Ever wanted to pursue a career overseas?
That is exactly what three former San Diego State marketing students did after they earned dual degrees from SDSU and business schools in France. All three came to live and work overseas for different reasons, but they all agree they are living extraordinary lives that each would describe as the experience of a lifetime.
Even before she earned her marketing degree from SDSU and her international business degree at Euromed Management Marseille (now Kedge Business School), Lindsey Bergner had already visited France and had taken four years of French in high school. “Since the teacher was from France, she also taught us a lot about the culture,” said Bergner, a Mission Viejo, California native. “I guess she was part of the reason I came to love France.”
When I saw the program in Marseilles, France, I thought it was a great opportunity to graduate with two diplomas and become fluent in French.
She already knew that when she came to SDSU as a marketing major she wanted to study abroad, so she attended a meeting hosted by SDSU’s College of Business that shared international study options to learn more. “When I saw the program in Marseilles, France, I thought it was a great opportunity to graduate with two diplomas and become fluent in French,” said Bergner. “It was thanks to my French diploma that I was able to get a work permit in France.”
Bergner spent her first three years of college studying at SDSU’s campus and the fourth and final year in Marseille, where she also landed an internship at Paris-based Altea Resources which is a service company for the oil, gas and mining industries. Altea was so impressed with her work during her internship that they sponsored her visa and hired her as a full-time recruitment consultant right after graduation in 2012.
Never think twice about traveling, because it’s a great investment in yourself and it changes your perspective on the world.
After two years at Altea, Bergner was recently offered an opportunity to work in the Paris-based office of Fircroft, a British engineering services company. “Fircroft is a larger company that offered training, career growth and firm management structure,” she said of her new company.
Three years after moving to France as a student, Bergner has these words of advice for students who may follow in her footsteps: “Never think twice about traveling, because it’s a great investment in yourself and it changes your perspective on the world. Plus, international experience – whether it be work or studying – is a great asset on your resume.”
Plus, international experience – whether it be work or studying – is a great asset on your resume.
Anabelen Grijalva is truly an international student in every sense of the word. She was born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico. It was there that she heard about an au pair program in France that would allow her to live and work with a French family while studying at a local university. “I completely fell in love with the idea,” recalls Grijalva, but pursuing that ideal was not as easy.
SDSU has a reputation for creating entrepreneurs and community leaders and they know there is a life beyond academics.
After she’d completed a year of college in Mexico, Grijalva’s father got a job in San Diego and moved the family to the U.S. where she attended community college for two years. When it came time to transfer to a four-year university to complete her degree, she chose SDSU because it “is very much connected to the community, with employers and international interests,” she said. “SDSU has a reputation for creating entrepreneurs and community leaders and they know there is a life beyond academics.”
During her first semester Grijalva chose marketing as a major, due to its flexibility and applicability to any industry. It was also during this time that she decided to move forward on her dream of studying in France and she applied to study at Audencia Grand Ecole in Nantes. She was accepted and studied there during the spring semester of 2013.
While Grijalva was in France, something unexpected happened that would change her life: during an event hosted by her school, she met another exchange student from Barcelona, Spain. Since both were Spanish-speaking international students, they made a connection and embarked on a romance. At the end of their exchange program, he went to Dubai in the United Arab Emerates for an internship (later, a full-time position) while she returned to SDSU to finish her senior year.
It’s quite challenging, but I am learning tons of new things every day.
Even though the couple was at opposite ends of the globe, they managed to maintain a long-distance relationship and Grijalva moved to Dubai two days after graduation in May 2014. Today she works at James Rammal Advertising, a boutique advertising agency. “I am an account manager handling the two very important accounts for the agency,” she said. “It’s quite challenging, but I am learning tons of new things every day.”
While Grijalva has a good deal of advice to offer SDSU students who plan to study abroad, she says one of the most important things to remember is to be open-minded. “Just be tolerant and respectful, be willing to learn about other points of view, and listen carefully,” she said. She also says that study abroad students should pack light, budget and save money carefully, and be sure to socialize with the locals and other international students from other parts of the world.
Just be tolerant and respectful, be willing to learn about other points of view, and listen carefully.
Rafael Espinoza is unique among study abroad students since he’s done it twice in two different countries.
“I studied abroad for the first time during the spring of 2011 in Madrid at Universidad Autonoma de Madrid for one semester,” Espinoza said. “During my early years at SDSU, I was planning to get a double major in Spanish and marketing, but this experience made me change my mind. So I re-focused on moving forward with a business degree at an international level.”
Upon Espinoza’s return to his hometown of San Diego, he attended a meeting hosted by SDSU’s College of Business that shared international study options to find a program that was a good fit. This was where he learned about the dual degree program offered by SDSU and Kedge Business School in Marseille, France. Those that complete the program earn a marketing degree from SDSU and an international business degree from Kedge.
[SDSU] offered a very good business program and was close to home, my friends and my comfort zone.
Ironically, Espinoza had chosen San Diego State because “it offered a very good business program and was close to home, my friends and my comfort zone.” And while he pursued the business degree that originally brought him to SDSU, he would definitely be outside his comfort zone in France. And this time, he needed to stay there from September 2012 to June 2013 – a full academic year.
However, the program and his time in France proved to be life-changer for Espinoza, because once he got there, he stayed.
“The last requirement to earn my diploma from Kedge was to complete an internship,” said Espinoza. “Another SDSU/Kedge alumni, Lindsey Bergner (see previous story), was working at Altea Resources, a specialized oilfield service provider based in Paris. In the summer of 2013, she informed me they were looking for an intern.”
Espinoza got the internship and was at Altea for six months before he accepted a job offer from the company to work there full-time in December of 2013. He still works there as a recruitment consultant.
“Through my journey abroad, not only have I gained professional skills and academic knowledge, but I was also lucky enough to have made lasting friendships, taken unbelievable trips and had memorable experiences that will last forever,” said Espinoza. He also said he would highly encourage other students to follow the same path since it “will be, by far, the best investment of your life.”
[Study abroad] will be, by far, the best investment of your life.