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A Student Abroad: Kristin Beese Learns Through International Experience

Photo of Beese sightseeing with fellow Purduettes while in Costa Rica
Photo of Beese sightseeing with fellow Purduettes while in Costa Rica

Senior Kristin Beese1 has traveled the world as a result of learning opportunities created at Purdue.

Beese’s international educational experience includes traveling to perform in Costa Rica, studying abroad in Florence, Italy and holding an internship with Google at the YouTube office in Zurich, Switzerland. While Beese, a computer science major, was interested in travel and considered learning opportunities abroad as part of her decision to attend Purdue, it was the spring break trip to Costa Rica with the Purduettes in 2016 that ignited the passion that would make learning abroad a reality.

In preparation for the trip, Beese and the Purduettes learned several songs in Spanish and received instruction on Costa Rican culture. The women’s vocal performance group, part of Purdue Musical Organizations, traveled the country performing in venues ranging from cities and resorts to churches. Connections through music transcended language barriers and were a big part of the meaningful experience for Beese. One of the Spanish songs the group performed created a connection with a restaurant owner and his wife, who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

“It was really awesome to have those close connections with total strangers,” said Beese. “I thought wow, that was amazing. I need to go abroad again through Purdue.”

While serving as an intern for Google in New York City during the summer of 2016, Beese began researching a way to study abroad while simultaneously seeking to obtain an international internship experience. The result was a semester study abroad experience in Florence, Italy, followed by a 13-week internship Beese earned with YouTube in Zurich, Switzerland.

During the process of applying for and ultimately obtaining her internship experiences with Google, Beese leaned heavily on practical skills she learned through Purduettes. 

“When I joined Purduettes I thought it was just a singing group, but it’s so much more than that,” said Beese. “We learn how to put together a great resume, how to make an awesome elevator pitch, how to mingle with someone – all things that I didn’t understand in high school. I think that a lot of the professionalism I learned from Purduettes really helped me get my internship experiences at Google.”

In addition to studying in Florence, Beese helped teach English to fourth-grade Italian students once a week. Beese was inspired to pursue the opportunity after teaching for Girls Who Code, a seven-week summer program that seeks to inspire girls to pursue careers in computer science. Among Beese’s favorite memories of her time teaching English in Italy came at the end of each day, when students sang along with songs from English-speaking pop stars such as Justin Beiber.

Photo of Breece teaching English to fourth graders in Italy

Beese lived in an apartment with five other study-abroad students while she took four classes in Florence. Her class schedule resulted in three-day weekends, which afforded Beese the opportunity to travel to various cities across Europe, including Brussels, Budapest, Prague, Berlin, London and Paris. Beese visited a total of 15 countries during her study and internship abroad experiences.

Beese also developed a treasured relationship with her landlord, who would often invite Beese and her roommates over for meals. The experience of being immersed in Italy along with five other students she didn’t know, Beese said, helped her in her transition to her internship in Switzerland.

“The really great thing about study abroad was that it was a great way to start my time abroad with everyone being in the same boat,” said Beese. “Gaining that confidence and independence was a really great transition into interning abroad. I think if I immediately interned abroad without that semester-long immersion in Europe, I would have been overwhelmed.”

The emphasis the Purduettes put on the maxim of “adjust and move on” was something Beese drew from as she experienced setbacks abroad. One such case was when she had to leave a bus stuck in traffic and run for 20 minutes to catch a train that was returning to Florence. Beese and her traveling partner barely made it to the train station before the train left, avoiding a situation that likely would have meant missing class the following day.

Purduette's on the beach in Costa Rica

“It was insane,” said Beese. “I was preparing myself for the worst-case scenario where we were going to miss the train and we might have to spend the night and be late to class the next day. A big part of studying abroad was going with the flow and being positive about it and I learned that from PMO.”

Living in Switzerland was a major adjustment for Beese. She had to adjust to the country’s efficiency of services, noting that public transportation was nearly always exactly on time. She even had to adjust to sorting trash into four different bins based on the composition of waste material. As the only American on her work team at YouTube, there were also language barriers to overcome and an adjustment to the more reserved style of expression found in Switzerland.

“I think that I became a much stronger software engineer and a much stronger person because of doing that,” said Beese. “I didn’t realize how many differences there would be between an internship in the US and an internship abroad.”

Beese thrived in her role over the course of her internship. Most of her work centered on creating and supplementing ways for YouTube content creators to make a living from the website, primarily through interactive interphases between users and content creators. After having to adjust to Swiss cultural customs, Beese was able to share American culture with her YouTube colleagues when she earned the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles with members of the Zurich office.

Since returning from Europe, Beese has also been led back home in her involvement in the Purduettes. She was able to return to her hometown, Minneapolis, to perform with the singing group this past fall when her parents sponsored the group’s fall tour.

“It was amazing to take a group that’s so important to me to where I’m from,” said Beese.

Looking back, Beese said there are many lessons she will carry forward from her time abroad. She cites self-confidence, the ability to laugh at herself, the capacity to adjust to any situation and willingness to try new things as some of the lessons she is grateful for from her experience.

“Purdue is definitely the best choice I’ve ever made,” said Beese. “I honestly think that if I didn’t go to Purdue, I wouldn’t have had these amazing career experiences with Google and going abroad. There’s really no organization like Purdue Musical Organizations. The way it runs is so unique and I’m just so grateful that I came to college here.”

Beese recently made a connection directly related to her future when she met a Google employee, who had worked with YouTube, at a mingling event prior to a Purduettes performance at a 4-H event. Beese has accepted a position at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, Calif., where she will begin working in Aug. 2018. She will graduate in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in computer science.

This story was originally published in our Perspectives publication in the Spring of 2018. To view the full issue, please visit our Perpectives page. To stay up-to-date more great stories from Student Life, be sure to visit again soon, where we will be posting our newest Spring 2020 issue. 

1. Since the time this article was originaly published, Kristin Beece (now Gorge) graduated from Purdue, married and is now living in San Francisco and working as a software engineer for Google/YouTube.