A Gift for Your Future Self: Alumna Vanessa Constantinidis
Born and raised in Philadelphia, alumna Vanessa Constantinidis holds an undergraduate degree in English and Italian, and a graduate degree in Writing Studies, both from Saint Joseph’s University. In 2011 Vanessa studied abroad at John Cabot University for a semester. She currently lives in Boston, and works as Associate Director of Enrollment for North America at the American College of Thessaloniki (Greece).
What made you decide to study at JCU?
Before even applying to colleges, I knew I wanted to study abroad. All of my older cousins studied abroad and the opportunity to do so was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to college in the first place. Growing up as a Greek American, I visited Greece very often with my family, so the desire to study abroad in Europe likely came from my childhood. Due to its proximity to Greece, I was always incredibly intrigued by Italy. When I started my undergraduate degree at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and I was required to take at least a year of language, I chose Italian without any hesitation. While I studied Spanish all throughout high school and grew up speaking Greek, when I saw Italian as an option, I couldn’t resist. Who wouldn’t want to learn the most beautiful language in the world?
John Cabot University was the best-fit for the level of Italian I was studying, as well as the best academic fit for the rest of my course work. (Spoiler alert: I ended up taking more than a year of Italian, and after my semester abroad, I actually double majored in Italian).
How’s life after graduation?
I graduated with my undergraduate degree in English and Italian from Saint Joseph’s University in 2013 and have worked in higher education/international education ever since. Throughout my post-graduation life, I have had the chance to work for an international education non-profit, obtain my graduate degree, work in Admissions for my alma mater, teach writing at college level, and travel abroad for professional matters.
All of these experiences have led me to, what I believe, is currently my dream job for this time of my life. I work for the American College of Thessaloniki (in Greece) as their Associate Director of Enrollment for North America, where I recruit students to study abroad in Greece. I believe all of my previous roles in international education and enrollment, my study abroad experiences, and my knowledge of Greece led to me ACT, but it was during a site visit to the campus when I knew I had to work there. I was instantly enamored with the campus, especially after noticing a few banners with ACT’s values on them: “Academic Excellence; Critical Thinking; Personal Enrichment.” I knew I wanted to work for a place with values that aligned so deeply with my own. ACT seemed to me like the Greek version of John Cabot University (just a little smaller), so naturally it seemed like the perfect fit.
What are some of the benefits (and challenges!) of working internationally?
While I primarily work in the US, all of my direct colleagues work in Greece year-round and I visit our campus in Greece often, so I would still consider my work to be international. The somewhat obvious benefit to international study and work is obtaining a global perspective. Without having exposure to different cultures and languages, how can we really become global citizens? The more we know about the world also allows us to look at the US in a different perspective. Working internationally has made it easier to connect with students in areas that are very different from the East Coast world I grew up in. The biggest challenge for me personally is probably just adapting to the slower pace of life when abroad. I am very used to a fast-paced environment and when I’m abroad, I have to remember that the people in Greece actually enjoy each moment and breathe once in a while—a habit I should acquire.
How did your time at JCU influence your career path?
To say that my time at JCU influenced my career path would be an understatement. I admire John Cabot in every aspect. It is an academically challenging institution located in one of the greatest cities in the world, yet it is small enough that you can really connect with the faculty, staff, and other students. Studying abroad was the most impactful experience of my entire life, not just my career, but obviously it led me to every single professional opportunity I have since experienced. My semester abroad at John Cabot University led me to double major in Italian, study abroad again in Italy through a short-term program, do mission work in Romania, and essentially work in Greece now. This experience gave me the desire, confidence, and drive to continue exploring the world and hopefully somehow make a difference in it.
What advice would you give to current/prospective students?
To prospective students: Do whatever it takes to make your dreams of going abroad a reality. Your future self will thank you. You will not only see personal growth, but cultural, academic, and professional growth. You will truly have the best experience of your life and it will affect you in ways that you can’t even imagine right now.
To current students: Don’t forget to stay in Rome sometimes.
In my Creative Writing course at John Cabot (Writing the Eternal City with Professor Elizabeth Geoghegan), we read a story called “Roman Hours” by Andre’ Aciman, and there is a quote in the story that will forever remain with me:
“What wouldn’t I give to never lose Rome? I worry, on leaving, that like a cowered Cinderella returning to her stepmother’s service, I’ll slip back into my day-to-day life far sooner than I thought possible.”
Once you live in Rome, you’ll never lose it, but soak up as much of the eternal city as you can. I know seeing as much of the world as possible is all the rage right now, but you are truly in one of the most exceptional cities in the world, so please enjoy it! Also, go throw a coin in the Trevi fountain so you can ensure that you will return to Rome. I do it every time.