Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Ann Gisinger
Occupation: Operations & Events Coordinator
Education (UR and additional): B.S. Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, M.S. Conservation Biology
Current city/state/country of residence: Boston, MA
Location of your study abroad experience: Melbourne, Australia
Duration of your study abroad experience: Semester
Community activities: Currently: board member of Tufts Environmental Alumni, board member of the Massachusetts Environmental Education Society, volunteer at Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA
When and why did you choose to study abroad? What factors (your major, other commitments, Take Five) did you weigh as you were making the decision to study abroad?
I had always known I would study abroad. Growing up, my family lived in Germany for several years and traveled extensively. I have always been comfortable with travel and knew that a study abroad experience would be essential to my college career. As a Biology major I needed an English-speaking country and the University of Melbourne offered courses I could use toward my UR degree. Plus, Australia is the coolest!
Beyond the academic work, how did you engage with your new “community” and culture while you were away from Rochester?
It was easy! The orientation process is a key part of the study abroad experience and our leaders were simply amazing. There were activities for a week prior to school starting and then continuing activities with the group throughout the semester. Additionally, living in a college “dorm” in Melbourne allowed me to connect with other students easily. Studying abroad puts you in a situation where you have to reach beyond your comfort zone and simply start fresh – it’s a little scary but very liberating, no matter where you go.
What was returning to campus like for you?
I was really excited to be back with all of my UR friends. I had missed them during my semester away and then I spent the summer away from campus so I hadn’t been back in eight months. Returning in the fall was a happy experience and catching up was great. There were things I missed, like helping out with ADITI’s Mela performance, but I woudn’t trade my Australian experience for the world.
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
As a Take Five Scholar I got a chance to extend my UR time a bit. I studied an extra semester and graduated in December, after which I decided to stay in Rochester and work at Lollypop Farm until I started my graduate program in Boston. I was happy living off campus with friends during my Take Five Semester and wanted to have a little more time in Rochester before moving on to Boston.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
I’m essentially a non-profit manager at a small environmentally-focused organization. I coordinate education programs, process payroll, manage the accounting, act as the HR contact, and make sure operations run smoothly. I always enjoyed the natural sciences but it turns out that practicing science doesn’t quite excite me like accounting and operations does! So even though I have an advanced science degree, I’ve found I truly enjoy the challenge of coordinating events and making sure my organization runs smoothly.
What skills, tools, or knowledge gained from studying abroad do you draw on since graduation?
At work I am constantly interacting with people. Many of the events I coordinate are networking events and I’ve had to simply dive in to conversations with folks and get to know a lot of people. Studying abroad pushes you to “break the silence” and get to know strangers, make them your new friends! It was an experience that helped me learn how to approach networking, getting to know people, and making connections.
Where would you like to be in five years?
In five years I hope to be “rising in the ranks” and taking on a managerial role in a non-profit organization. I’d like to move on to an organization that focuses specifically on conserving our shared natural world. And of course, I’d like to continue to travel and cross countries off my list!
What advice do you have for current students contemplating studying abroad?
Studying abroad is an amazing experience. No matter where you go or what you do, it will be eye-opening, challenging, exciting, scary, and wonderful. Find a way to make it work and go! You’ll never regret the choice to study abroad.