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Study Abroad Inspires Global Pursuits

 |  Megan Winzeler

For NC State alumna Megan (McNulty) Le, study abroad was the catalyst for a global career and the lifelong pursuit of international experiences. As an Alexander Hamilton Scholar, Le studied Business Management and Latin American Studies while minoring in Spanish, earning her dual degrees from Poole College of Management and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2002. A study abroad program in Costa Rica during the summer of 2001 sparked a desire in her to do something different and expand her worldview.

The six-week long study abroad program in Costa Rica gave Le a taste of international travel and the confidence she needed to take the next step. After graduating from NC State, Le stayed in the Triangle for a few years working at technology start-ups, but the experience left her wanting more.

The confidence she gained in Costa Rica took Le a step further when she sold her house and cars, packed her bags and booked a one-way ticket to Spain with her husband David Le (Engineering ’02). She spent 2007-09 living in Barcelona while pursuing a Master of Business Administration at ESADE.  Le says this adventure always comes up in job interviews and it shows employers who she is as a person, along with demonstrating her willingness to take risks.

“My study abroad experience as an undergraduate student led me to the full MBA program in Spain and employers were impressed. They saw that I could thrive in new and ambiguous settings, which is something of great value in the business world,” Le said.

After reflecting on how study abroad has impacted her career, Le said that international experiences open people up to new ways of doing things. “The USA approach is not always the best way, and that’s OK,” she said. “Listening and learning from other people and cultures leads to improved understanding and  problem-solving.”

Global experiences enable us to challenge the status quo and step back to see what other solutions are out there.”

— Megan Le

After graduating with an MBA in Spain, Le returned to the United States and landed a job at PATH, an international, non-profit global health organization.  She was responsible for a portfolio of technology, communication and global development projects, and her work led her to countries including Switzerland, the Dominican Republic and India. The biggest challenge came when she was faced with leading a nutritional product launch in Myanmar (Burma), based in Seattle. The project wasn’t expected to be an on-site job, but Le ended up spending a lot of time in Myanmar over a nine-month period, the longest stretch being seven weeks.

“The project was a huge challenge because we were dealing with a newly opened up area of the world, and a 13 and half hour time difference with headquarters, along with basic infrastructure problems. I had the confidence to dive in and do the job well because of experiences I had studying abroad,” says Le.

According to Le, confidence, resourcefulness, curiosity and a love of lifelong learning are the skills she gained abroad. Her advice to those thinking about making the leap?

“Just do it,” she said. “Don’t get hung up on how much it will cost or leaving your significant other or missing experiences at home, because the benefits of going abroad are life-changing.”

She recommends that students spend as much time in another country as possible. The six-week program in Costa Rica wasn’t long enough for Le, and her only regret is that she didn’t do a longer program.

Le currently works as a management consultant in Seattle and is exploring potential entrepreneurial ventures. More than a career, international travel is also an ongoing life goal. Le and her husband make it a priority to visit at least two different countries every year. As of now, she has racked up more 45 different country stamps in her passport and plans to continue adding to the list, learning more of what the world has to offer.