LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH MORGAN NEUBERT
When I was in high school, I participated in a Rotary Youth Exchange program. It was the first time I had been outside of the country other than taking tourist trips to Mexico. I spent three weeks living with a Rotary family in Paris, France, and their son came back to California and stayed with my family. My dad ran the international travel center at Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo, so I was very aware of international travel from a young age. As part of his job, he took students on trips all over the world. I started down this path because of him. His work at a university seemed fun and unique. Universities are like mini-cities and allow you to get a sense of what the world will look like in the future.
That led me to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I studied abroad in Germany. Because I was older, I got a lot more out of the experience. I was studying language and culture. There were mostly American students in the program, but we lived in the dorms with German students. On the weekends, we got to travel and explore other parts of Europe. My undergraduate degree is in history and education, so I wrote my senior thesis on German education post-WWII. When I graduated from UCSB, I applied for the AmeriCorps VISTA Program working for Student Veterans of America in Washington D.C. This position allowed me to engage with universities all over the country, so the plan was to combine that experience with my study abroad involvement and eventually get a job in international education. Working with veterans gave me a well-rounded perspective on students and how to support people from different backgrounds and experiences. It was an excellent stepping-stone for me.
I had been applying to jobs in higher education, but I wasn't getting them, so I decided to get more international experience by volunteering in Tanzania through WorldTeach. I taught English to a class of 40 students between the ages of 14 and 20 in a small village on the Eastern Coast of the country. There was another American volunteer and two local co-teachers. That experience changed my life and made me more appreciative of everything I have. The students were so happy and excited to learn and loved having us in their village. We were followed around everywhere. They made up a song for me one morning, and whenever you asked for a volunteer, everyone raised their hand!
After I got back from Tanzania, I got a job at Stanford University working in housing. They have many international students, so even though I wasn't working directly in IE, I was able to get more experience with that population. I created a training program for our student staff and assisted the general student population with their housing needs. It was a great higher ed experience. From there, I decided to pursue a master's degree in higher and professional education at the UCL Institute of Education in London. While there, I realized the United States' university experience is different from other country's institutions. We have more programs and invest a lot more in the student experience versus strictly focusing on the academic experience. It was really interesting to talk to other international students about their academic experiences. My thesis for my master's was focused on intercultural competence development in higher education students via on-campus and study abroad programs.
After applying for what felt like a thousand jobs, I was offered a position at UCLA Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars initially as a Programs Coordinator. The director left after a few months, so I applied and was promoted to Programs Manager. It's been a great job! We serve 12,000 international students and scholars at UCLA. I manage a vast portfolio of programs and events with the goal of promoting global connections, international understanding, and cultural sensitivity. These programs range from classroom-style cultural learning programs to large-scale welcome events with over 800 people in attendance. It's been a whirlwind for international students with all the visa and travel regulations related to COVID-19, but my staff and I are working hard to still make them feel part of the UCLA community, even if they are thousands of miles away from campus!
- Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Kanette Worlds
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