I’d do it all over again

NAME: Alex Gheysens 
MAJOR: Communication Arts
CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: Biddable Media Analyst, American Express

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE WARTBURG: I was born and raised in Belgium, but always had a love for and interest in the United States. Once I completed high school in Belgium, I decided to take on an additional year of high school through Education First (EF). I was placed with a host family in Center Point, Iowa, where I attended high school and met my best friend, Hannah Creed ’17. Hannah’s family are mostly Wartburg alumni, so during the year we took many trips to campus. After careful consideration and planning, and landing a scholarship, it became possible to dream about going to Wartburg with Hannah. I went home to Belgium after the EF program ended, and came back to Iowa to enroll at Wartburg in the fall with Hannah. 

HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON YOUR AREA OF STUDY It took me a good while to decide on a program. I was an “exploring” major for my first year and a half. I noticed that my interest and success in communications and leadership classes came naturally, so I decided to major in communication arts. I wanted to have a well-rounded profile, so after fine-tuning my schedule many times, I was able to add minors in business, graphic design, and leadership. It made for a varied and engaging program of study.

Alex Gheysens

HOW DID WARTBURG PREPARE YOU FOR LIFE AFTER COLLEGE: At Wartburg, it often feels like anything is possible. If you had an idea or goal on campus, the resources and support network were there to help you achieve it. It’s an environment where I felt like I was finally living up to my potential, and it felt liberating. This experience of thinking “oh hey, I actually can do this!” is something that sticks with you for a long time. Seeing what I was capable of at my best helps me get through times when I haven’t got the most confidence. It reminds me that I can achieve a lot when I put my mind to it, and that lesson helps me to this day. The sense of community is also something you carry with you after you leave campus, and this is something that every employer appreciates. Being able to add to a team’s culture and engagement by bringing your full self to work is something that people value a lot.

HOW DO THE THREE C’s (CREATIVITY, CRITICAL THINKING, AND COMMUNICATION) PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR DAILY LIFE AND AT WORK: Creativity sets you apart. In most circumstances, your future job will be one that a variety of people could do successfully. Why should you be hired for the job over them? If you can show a creative way of thinking and handling obstacles, you will stand out from the crowd. Critical thinking is what will lead to growth. Why are we using this system? Why are we following this process? Isn’t there a better way of doing this? Change scares a lot of people, but having been in the workforce for four years now, I can say that change is something you will often deal with. It can be uncomfortable, but it’s what will lead to new findings and successes, and it all starts with critical thinking. Communication is what ties it all together. Most of your work will be done alongside team members or stakeholders. How do you showcase your progress? How do you express your needs? How do you give and receive feedback? In fact, roughly 25% of my work week consists of one-to-one’s to discuss progress and development. It’s a lot of talking! So communication is key. 

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE STUDYING AT WARTBURG: At first I was concerned about how small Waverly was, but studying at Wartburg turned out to be a worldly experience. Through courses, I got very involved in the Waverly community and on the Wartburg campus. From working with local schools to having real-world clients, I got a variety of experiences big and small that went far beyond the classroom. The class sizes are smaller, and this allows for a strong connection with your professor. I often just went for walks around campus during breaks, just to go chat with staff and faculty. Through service trips, I went to Colorado, New York, and West Virginia. Then I interned in Denver and Virginia. Now I work in London. And all of this happened because I made the decision to attend this small, liberal arts college, in Waverly. I’d do it all over again.

WHAT INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES DID YOU HAVE AT WARTBURG: My first internship was through Wartburg West during the winter term of my junior year, which was the 2015-16 academic year. They helped me land a public relations internship at the Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships, which was a small branch of the Denver government. The experience was amazing – through my internship I made strong connections with my team, got involved in community events, and even got to meet the Mayor of Denver. Attending Wartburg West was by far the best decision I made while I Wartburg. I fell in love with Denver and bonded so much with the group of Wartburg students that were there with me. With the help of Jo Dorrance, Wartburg’s internship coordinator, I also landed a second internship at a company that is now called EAB. They create email marketing campaigns for universities and colleges to help them enroll students. Wartburg also partnered with them and used their email strategies to help share awareness about the college. This internship was during the summer of 2016 and was based in Richmond, Virginia. A few months before graduating, I secured a full-time position at EAB, and I moved to Richmond during the summer to start my first real job while on OPT.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS: Being an international student can be tough, right? Being far away from home, budgeting for the cost of tuition, wondering what will come after graduation, dealing with visas and immigration status. I struggled with these topics from time to time, but there is a support network of professionals and peers who are there with you every step of the way. Wartburg will feel like home. Even filling out this orange form is making me feel nostalgic and wanting to come visit! My advice would be to enjoy those four years at Wartburg. Do what you can to stay on top of your international student documentation, perform well in class, get involved in extracurriculars. There isn’t always a guarantee that you will be able to stay in the US permanently, but you will be prepared to go anywhere in the world successfully. For myself, my American adventure ended (for now) after my year of OPT, but I ended up moving to London and I’ve got a job I love! Things will work out, just make sure you get the most out of your experience, because that is completely in your hands.