W&J Student Leads ‘Alternative Career Night’ for Students in Germany

Created: August 13, 2015
Last Updated: August 3, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Aug. 13, 2015) – It’s not uncommon for college students to feel anxious about life after graduation, but one Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) student turned uncertainty into an opportunity by creating an event during her time abroad to show students there is no such thing as a “perfect resume.”

Elizabeth Ekstrand, a senior International Studies and German double major with a minor in History from Pittsburgh, Pa. spent her junior year abroad in Munich, Germany through the Lewis & Clark College Year of Study program at Ludwig- Maximilian Universität (LMU, University of Munich).

LMU offers a ten week period between semesters when students can either travel of find an internship. Ekstrand chose the internship route to gain experience; however, when she did not immediately find an internship to participate in, she panicked and came to a realization that many students also have had.

“I ended up not getting an internship, which really freaked me out because it meant that I would be graduating without ever having done an internship,” Ekstrand said. “In my mind, that meant I wouldn’t find a good job or get into graduate school.”

Through discussing the fears Ekstrand had with her program director, Ralf Saborrosch, they were able to come up with a “think tank” with other students from her exchange program and LMU. What the “think tank” lead to was an “Alternative Career Night,” where a panel of professionals had a discussion that focused on students’ passions and interests, rather than perfecting their resume. This event was hosted and mediated by Ekstrand entirely in German, which was terrifying for her at first; however, the night proved to be a success.

The “Alternative Career Night” took place on June 18 with more than 300 German-speaking students attending, and there were also German television stations and newspapers there to report on the event.

Organizing an event is a difficult task, but Ekstrand had the support and encouragement of her professor and advisor at W&J, Judith Atzler, Ph.D.

“I personally (as Elizabeth’s professor and adviser) can say that Elizabeth does not shy away from a challenge and brings new and interesting ideas to any topic. A year abroad is a challenge and I am very proud of Elizabeth and all that she has achieved during her time in Munich,” Atzler said.

“Personally the biggest thing I learned from my study abroad and ‘Alternative Career Night’ experience was that in your life you have to make choices that are the best for you because no one else lives your life and has to live with the consequences of your decisions,” Ekstrand said. “This means that I will still ask for advice but not let advice alone be the deciding factor in my decision making with regards to my career. The event also helped me calm down about not having the perfect resume (and that a perfect resume does not exist) – I am confident now that I will be able to find a career that suits my interests and capabilities, and that it is okay that my path to that career may not be straight.”

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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