Jeanette Kramer is a small-town prairie girl and world traveler with an adventurous spirit. So how did this Bow Island native become a seasoned jetsetter?
It wasn’t always in the plans, Kramer admitted. She started out caring for physically and mentally handicapped people and considered becoming a recreational therapist.
“But I always had that thirst for adventure. I was really interested in travelling,” said Kramer, who has lived in or visited 19 countries.
Entering the Global Tourism and Marketing program, Kramer’s plan shifted to mastering the French language and working for an airline.
During her one-year certificate program at MHC she researched opportunities to study and work abroad. The idea of immersing herself in a foreign culture appealed to Kramer and the chance to be an au pair for a European family seemed like the ideal way to do it.
All expenses are paid for by the family who hires you and you are provided a modest spending allowance, Kramer explained. In return, an au pair – similar to a nanny – cares for the children, cleans, and prepares meals.
The host family in France had two very independent pre-teen children allowing Kramer to focus on fulfilling her desire to study French part-time.
Her second au pair placement in the Netherlands involved caring for two small toddlers, quite a difference from the self-sufficient tweens in France. Her time in Europe proved an easy and safe way to travel as a young, single female.
“That’s what really attracted me to the idea of being an au pair. I wasn’t into the idea of backpacking around Europe.”
Her two au pair assignments developed in her a desired career path: helping students share similar experiences.
“Working abroad really set the foundation for my career as far as confirming my interests and my abilities to achieve goals. I knew I had motivation but it helped build my confidence and solidified my interest in travelling and study- and work-abroad programs. I saw an opportunity to help others.”
Upon returning to Canada, the MHC alumna took a six-month internship with the International Education department. That turned into a three-year position. She worked closely with manager and mentor Russell Boris and remembers vividly her first business trip to Asia.
“It was an adventure! There was a small earthquake the day after we arrived. It was a small group of interns and it was really exciting for us. It was my first introduction to Asia and international education. It’s also where I discovered a passion for travel photography.”
In search of a milder climate, Kramer made her way west and eventually settled in Vancouver. After more than a decade in the study-abroad industry she took the giant leap forward of opening her own company. Latitude International Education Consulting pairs Canadian and European students with study and work experiences in other countries.
Through word-of-mouth referrals, social networking and her blog, Kramer is finding students or recent grads in search of work-abroad experiences. Opportunities range from paid placements or unpaid internships four to 48 weeks in length. Less than three per cent of Canadian students graduate with any study-abroad experience, compared to 18 to 38 per cent of residents of other English-speaking countries.
“Unpaid placements are meant as an introduction to corporate culture in another country.”
Longer placements are available to young adults finished with post-secondary education. Young professional visas are available in a number of countries. Working for even a year in Europe or Asia can provide valuable work and life experience not obtainable elsewhere, said Kramer.
“It allows an individual to be more competitive. We are very much a global marketplace; if you can’t do business with the world, you can’t do business. It boosts your resume and enhances what you learned in the classroom. It is a life-changing experience.”
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