely helpful during the intake process. Also, they should be aware that they may be asked for payment at the time of service, especially at a pharmacy.

Directing their health is an important part of our children’s development. It is truly rewarding to see it developing in other families, but it is unbelievably relieving to see it in my children. I know that I will always be an important safety net for them in this regard, but I am feeling ever confident that they will need me less and less. With the right coaching, all of our children will.

Spring is in the Air – Time to Prepare!

By Robbye Fox

The second semester already?? My older daughter graduated from Auburn last spring, so I have experienced first-hand how quickly college years on The Plains fly by. The analogy about these years resembling a roll of toilet paper – the closer you get to the end of the roll, the faster it disappears – is appropriate, especially since the toilet paper flies even faster at Auburn!

I’m now on round 2 as an Auburn parent, with my younger daughter a freshman, so you might think that second student, second semester, I should really be able to put my feet up and press cruise control about now. Right?

Well, not exactly. Knowing how quickly time flies, I’m working hard to stay present in the moment while also reminding my daughter to keep one eye on what lies ahead and applying some of the lessons we learned with her older sister. The areas on my parenting radar for spring semester are listed below – some of which were definitely learned the hard way. I’ve vowed to do better this time around and I’m hoping some of this information will be of help to you and your student as spring semester rolls into full gear.

  1. Spring break travel plans – Living 700 miles away, I’ve learned to help my daughter book early for all spring breaks-including carpool, airline and shuttle reservations-or else we pay the price, literally. This year, she will be experiencing her first spring break getaway with a large group of friends, which has a discussion around safety at the top of my “to do” list this month.
  2. Housing – Hopefully your students have determined where they will be living this summer and next fall. Whether on-campus dorms, Greek housing or off-campus apartments, most students may have made an initial decision by now and perhaps have already signed a lease or other agreement. Auburn’s Off-Campus Housing office offers great resources for those still making final decisions or changes. They are also able to provide guidance for students looking to sublet summer housing if necessary.
  3. Storage – Need a place to store those items that you don’t really want to keep in your garage all summer? Both the Auburn and Opelika Chambers of Commerce list storage facilities in their membership directory, and I know these units book early. Sharing a space with friends and roommates can certainly cut down the cost.
  4. Scholarship applications/FAFSA form – As much fun as completing these documents can be, it is that time again!
  5. Advisor meeting – Spring academic schedules are solidified, so it’s time to talk with advisors about what’s on tap for the fall and finalizing any plans for summer classwork. My daughter is planning to take classes at our local community college over the summer and is consulting the Transfer Course Equivalency Tables to determine what classes are eligible for credit transfer. My older daughter enjoyed taking online courses through Auburn during the summer from the comfort of our own home.
  6. Summer job/internship – It’s certainly not too early to apply for any summer internship or job opportunity. Summer is also a great time to do some job shadowing, especially for those students who are still finalizing a major or career choice.
  7. Graduation plans – For students graduating in May or August, be sure to make your lodging and dining reservations NOW if you haven’t already. You can consult the schedule for commencement exercises to determine the best times to eat out. Some Auburn-Opelika restaurants do accept reservations via Graduating students will also receive information on how to order their cap and gown, graduation announcements, and other mementos of the big day and will need to make sure all parking tickets and other financial obligations are fulfilled prior to graduation. Keep some time in your graduation weekend schedule to conduct your own family photos in front of Samford, around the seal, etc. Lines form early!
  8. Plan a visit “just because” – There are no football games or family weekends in the spring, which makes it a great opportunity to spend time exploring the Auburn-Opelika area with cheaper hotels and fewer crowds. For my older daughter, I failed to follow this sage advice until the spring semester of her senior year but better late than never. We got a chance to eat at the more popular restaurants, did some shopping, and further explored the area. Over graduation weekend, my family enjoyed a quick hike through Lake Chewacala just down the road from the campus and couldn’t believe it took us 4 years to discover it. Downtown Opelika is a fun place to explore, offering some restaurants that your student may not have had the chance to try out. Auburn’s basketball, gymnastics, baseball, softball, and other athletic events are great fun and tickets can be much easier to come by than those for football. When visiting in January, I attended my first college gymnastics meet along with another parent, and what a treat that was – a rocking student section, cheerleaders, giveaways, and Aubie were all on hand to watch these amazingly talented and hard-working young ladies. Check out the calendar of events or download the official Auburn University app to view athletic schedules and other event information. If you throw in a trip to the grocery store, a free meal or two, and a promise not to bug them about classes, grades, jobs, etc, your student may even come with you.
  9. But if you’re itching for football … – then schedule a trip to Auburn for A-Day weekend and the annual blue-orange football scrimmage on April 9. In addition to the game, this unofficial family weekend features many entertainment options and activities around campus. I’m very excited to attend my very first A-Day game this year. War Eagle!

