Dutch Roots and TOMS Shoes

Meet Alette! A Billings native and former Study Abroad intern who studied Marketing and International Business at U of M, and now is a Marketing Coordinator for TOMS (shoe company and more importantly, giving company), at it’s European headquarters in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  Before landing her picture perfect career, Alette studied abroad for two semesters at the Universiteit van Amsterdam during 2010-2011 and claims that study abroad gave her the confidence to pursue a career overseas. Her father originates from Holland and runs a bakery in Billings called, Caramel Cookie Waffle. Out of curiosity from her roots, she wanted to study in Amsterdam to learn Dutch fluently. Studying abroad opened Alette’s eyes to the realization of the world outside of the United States and outside of Montana. Alette now works with thirty different employees from twelve different countries. She is one of two other Americans within the office, and is constantly learning!  

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Alette captured in true European style riding her bicycle during the  first week of her job as a TOMS Marketing Coordinator 

 What is your favorite part about living overseas?

It’s great to be exposed to different people and new experiences daily, while being able to travel and be immersed in a different culture. I have lived here for six months now and have to stop myself sometimes, and think, “Wow, I actually LIVE here – I am literally living out my dream.” When I think about Study Abroad the first thought is “absolutely invaluable”. It’s an incredible and life changing experience that will change you forever (and of course, is a lot of fun too). It gives people the opportunity to really live in another culture, opposed to just being a visitor. Being in another country and having a purpose is so much different than just traveling somewhere. You have the opportunity to become completely immersed in a new culture, meet incredible people and forge friendships that will continue much further, the chance to learn a new language, challenge yourself, and ultimately gain an entirely new perspective on the world we all live in.

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Alette and her father visiting Utrecht during her Study Abroad experience in 2010. 

 How has study abroad influence you career path?

It helped me realize my ambitions and look past the borders of my own country, and helped me realize that I could accomplish a lot more than I thought I could physically and mentally. There are so many opportunities in the world; it’s just about having the confidence and ambition to actively seek them.  Study abroad was my first step in realizing how rewarding living and working abroad can be.  In a lot of ways, it was the spark that started a flame. It made me realize, it’s not just a dream – it’s achievable, even for a girl from Montana.

 Would you say that studying abroad set you apart in the workforce?

It absolutely set me apart, and was a key factor in how I got this job. It’s very risky for an employer to higher someone from another country, because it’s often very shocking for those who haven’t been abroad before. For me, Study Abroad set me up to know that I could live in a country by myself.  When employers would look at my resume they would say, “Wow, you studied abroad! Tell me about the experiences you had.” It shows that you are obviously capable of living in another country, but much more importantly, that you are also open to new experiences, self-sufficient, confident, have the ability to work and communicate with different kinds of people, and have a global perspective.

This doesn’t just apply to working abroad; it also when applying for jobs within the United States. After I graduated I moved to L.A. and worked for American Apparel. I remember that in the interview, the manager was skimming silently through my resume and pointed out directly, “So, you lived a year abroad. That’s really interesting for a girl from Montana.” We ended up talking about that for quite a bit of my interview. Companies today almost all work internationally to some extent. Although they may not have an office abroad, somewhere along the value chain they are working globally, and at the very least are thinking globally. The job market is changing; it does give people the edge.  It is something that people say all the time to you when you’re growing up, but when you are actually a member of the workforce, it’s interesting to see that it really does make a difference.

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Alette giving a speech at the retail store opening of TOMS in Europe in 2014.

 What would you say to someone who is on the fence for studying abroad?

Absolutely do it! I can honestly say, I have never met anyone that regrets studying abroad, only people that regret never doing it. The experiences you gain from Study Abroad you can’t gain anywhere else. It’s the one time in your life that you’re allowed to take the time to explore and experience something new with support, while at the same time getting your education. I feel like some students are apprehensive about graduating late, but the truth is, it doesn’t have to set you back at all, and I can say with confidence that it was the best experience I had while getting my degree.  I double majored, minored, and still managed to graduate on time with high honors – and all of my scholarships applied.   Another worry for students is that it’s so far from home and your family, but I found that studying abroad also comes with an incredible support system.  Every other student you’ll meet abroad is in the exact same position as you – they are outgoing, excited to experience something new as well, and can’t wait to make friends. It’s crazy how study abroad creates such strong bonds in a short amount of time. I consider some of the friends I made, my closest.  After studying abroad, and during my last year at the University of Montana, I connected with a lot of students that studied abroad during the same time in completely different places around the world. We immediately bonded although each of us had entirely different experiences.

It may sound cliché, but it’s completely true… The important thing to remember about study abroad is that it isn’t just about the incredible experiences you have in that semester or year in a foreign country, but the way it changes your perspective, your bonds with people, your confidence, and ambitions for the rest of your life.

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Claire Chandler

Adventure is merely inconvenience rightly considered.

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