Author Archives: Loredana Abreu Mattarolo

My CGS Story

This past year I had the opportunity to be part of the Center for Global Studies team. During this year I had the privilege to attend events related to sustainability, ethical leadership and global studies. I even attended events on topics I didn’t even know I was going to find interesting, like most of the CGS Brownbag Series, where I was able to listen to research from graduate students and renowned scholars.

The CGS did not only give me the opportunity to be part of a great team that works to support global research in the university, and to be on the audience for all the interesting events that they sponsor, but it also gave me the opportunity to make my own events.

During my first semester I was able to organize a talk for International Education Week about Venezuela’s current political situation. This gave me the opportunity to educate Penn State students on what is currently going on in my country, which despite being a relevant topic does not receive enough coverage from the American media.

This semester I had the opportunity to present as a Brownbag speaker on my research. My research was focused on expatriates and what can U.S. multinational companies do to get the most of the people they send to perform such international assignments. Not only was I able to share my research, which is something I am very passionate about, but also I was also able to practice my public speaking and even received feedback from the audience regarding some extra topics I could cover on my final research paper.

An opportunity that also took me to places I wouldn’t have gone otherwise was World Stories Alive. I was in charge or organizing the whole series, find the speakers, do the publicity and manage the interns so that they could help me put the whole series together. In this process I met people from all over the world (Kazakhstan, Japan, China, Rumania, etc.) Not only did I meet these people but also I was also able to listen their languages, learn typical music and poems from those countries.

Finally I learned people management skills. This was the first opportunity I have ever had when I am not the youngest in the workplace, or the intern. This time I had interns to manage. At the beginning it was hard, because I wanted to be their friend but at the same time you have to draw the line and make sure you are giving the precise tasks and remind them if they are not meeting deadlines. I was lucky to have great and collaborative interns both semesters, but it was still challenging to learn how to be a supervisor.

Overall I am infinitely grateful for this opportunity, I met wonderful people, learned about infinite topics related to sustainability and ethical leadership; and culturally and professionally, this experience definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me grow and enhanced my professional skills, preparing me to enter the workforce.

We Learn From Our Mistakes

I wanted to end my Graduate Assistantship with zero records of big mistakes, unfortunately this was not the case…

Part of my tasks as a Graduate Assistant is to video tape all of our events and post them on our YouTube channel. It is recommended to download the videos from the camera to your computer and post them on YouTube as fast as possible. However, being on the final weeks of the semester and of my time here at Penn State as a graduate student I had too many things on my plate and I did export the videos to my computer but I didn’t edit the videos right to post them on YouTube.

Long story short, I lost all the files from my computer (including the videos) and I had already deleted them from the video camera. After visiting all the data recovery stores of downtown State College, I was informed there was no guarantee I was going to recover the videos.

I was very nervous and stressed to tell my supervisor the bad news. I am usually a perfectionist and strongly dislike when I mess up, however there was nothing else I could do this time to fix the problem but to come up front and be honest about what happened.

Fortunately, my supervisor was kind and very understanding. She was not pleased to hear the news, but told me to take it as a learning lesson.

Two weeks later, we went for lunch with the whole CGS team including Sophia McClennen, the Director of the Center. I was still pretty embarrassed for my past mistake, but it was very comforting to listen from all the mistakes each of the team members did during their careers at the CGS.

Even though I did not end my term as a Graduate Assistant with a clean mistake record as I wanted, I did end it with a life lesson. Sometimes you mess up, and it is not ideal, and when these things happen the most important thing is to be candid about it and learn from your mistakes.

What can U.S. Companies Do to Get the Most Out of their Expatriates in Hardship Locations (My Very Own Brownbag!)

This past month I had the opportunity to share with the CGS’s staff and some of my peers about my graduate research paper.

Having moved from my hometown at a young age, and having to adapt fast to a different culture and a new environment, combined with my passion for human resources management, made me very interested in the expatriate management topic. For this reason, when I had to decide on what I was going to write my research paper for my M.S. in Human Resources and Employment Relationships, I decided to do it on expatriates.

To give it an even more specific focus I decided to do research on what can American enterprises do to better manage their expatriates in hardship locations. In today’s globalized economy many American companies are looking to penetrate new markets, and even though this is a great business opportunity, most of the times these new markets are located in countries that are considered hazardous.

A country can be categorized as a hardship location when it provides poor quality of life, it has a very different culture from the home country of the expatriate, or it is very far away from the home country of the expatriate.

I started my presentation defining what an expatriate is and why is my research relevant to U.S. companies. Even though expatriates are the best approach to manage subsidiaries in different countries, it is also very expensive (expatriate compensation packages can cost up to $1million per year to a company!!!)

Therefore, if a company wants to get a large return on investment, they need to make sure they manage this process with caution.

On my research I found that the biggest challenges hardship locations have are: cultural adjustment, struggle for the expatriate’s spouse and family to adjust, and poor quality of life due to crime, violence, or diseases. Finally, another challenge companies have with expatriate assignments is that up to 20% of American companies suffer from expatriate failure because of such challenges, and many times they lose the expatriate to a competitor after the assignment because of dissatisfaction during/after the assignment.

