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UF Grads Coach Students on Latin American Careers

Written By: Chris Eversole

On Friday, October 23rd, University of Florida students, faculty, and alumni gathered at UF’s Smathers Library to participate in an interactive workshop to learn about careers working in or with Latin America.

Hosted by the Center for Latin American Studies at UF, the workshop sought to better prepare students for an increasingly globalized and interconnected world. Guest panelists, most of which were UF graduates who specialized in Latin American Studies, shared how they have combined their respective skill sets, language ability, and passion for Latin America to forge lasting and malleable careers.

The speakers’ recurring messages were the following:

  • Become ingrained in your host culture
  • Pursue a broad course of study
  • Be collaborative when working in another country
  • Learn the local language to better communicate and network

José Sariego, the senior vice president of business and legal affairs for NBC Universal, stressed the importance of not just second language proficiency but also professional English proficiency when writing for employers.

Maria Conchita Mendez offered a collaborative approach. “Don’t tell people that you’re here to help them. Work to jointly find ground to work together,” said Mendez, who is the director of Latin American Sales and Trade Development for the Alabama State Port Authority.

Brandon Knox, director of new business development, Latin American Pharmaceutical at Johnson & Johnson, said that his broad coursework at UF paid off. He stressed the importance of knowing where you want to go and building expansive skill sets while at UF to get there.

UF is on the right track in integrating cultural awareness into classes, said Gillian Lord, associate professor and chair of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, “We’re giving you much more than verb conjugations.”

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