Manuela Hofer-McIntyre studied English and American Studies as well as Media and Communications at AAU. She now works as Academic Coordinator at the University of Wyoming in the USA. In this interview, she tells us why she likes her job, how she prepares students for the international job market and what still connects her to the AAU today.
How would you describe your studies in four words?
My free education rocked!
I think that many students in Austria are not fully aware of how unique it is to be able to enjoy a free higher education. Here in the USA, a bachelor’s degree costs an average USD 50,000.00 and I have many friends who have had to repay their student loans over several years.
Do you remember your first week at AAU?
As a freshman, as we call first-year students here in the USA, you are in a strange situation. I did not know anybody back then, but I pretended to be ready for graduation, even though I did not even know what “matriculating” meant.
How did your career develop?
After graduating, I worked successfully for many years as a freelance interpreter and translator in the international financial market. The financial crisis of 2008 brought about a complete turnaround in my career and I received a long-awaited job offer at the University of Wyoming in the USA. There I have been working as Academic Coordinator at the Institute for International Studies since 2009. Our programme prepares students for the international job market in the fields of peace and conflict studies, economics, culture, religion, politics and social affairs, as well as sustainability in the environment.
What does your everyday work life look like?
The nice thing about my profession is that there is no everyday life. My tasks are very varied and no two working days are alike. I teach at the institute, supervise our 180 students in addition to the usual study issues also in the areas of study abroad and international internships. I organise lectures, advise the international student club on local and cross-border aid projects and take care of our course evaluation. This is why I am also heavily involved in our curriculum development and am also a member of several scholarship committees for international work and research.
What is it that you particularly like about your job?
I particularly enjoy leading and accompanying study trips. They have already taken me to many countries and regions of the world. This year, I am taking students to Brazil, Germany, Poland and (again) Haiti. Getting to know other cultures is a very important part of my work, because our society is more strongly connected than ever before through globalisation. I am convinced that by experiencing other cultures we can break down prejudices and avoid fears, and that is also what I want to convey to my students. Also, working with young people is something very special to me. It is great to see how they develop over the years and pursue their goals. I am happy to be able to accompany them in this process. The graduation ceremony is always the culmination and the beginning of a new phase of life.
Did your studies have an influence on your professional activity?
Without my degrees I would never have been able to work at an American university. My degree in English and American Studies prepared me particularly well for the American job market and culture. Who is interested in you if you cannot demonstrate that you know about the politics, history, religion and culture of the country you want to work in? In this context, of course, my foreign language training and my studies abroad in Florida were of particular importance. My degree in Media and Communications was a great help in the cross-cultural area.
Are there situations where you think back to your studies?
In one of my first American literature courses, Dr. Tschachler from the Institute of English and American Studies invited us to explore books like the architecture of a building. Since then, I have been looking at books and their contents from different angles. I also use this method in my courses.
Do you still feel connected to Klagenfurt and the AAU today?
Klagenfurt is my hometown and the AAU is my Alma Mater – these connections are very strong. The University of Wyoming and the AAU have an exchange programme for many years and we always have students from Klagenfurt with us in Laramie, and vice versa. It is always an experience for me to welcome AAU students to our campus.
Do you miss anything from your time at the AAU?
I think I will always miss my studies. It is the time between growing up and the stage where you really have to take responsibility. After your studies, everything is very different, but also good.
What advice would you give to today’s students?
Work hard, follow your passion, and always do what you really like to do!
Learn to be fluent in a foreign language and travel as much as you can, as we can only learn from other people and their cultures.
“Globalisation brings many positive but also extremely challenging situations into our everyday life. Therefore, what happens outside our national borders concerns us all. International education helps us to be more understanding, respectful and culturally competent towards our fellow human beings worldwide”. – Manuela Hofer-McIntyre