To cope with such struggles, during my presentation I suggested several recommendations:

  1. Offer pre-departure and post-departure cultural training for the employee to build up expectations of the new country and for the employee to re-adjust once the assignment is over. This training should be administered to the expatriate and his/her family.
  2. Offer career-planning services for the accompanying spouse. With the increase of dual-income households, spousal career and the ability for a partner to be able to work during the assignment has become increasingly more relevant.
  3. Repatriation: this process should start months before the expatriate is back to the home country. Once the expatriate is back, he/she should have a significant role within the company where newly acquired skills can be used.

This was a great opportunity not only to share my findings, but also to practice my presentation skills. I was glad that all the people who attended my brownbag were interested on the topic and that we could have a short discussion at the end.

Round Two, Here We Go!

Now that I have a semester of experience as a Graduate Assistant in the Center for Global Studies, I definitely feel more comfortable with all my tasks. The first semester taught me how to manage and balance my time between work and study, it enhanced my event planning skills, and it contributed to my professional profile by making me a better leader. Thanks to the experiences of the last semester, I now have better communication and team management skills.

This semester I am looking forward to working along with the interns on the events, social media and the newsletter. As a team we have great communication and team dynamic, and I believe it will get even better with time.

I am also looking forward to be part of World Stories Alive. I have heard so much of this project and have been working on it since last semester, finding the right speakers for every weekend, and it feels good to know that I will finally be able to see it come to life. As a global individual with a passion for foreign language, I am glad to know I am contributing to spread the knowledge of foreign language in young children. One of my favorite aspects of World Stories alive is that the impact goes beyond the university since the targeted audience is not only Penn State students, but everyone in the State College area. World Stories Alive is targeted to children three to eight years old, this will be my first experience working directly with children and I am hoping to learn from this aspect as well.

Also, this semester I will be part of the CGS Brownbag series. I will be giving a talk around expatriates from U.S. multinational companies who are being sent to hardship locations for international assignments. Although I will expand more on this topic on a future blog post, I am also looking forward to talk about my research.

This is the last semester I have left at the Center and for this reason I will make sure I learn as much as I can from this opportunity, and to leave a footprint.

Events that Raise Global Awareness

After almost three months working with the Center for Global Studies, I can definitely say I now have a better feel of what the Center does and its purpose on campus. When I applied to this position as a Graduate Assistant, I was drawn by the fact that the Center’s interdisciplinary research initiatives: justice, sustainability, and ethical leadership, however I was not really sure how a small office in Old Botany Building will be accomplishing all those things.

The Center for Global Studies does a tremendous amount of job bringing top quality speakers from all over the world to raise awareness on global ethical topics not only in Penn State, but also in State College, PA. Every speaker who comes to the university to discuss cultural or global matters is promoted by the Center and with these events, the CGS manages to have a strong impact on the local community.

My experience so far has been very hands on, and this month we were given the opportunity to plan our own event for International Education Week. Penn State’s International Education Week aims prepare Americans for a global environment and to celebrate the benefits of international exchange. As soon as I got the opportunity to plan an event for this week, I decided to do it on a topic that I believe needs more global awareness and it is also very near and dear to my heart.

I decided I wanted to help raise awareness on the current political situation of my home country, Venezuela. This is a relevant current topic that is not receiving as much media coverage as it should due to conflicts of interests between foreign governments and Venezuela’s government.

For this event I decided to contact an expert on this subject, Alfredo Malaret, a Venezuelan graduate student from Penn State’s School of International Affairs specializing on Development Policy and International Security Studies.

Planning an event is always time consuming, you have to pay attention to details, make sure you get the right venue, create a flyer and a press release to promote it properly, and constantly communicate with the speaker to make sure that you both are on the same page. However, despite the fact that it is hard work, it is very rewarding, especially when you are given the opportunity to work on something that matters to you.

I am infinitely thankful for this opportunity, and I am looking forward to see all the hard effort pay off with a successful event.

Venezuela: From Dictatorship to Democracy will take place on November 11, 2015 at Chambers 108 from 4:15-5:00 p.m. If you are interested in learning more about this topic I invite you to join us and expand your global knowledge!

Expanding my knowledge and balancing my time

When I applied for the Graduate Research Assistant position for the Center for Global Studies, I did it not only because I thought it would be a good work experience, but also because I was genuinely interested on the center’s interdisciplinary research initiatives: justice, sustainability, and ethical leadership. Being from a third world country (Venezuela), where every day is a battle for justice against unethical leadership, I can closely relate to those topics.

By joining the CGS team I expected to gain exposure to professionals in these fields, and also to interact with people who shared the same passion I did on raising awareness on global matters.

I am happy to say that so far my work experience at the center has lived up to my expectations. I get to help with the organization of events that educate students on ethical issues all over the world, I get to promote the teaching of foreign languages to young children, and expand my cultural appreciation.

One of the events I helped promoting was a discussion on girls and women rights in Afghanistan. By promoting and attending the event, I learned about how the laws in Afghanistan are changing slowly but steadily to stimulate fairness on how women are treated. Besides this extraordinary learning experience, I also got to meet the speakers. The networking aspect the CGS provides was something I did not expect when I joined the team, but I definitely appreciate it.

I have other tasks besides event planning. I am in charge of the CGS’s social media accounts, I assist in administrative tasks, and I will be helping with grant reports.

It is the first time in my life I am working and studying at the same time, so I am also learning to balance two different aspects of my professional formation and I am further developing my time management skills.

So far, I can say I have been enjoying my time at the center, and I am looking forward to learning and meeting more professionals that are making an ethical impact on the world.