For some people, taking a new job might mean moving to a different city or state.
But for Drew Fethers, it meant crossing the Pacific Ocean. Having graduated from Missouri Southern in 2003 with a degree in theater, Fethers was teaching at Crowder College when the job offer came in- a teaching position at a school in Nanjing, China. The school is run by Dipont, the largest of several education companies in China.
“They offered me a very good job,” he says. “I thought it would be a great experience, so I just went over there and did it.”
“If I do a lecture, I have to break it down into chunks,” he says. “I say something, then a translator interprets it. Then there is a pause as they try to figure out what she and I are saying. Sometimes they get it. Other times they don’t have a clue.”
He says he is finding new ways to communicate new ideas to the students. As a result, his classes often include improvisation, pantomime and drama games.
“I am trying to give my kids a little of everything. If we do Shakespeare, I try to tone it down and do a sonnet.”
Fethers is just one of a growing number of Missouri Southern alums who have found fulfilling careers abroad after getting their degree.
Finding that “not-so-ordinary job” outside of their comfort zone is exciting to see, said Dr. Chad Stebbins, director of the Institute for International Studies.
“I think we will see even more MSSU graduates follow their examples in the years to come,” he said. “Working abroad is a great way to gain some immediate experience and enhance your resume. These grads will be even more marketable to potential employers when and if they decide to return to the U.S.”
DREW FETHERS: One of the ‘expats’
“Chinese students are really curious about drama,” he says. “They are good students. They are interested and engaged but they’re very quiet. They don’t ask many questions.
“They’re also a lot like American kids — addicted to cell phones.”
Nanjing, (also known as Nanking), located on the eastern side of China, has an urban population of about six million people.
Fethers describes Nanjing as a city filled with pagodas and temples but also many modern buildings. He says he sees many “expats” there, primarily British and Australian but also some Americans.
“I eat a lot of Chinese food but also Western food. McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks are all there.”
He says Wal-Mart, Pizza Hut and The Gap are also making inroads China.
Fethers says he was happy to return to China earlier this fall to begin teaching again. “I am definitely excited about what the next year holds,” he said.
SAMANTHA ZOLTANSKI: The write stuff
Taking that first step made Zoltanski nervous, but it wasn’t her first experience overseas. In April of 2013, she attended the International Media Seminar in Paris with Missouri Southern’s Communication Department. The trip sparked her interest in pursuing more international opportunities.
She worked with Stebbins to procure an internship in Australia. From May through August 2015, she visited multiple community newspapers throughout the country. The internship led to several job offers, and she accepted the position of editor and multimedia designer for the Huon News in Tasmania, Australia.
“I have been in shock multiple times when I realize how much I use my degree in my everyday work,” Zoltanski says.
She says the skills she learned at Missouri Southern have helped her develop relationships with co-workers and community members. Her experience with Crossroads, The Chart, the Public Relations Student Society of America and as publicity manager for the university’s theater department were valuable opportunities that enabled her to try new things.
“Having those experiences taught me so much and made my time at MSSU one that I will never forget,” says Zoltanski.
After being hired by the newspaper in Tasmania, her biggest challenge was writing about a town that she didn’t know much about.
“I found just getting out there, doing your research and being completely honest is the best way to go,” she says. “Sometimes I even got a better story out of it because the person could not assume I know the history and the background.”
MARSHALL POOLE: Becoming fully integrated
The year before Poole graduated from Missouri Southern with a degree in English in 2000, he studied in Sunderland, England, where he met a French exchange student, Julie.
They are now married, and he is working as an English teacher at prestigious prep school in Lyon, France.
Poole’s experiences during that year abroad helped prepare him for life overseas.
“It was my first time abroad, so the experience opened my eyes to the world outside the U.S. It was difficult to (imagine) how I could ever have managed to be where I am today without having done that exchange,” he says.
While he was offered a university teaching position in Lyon immediate-
ly following his graduation from Southern, he did face some obstacles to life abroad.
“For me personally, the biggest challenge was linguistic,” he says. “It was easy enough finding work as a freelance English teacher, but to be fully integrated in France, one has to speak and write as well as a French person. That was obviously a prerequisite in passing the French teaching exam.”
After practicing his French language skills by teaching English at the university level, Poole passed the French teaching exam. He is now preparing for the highest level teaching exam. Even though he only knew basic French, Poole says that he felt excited rather than concerned when he moved to Lyon.
“I’d just graduated, already had a job lined up and was moving to France to be with the woman I love,” he says. “What was there to be worried about?”
A Carthage native, she and her husband, Mark, established the Bykota House children’s home in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, a decade ago.
“We got involved in mission work through an international adoption,” says Benz. “My husband and I had five biological children but still felt like our nest was empty. We began researching international adoption and our hearts were drawn to Cambodia.
“We were in a real stall for a long time, but we learned more about Cambodia and the need for adoptions. We thought (the plan) was to bring two children who needed parents to a family in America. But the Lord used that to take our family to Cambodia. We served under another ministry while we acclimated and learned the language, got our feet on the ground and established a Christian children’s home.”
While running the home, which currently serves 19 children, Benz decided to continue her education online through Missouri Southern. She enrolled as a transfer student, having previously earned an associate’s degree through Crowder College. In May, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in general studies.
Benz is in the midst of a yearlong sabbatical before returning to Cambodia, and says her experience getting her degree couldn’t have been better.
“The assignment and research I did for class helped me with my work (at the children’s home),” she says. “I had to make lesson plans, so I could turn them in, walk downstairs and use them. My professors were so psyched to see someone’s education be immediately put to use.”