Sara Morgan Watters
Sara Morgan Watters has fond memories of her time studying in New Zealand and still feels a sense of connection from her home in the United States.
Q&A with Sara Morgan Watters, Alumni volunteer, Washington DC, USA
We asked her about the challenges of working in an industry offering international internships for young professionals and the need to adapt quickly to the changes caused by the global pandemic.
What did you study and why did you choose your degree?
I did a MSc in Cross-cultural Psychology. I chose the programme because it was clearly the hub of all major cross-cultural research going on around the world. The professors in the department all have high profiles in the field and together through research, collaboration, and partnership, the department is also home to the Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research, which was attractive to me. I was particularly interested in being a part of a programme that had a more applicable component and I think with the Centre there was a nice balance of academia and learning how my studies are, and could be, applied into the real world. New Zealand is also a great country and place to study and live. The additional aspect of it being a bicultural nation that is also very multicultural was an attractive backdrop to my area of study.
Where are you living and what are you doing?
I live in Annapolis, Maryland, which is about 45 minutes outside of Washington, D.C. I work for a company called Global Experiences, which provides professional development and international internships for young professionals. We partner with universities to provide students comprehensive short-term internship placements in all sorts of career fields ranging from social services, law, to marketing, policy, film/video production, fashion, and everything in between. I work with our most popular program in Dublin, Ireland and make sure internship placements, social events, travel logistics, housing, insurance and everything else is ready to go. It’s nice to help others have the chance to go abroad like I’ve been lucky enough to. Taking part in an internship abroad is also a unique way to experience a different culture.
What’s the current situation like with COVID-19 in your region?
Everyone talks about how great New Zealand is handling their response to the pandemic. I feel a little proud when I hear New Zealand talked about in that light. Here in Maryland we are under a stay-at-home order and expect to have that extended into May at least. Schools are officially closed until the end of the school year, which typically ends in June. We are allowed to go outside for exercise or other activities like that, but generally our governor took relatively aggressive steps earlier than some of the other governors, so I think our state is doing better than it could have.
If you are currently working from home–what's your best tip for others?
Yup, I feel lucky to have a job and one that I can continue at home. I find that breaking up your day with intentions to accomplish certain tasks gives you a sense of commitment and I’m more likely to budget my time accordingly. There’s a lot of information out there regarding tips from working from home, so I think it’s important to try them out and figure out what works for you.
Biggest challenge for your industry?
Since my company is based on international travel, we are hugely impacted! With that said, the company and its employees are very agile and we’ve taken this time to launch a new product called Virtuoso, which is a virtual international internship program. It basically has all the same components as our traditional programme, including social events, orientations, professional development, site visits, etc., but all are completed virtually. We are excited to be able to offer a new opportunity to students who may have had their summer travel plans disrupted, while still gaining experience in a career field they are interested in pursuing. The plan is to continue to offer this even after travel and business has reopened around the world. It’s a great option for someone who might not be able to actually go abroad.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
There’s no one right way to do life. If you’re willing, carving your own personalized path through life will more likely take you where you’ll be happiest and most successful rather than following the routes that already exist. Don’t be afraid to be unconventional. For me, one of those things was going overseas to complete my Master’s degree! It was a great decision for me!
What would someone be surprised to know about you?
I am an avid sailor. New Zealand was a great fit for me because it’s one of the few counties in the world where the sport of sailing is so celebrated. Much more so than the U.S.! I loved getting to know the locals in Wellington (and around New Zealand) by participating in the sport and getting out on the water. With the America’s Cup back in New Zealand in a year (March 2021), I can’t but think that’d make a great excuse for a visit!
*Find out more about our network of alumni who are working to grow connections for Victoria University of Wellington graduates around the globe.