Gatepost Interview – Craig McDonald, Assistant Director of the Office of International Programs
By Ashlyn Kelly
What is your educational and professional background?
I did my undergrad at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and I studied history and Latin merican Studies. ... In college, my work study job was in the study abroad office ... and then I studied abroad myself in Argentina and in Bolivia. My first job out of college, I worked for a study abroad organization that ran study abroad programming in Spain and Latin America. ... But in order to really advance in anything like higher education, you generally have to have a master’s degree, and so I went to graduate school, and for that it was the University of Toronto in Canada ... and then [I] came back to the U.S., and worked for a place called the School for International Training. ... I also worked in International Admissions at a school called Elms College, which is in Chicopee, Massachusetts, and then I went back to the School for International Training for a number of years doing public relations and student recruitment. ... I ended up getting this job over the summer, so I’ve been here since early August.
What is your role at FSU and what does your job entail?
I’m the assistant director of International Programs. ... My primary function is to assist students who are outgoing study abroad students – students from FSU who are seeking to study abroad in other countries, whether it be for a semester, for an academic year, or for a shorter term – whether it be a January term or a summer term program.
What do you like most about your work?
The world is a really big place and there’s such amazing diversity of locations and peoples and cultures, and so I love talking about that all the time and talking to students about their interests and their goals and the types of places that they want to go, and the types of experiences that they want to have. ... It’s kind of cool – and again, I’ve only been here for a little while, but I’ve worked in this field for a long time. It’s really cool to see the whole thing from start to finish – someone who is in their first semester of college to when they’re graduating, and in between, they’ve studied abroad multiple times, they’ve had all these amazing experiences, and then putting that together to when they’re graduating and applying for a job, and drawing from their international experience to advance their own career. That’s really, really cool to see that whole process.
Where has been your favorite place you’ve traveled abroad?
I really love Argentina because it’s where I lived for an academic year. It’s where I made friends. I think when you study abroad, you become a part of that country, of that society, of that community. I was so fortunate to be able to make some really meaningful, lasting friendships while I was a study abroad student. And so for that reason, Argentina is like my second home in the sense that it’s a place I’ve had the chance to return to many times. It’s a place where I’m still in contact regularly with friends that I made there and connections that I have there. So, that would probably be one location that’s cool ... but I’ve been so lucky in the sense that when you work in international education, oftentimes, you get the chance to travel quite a bit. I’ve had the chance to go to more than 40 different countries around the world. ... I’ve gone hiking in Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa. I’ve ordered dinner in Portuguese in Macau in China. I rode an elephant in India. There’s some really, really amazing things that I had the chance to do. And I think that’s what study abroad opens doors to – things that you just can’t do in New England.
What would students be surprised to know about you?
I adopted three kids through the foster care system ... who are ages 9 to 15. I try to incorporate international stuff into our family life because of my work and just because I want to give them that global perspective. I speak Spanish and I’m learning Portuguese because my partner is from Brazil and so I have extended family in other parts of the world from that and from my own study abroad experience.
What advice do you have for FSU students?
Their experience matters and when you’re going for a job someday, you want to do everything you can to have all sorts of qualifications that are going to make you stand out, so that when 40 résumés come across somebody’s desk for your dream job, what’s going to make you stand out? What’s going to make you different? And having international experience really matters. It really does. Fewer than 10% of college students in the United States have the opportunity to study abroad. ... There’s no time in your life when you can more easily do something like this where you can live in another country and be a part of that country for an extended time period. ... At Framingham State, it doesn’t have to be expensive. I think a lot of people assume that studying abroad is expensive. ... Thankfully, we have a lot of really affordable options where the cost of study abroad doesn’t necessarily have to be any more than the cost of being a student here at FSU, and your financial aid can transfer, and your credits transfer to your degree. ... So I encourage people to just think about that and know that there are options available. It is possible.