There is always a way to keep trying if you stumble, says GOLD alumna
Almost 10 years after graduating, Kulani Abendroth-Dias ‘13 is traveling the world and using what she learned at Clark to advise policy as part of Europe’s most distinguished international organizations. We checked in with her to see what she’s up to now.
When did you graduate and what did you do at Clark?
I graduated in 2013. I double majored in Psychology and English, I was a Steinbrecher Fellow, a Senior Representative to the English Chair, Vice-President at Psi Chi, the Events Coordinator for the Undergraduate Psychology Committee, and a research assistant in three different labs in the Psychology department. I also worked as a Coordinator for the Global Scholarship Program and Clark’s ride-share service. I tried to make the most of my time at Clark – there were definitely times when there weren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I wanted.
Where are you now? What have you been up to?
I currently live in Paris, France, where I work as a Project Manager at the Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) Directorate of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris. The OECD is an intergovernmental organization that works to establish evidence-based international standards and find solutions to a range of economic, environmental, technological, and other challenges.
I am also pursuing my PhD in International Relations/Political Science at the Graduate Institute Geneva. While living in Geneva, I worked for the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) at the Palais de Nations. It’s been an exciting ride across seven countries in the nine years since I graduated, but I will always remember where it all started – in Worcester!
What was your favorite class/professor?
Hard to pick! James Elliot was a fantastic professor, and so was Johanna Ray Vollhardt. I also enjoyed Peace & War. There was an Art History course that influenced perspectives in my English Honors thesis in ways I wouldn’t have expected.
How has Clark helped you after graduation?
Clark taught me to write, and whether I am drafting talking points, reviewing a climate action website, or writing my dissertation on AI technologies, I revert back to the basic principles of writing that were drilled into me at Clark.
Clark also taught me that setbacks are just setups for comebacks. Where I am now, and where I’ve been all sounds great – but there were tough times. I remember my first year at Clark was particularly difficult. It was the first time that I was on my own, in a new country, in a new setting, and in an unfamiliar education system. The Clark administration were phenomenal in lending me a hand when I fell and pulling me back onto my feet. I learned there is always a way to keep trying if you stumble, no matter what your aspirations are or what you end up doing. This is a core mantra I hang on to.
What are your favorite memories of Clark?
Being able to walk just a few minutes to the apartments/dorms of my friends, study breaks at the AC – there was always a familiar face there! I loved restaurant-hopping in the summer. Worcester had some hidden gems and I enjoyed trying out different places with friends. Dalat was amazing – great food so close to campus. I still miss it!
Do you have any ‘adulting’ tips or advice you can share with your fellow Clarkies?
Adjusting to your circumstances while holding onto your core goals and values is crucial to getting through every stage in your life. For example, you may find yourself at your dream job and realize it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Learn, adjust, and use that as a stepping-stone for your next move! If you find that you can’t afford to do that dream internship because you can’t afford to live on nothing (most of us can’t), take the next best offer and work on building relationships that will get you to that dream job that pays. It’s a marathon, not a race.
Clark taught me that setbacks are just setups for comebacks.
Do you have any career advice for recent Clark graduates?
- Everyone gets rejected. I remember the first rejection letter I received; I was devastated, and frustrated beyond belief, because I thought I’d be the perfect candidate for them. However, I learned that if they pass, that means that job was not a good fit for you, and there’s a better one out there.
- Network. Don’t ever be afraid to reach out to someone – the worst they can do is ignore your email.
- Be polite. I think mentors appreciate it when you respect their time and investment, and I think a polite word and preparation can go a long way. I believe in the adage: “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
- Think strategically about your career. Most of us are thinking about getting a job in the next few months, but what do you want to do in 10 years? Build towards that (or if you’re not sure, learn about what you’d like to do best by dabbling in a few experiences), and it might help you take a few chances and bring you farther than you’d expect.
- If you end up doing something that wasn’t your first choice, think about how you can fashion it into a stepping-stone towards your ‘dream’ job.
How do you stay involved with the Clark community?
I’m on ClarkCONNECT and recently had the pleasure of mentoring a Clarkie through her summer internship. I am also in regular contact with professors at the English and Psychology departments, who connect me with their students for mentorship and advice. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to chat!