As I develop this list for my own student, I have to remind myself to walk the line between overwhelming her with preparing for tomorrow and encouraging her to be mindful of being present in her today. She’s all too aware of how quickly that toilet paper is unrolling. Fortunately, Auburn University offers some tremendous resources through the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Parent and Family Programs, among other departments. While most of these items are technically her “to dos” and the responsibility for them rests with her, I want her to know I’m another resource here to help her navigate through some of these decisions. Check out the What Parents Can Do tip sheet for more ideas and remember that your Auburn University Parents Association board members are just a phone call or email away if you would like to discuss any of the above, or to add an item or two to the list.

Should your Student Study Abroad?

By Mary Buddig

As a parent of five children, we had two of our four daughters study abroad. They received credit through their university, but their program was more fun than work. We made sure that they were staying in safe hostels and places. Part of the trip, they were with professors, but part of the trip, they navigated with friends. They loved every moment of exploring Europe. It was a great experience. Our son is a business double major. He also really wanted to study abroad.

There were many factors to consider in helping him make his decision. I’ve listed eight of these that I suggest discussing with your student:

1. Make sure that the trip works with your student’s major

2. Safety is also a very important consideration.

3. Next, discuss the type of program:

  • Faculty-led programs
  • Faculty-supervised internships
  • Exchange programs
  • Other university third-party programs
  • Direct enrollment

4. Whether your student wants to study for a summer, a semester, a year or even two weeks, make sure the time frame works well with the curriculum.

5. The cost of the program might be the most important issue. I recommend looking at the cost of the program versus the cost of a semester at Auburn. You have to address the program fees; housing, meals travel, text and material fees, daily expenses like transportation, phone, and laundry, and money for incidentals.

6. What type of experience matches your student? Consider the culture, size of the location, and the location relative to other countries, maximizing the ability to visit multiple locations during the trip.

7. What is your goal for the trip? Do you want an internship, to study, to work, to volunteer, to teach English? Make sure that your student talks to their advisor and make sure that they know it fits with their major if educational credits are the goal. Obviously, if they are just going for the experience, then this does not have to be an issue discussed by the family.

8. Most importantly push them to think and do something outside their comfort zone (safely).

Our son chose to be part of the faculty-supervised internship for the summer in Rome. He worked for a Gelato Company alongside other Auburn students to develop a marketing plan for the company. This company actually sells gelato at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Each weekend, they were able to travel and had a week off to explore Europe. He traveled to Spain, Prague, and Austria. In addition, they explored Rome. One of the highlights for our son was attending the Papal Mass on the Feast of Peter and Paul.

The positives were that he received credits toward his business major, he had a marketing internship to add to his resume and he got to explore parts of Europe.

From our son:

As a marketing student, you learn about different strategies and techniques. In addition, you learn how to position a product or service into the consumer’s mind. Being able to satisfy the needs and wants of the consumer is driven into your mind from day one. So as you begin the daunting task of looking for a job, you need to treat yourself as the product and the potential employer as the customer. You need to be able to sell your service (skills, abilities, knowledge) better than the next student. Having extracurricular activities and work experience is imperative. However, many college students have internship and philanthropy experience on their resume, so you must set yourself apart from the pool of candidates. One unique way to set yourself apart is to study abroad.

This past summer, I had the unique opportunity to receive Auburn University Course credit, have a unique internship, and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel to Europe. I went on the Auburn University business study abroad program based in Rome. During the course of the summer, I had an amazing internship. I worked with two other Auburn business students and interned with a gelato company called Michelangelato, which serves gelato in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The internship was more involved than past internships. I, alongside my team, was able to develop a detailed marketing plan, design packaging as well as develop slogans, and many other unique opportunities that a typical American internship would not necessarily provide.

