This One Time, I Lived in a Castle: An Interview with Jake Kinning


Today we have a special Wednesday edition of Feature Friday spotlighting Inside Study Abroad's resident gentleman, Jake Kinning! A member of our Special Projects team, Jake is a graduate of St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor's degree in communications. He has traveled to over 10 countries and enjoys reading and exploring photography in his spare time. As a global pro, his number one travel tip is to "Take in as much of the culture as possible. Try to get off the beaten path and really take in the surroundings. In addition, take thousands photos but also remember to put down the camera and really be in the moment. Remember you are never going to be in that same place at the same time again. Breathe in the moment."

If you are going on a 2-week international trip, what are three things you will take with you? Why?

I would hope that I would have my basic essentials like toothbrush and clothes and that my choice would be more EXTRA type of things. So with that, my three things would be my camera, money, and a language or phrase dictionary.

People often say that the eyes are the portal to the soul and to me photos are the representation of that perspective. While a person will never be able to understand the beauty behind the photos, they take the mind to back to the moment that the photo was taken or at least to the feeling I had at that time.

Next would be money, obvious I know but there is so much to do and see and nothing in this world is free. Also depending on the place I would be going, there could be markets and trade centers that do not take any form of cards for payment. How would I be able to buy anything from such amazing vendors? One time when I was in Thailand, I went to a river markets and there was so much to look at and buy. While I was talking with a merchant in one of her shops, I came across some artifacts that I wanted to purchase. After doing the bartering that is a custom to their daily lives, I found myself without enough money on me! I had to run to the nearby ATM and the merchant thought I was leaving her and followed me. She thought I was being a hard sell and lowered the price again! I got the money at the ATM and got my purchases. They not only became something I will cherish forever but also a great story.

Finally would be a language or phrase dictionary. I am a talker. I like to talk with others and get to know them and about their cultures. I also do not speak any other languages. I would need something that would help me to be able to at least say “thank you”, “please” and other pleasantries.

What was the deciding moment or event that led you on your first study abroad experience?

Wanderlust is not just a description for someone to loves to travel. It is a sickness that no cure could ever be created. Being abroad and experiencing other cultures is more than just exploring, it is like breathing oxygen. I realized that I could spend a large amount of time exploring and learning about other cultural norms and the rest of the world.the leap. The program I attended in Alnwick, England was set up to live and take classes in a castle and if that wasn’t enough also offered excursions every Friday. I mean, how many people can say they LIVED in a castle. I CAN! Studying abroad was always something I knew I was going to accomplish at some point in my life and when I found the right program I knew I had to grab it. This life choice changed who I am in so many ways.

Who would be your travel companion and why? (Real life or not)

People really will surprise you once abroad. Attitudes change and people who seem very calm and collected at home could become anxious and loud while abroad. In my past experiences being abroad really changes a person. Culture shock is a big factor in how people reaction to being in a new area. If I could chose a travel companion, beyond the obvious choice of my best friend, I would want someone who already has at least a brief knowledge of the language and a understanding of the culture in that area. They often will know of locations and events that no one else will. They often will know of the best places to try local foods and the best places to really absorb as much of the culture as possible.

What skills are necessary for a career in international education? If you haven't already, how would plan on gaining those skills?

Just like any job there are so many skills that are important for success. Since international careers not only focus on being abroad but also creating a business there are so many different focuses in the field. For me I feel there are several skills but I am only going to state three, public speaking, having an abroad experience, having an understanding of business and international business.

Public speaking skills are essential in almost any position but in international education there are going to be times when you will be talking to large amounts of people. So having the ability to be confident in what you are discussing in front of a large amount of people will be beneficial. In the past, I also have had the experience with giving presentations to large groups on a daily basis. Even with this experience, I am still nervous going in front of a large crowd. This feel of anxiousness is normal, but believing in the topic makes this feeling decrease..

A person could tell you what it is like being abroad or working abroad, but if this person has no first-hand account of what it is like then their advice is merely an observation. Not saying that their advice wouldn’t be helpful, but it helps to know that the person you are working with has gone through the experience. I have experience abroad twice in an educational setting and several times as a tourist.

Finally, an understanding of business is never harmful. While the experience being abroad alone is enriching and helpful in a career path in the international field; that is not the only reason for a majority of businesses in the international career field to get students abroad with their company. They will want an employee who shows passion in raising numbers through their company and someone who has experience in selling. This is even more relevant with the initiative that IIE has given to universities and providers. They have given the goal to double the numbers of students in the United States studying abroad by 2020. To do so, the international field will have to work hard to convince students to study abroad and not just rely on those who want to study abroad. Working in an international field you will have to understand how another culture does business and often it is not similar to the United States. For example, business cards are held in high regards in collectivistic cultures. In Japan there is a particular way to exchange business cards and if you do not know these customs, you could offend your business partner and cause issues for your company.

There is always more to learn and more useful ways to sell that we all can learn from being in the field. This world is constantly changing and we all need to be educated regularly.

What wonderful people did you meet while studying abroad? What impact did/do they have on your experiences and career?

The programs I went on were faculty lead programs, so the majority of people I met were from the same university I went to. These people changed my perspective in many different ways and helped me to become the person I am. While these experiences were not always positive, having to deal with negative situations allows the person to see who they really are in many definitions. These situations allow a person to realize who they are and who they have to become. The students on the program all had an influence in who I have become. A few of them I consider the best people and friends I have ever known and I am confident I will be friends with them for a very long time.

Another impact that influenced my experience was the town. The town I studied abroad was a small town, so the locals knew us and welcomed us in many ways. The coffee shop in town knew us and welcomed us every time we were there, which was often! We also had a form of host family in town that the program puts into place so that the students can have a connection in town and know someone. I had dinner almost every Sunday with them and discussed politics and other cultural aspects of British life. All of these experiences helped me to fall in love with being abroad.

The faculty also affected my future. One in particular was the faculty director of this particular semester. Before going abroad, I was lost in a major that I did not feel confident in. I did not have an advisor on campus to ask questions and I was in a major with so many students that unless you were a profound student, the faculty did not really know you. Half way through the semester, the director must have seen something in me. She asked me to discuss my future plans in her office and told me to look into a communications major and they she would be my advisor if I did decide to change majors. I feel I thrived in this major and found the courses interesting and beneficial to my future. If I had not studied abroad, I would have never changed my major, found a calling international education, and I would have never met some of the most amazing friends.

If you would like to get to know Jake even better and ask him what he has been up to here at Inside Study Abroad, connect with him online! You can find him on LinkedIn. Have a question for Jake? Shoot him a comment below.

Be sure to check back this Friday for another fun look into the mind of a rockstar intern!