Not only did I learn about how to develop a marketing plan, but I also received a lot of intangible experiences such as working with a team. Many businesses today work as teams, so I was able to sharpen those skills. I also experienced the cultural differences between American-based companies and European-based companies. With many companies becoming multinational companies, these opportunities and experiences were invaluable.

I also had opportunities to travel to Europe and experience many cultures. I traveled to Barcelona, Spain; Vienna, Austria; and Prague, Czech Republic. I made memories that will last a lifetime.

Most importantly, I was able to meet and develop new friendships that I would never have made. The memories that I made with these new friends will last a lifetime.

4 Career Prep Basics for College Students

By Chris Perez, AUPA Board Member/Second VP

As an executive recruiter, I spend a lot of time coaching senior-level professionals as they map out their next career adventure. While these people are well into the arc of their career path, a lot of my advice also applies to college students getting ready (hopefully) to enter the workforce. In fact, I have shared many of these key themes with my own kids as they have gone off to college.

Students should enjoy the spontaneity that is part of college life. The unexpected challenges and discoveries are part of the overall learning process. However, with a little foresight, the tips below can easily be woven into a well-balanced college experience. Students should start early and enjoy the process!

1. Get Involved

Auburn offers a wealth of ways for students to get involved in academic, campus, and community activities. Students who are involved learn how to apply book learning to the real world in practical ways. The satisfaction of overcoming challenges (or learning from failure) and the experience of being part of a team will smooth the transition to that first “real” job. Getting involved is also a powerful way to develop emotional intelligence and to identify passions. This, in turn, may influence the type of job or specific industry the graduate seeks. There are many diverse involvement options at Auburn: leadership development, internship/job shadowing, co-op study programs, community service, and extracurricular campus programs are just a few.

2. Grow a network

Networking is often misunderstood. To many, it’s seen as forced and even painful. Those who resist it may view it as self-promoting and asking for favors. But networking is more than working a room of strangers armed only with a pocketful of business cards and artificial small talk. Networking done right is simply the art of creating and nurturing relationships. It involves active listening and learning. It’s about giving more value than you seek. Networking is about connecting dots. It opens doors and lowers barriers by fostering familiarity. Networking done right relies on the fact that most people want to be helpful if asked, and may occasionally need help themselves. A good networker makes the first investment into a new relationship. What’s a great way to get started growing a network as a student? See Step 1 above for ways that students can up their networking game with classmates, faculty, counselors, alumni, and administration figures.

3. Build a resume

Even though resume formats are evolving (chronological, functional, hybrid, even infographic), there is still an agreement in the HR world that some form of a printed resume is necessary. This article from Business Insider focuses on resume tips for recent college grads, but the drafting of a core resume should begin during undergrad days. Be mindful of relevant experience that was obtained outside of the classroom or workplace. Did the student lead or participate in campus or community initiatives? Many times that experience will translate well into skills or traits that will catch the eye of a future hiring manager. Athletic experience, awards, Greek life, philanthropy, and other pursuits are also good to include. Keep in mind that an undergrad gets some leeway on the depth and breadth of work experience listed. Also, the conventional wisdom is that length should not exceed two pages for an undergrad or recent grad (with some exceptions). Starting a working resume early is a great way to get into the mindset of documenting the body of work that represents the individual.

4. Create a LinkedIn profile

If there is an acceptable alternative to the traditional printed resume, it is a well-tended LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn has become the de facto standard for personal branding in the professional community. A great LinkedIn profile will project the owner’s personality, interests, and experience for all to see. And when it comes to networking, very few methods can compete with the power of LinkedIn. An entire cottage industry has sprung up that will create a LinkedIn profile for a fee, but anyone can create their own for free. My advice to an undergrad or recent grad is to make this a priority. While a full tutorial on LinkedIn is beyond the scope of this post, I hope to focus on it in future articles. Pro tip: When sending connection requests, never use the stock wording offered by LinkedIn. Always personalize the request and start the relationship off on a more sincere and memorable note.

In closing, any one of these 4 tips could be the focus of an entire book on career prep. Hopefully, this overview provides some food for thought and an achievable mini-plan for making the most of the undergrad years with an eye toward entering the job market. Please post your comments and suggest your own tips!

Last modified: September 23, 2019