Kari Sicard has learned a lot from her travels.
Now, she shows students in the Terry College of Business how international travel can be its own education.
“I went on one big international trip as a kid, and I’m thankful for having the privilege to do that, and it opened my eyes to see that there are other places outside the United States,” she said.
Her own education included a few trips abroad, and her family also hosted exchange students. Sicard earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and a Certificate in Global Studies from UGA in 2017 while also working for international education programs like EF Education First, which specializes in language travel for international students.
After graduating, she spent two years in Italy and Austria working with students in those countries. When she returned to the United States, she knew she wanted to continue that work. She thought an advising role where she could incorporate some “international flair” would suit her talents and interests. That led to her position as program specialist and lead Cultural Intelligence (CQ) facilitator for the Terry College of Business’ international business program. CQ is a globally recognized way of assessing and improving effectiveness in culturally diverse situations.
Sicard considers herself a “cultural trainer,” helping students, faculty and staff understand the cultural variances between those they may be working with and what they’re used to in the United States. She launched her first cultural workshops with Terry College students in fall 2021. Every undergraduate international Study Away group that travels through the International Business Programs Office at the college completes a cultural workshop first, and Sicard leads trainings for nine programs.
From her own experiences in college, Sicard knew the processes for studying abroad can be confusing for students. Now, she strives to help as many students as possible engage in these learning opportunities.
Sicard cycles through the Study Away programs, attending different ones each year, so that she has a good understanding of the programs’ guidelines, content and locations. Her main responsibility is marketing and promotion, and she also provides program management and support and secures grants.
The CQ aspects of her position have grown in the three years Sicard has been with Terry College. Essentially, Sicard wants those going abroad to know how to communicate effectively with people from different backgrounds in a culturally appropriate way to avoid any misunderstandings.
“The programming has expanded so much,” she said. “Now we have three spring break programs, one winter break program, five summer programs and three internships. It’s been great to be part of that expansion.”
These programs are making an impact on students, and many of them end up in international positions.
“You can see it,” Sicard said. “By the end of the three weeks, they know the public transportation system better than I do, and they’ve traveled every inch of the city. You can see their confidence grow throughout the three weeks. They start to learn about themselves and how they handle stress and new situations.”
Another important aspect of the programs, according to Sicard, is to getting students outside of their normal day-to-day experiences to meet new people with new perspectives.
“They never come back the same person they were, even on the short programs,” she said.
Sicard’s biggest advice to students is to be open to anything.
“I’ll always say to try everything once,” she said. “You may not ever try that thing again, but be open to things you might not think would interest you because they may be a lot cooler than you ever expected they would be.”
Sicard said travel is her favorite part of her job, but she also enjoys the collaborative nature of her work, both on campus and abroad. But the most important part of her work, she said, is exposing students to new ideas and cultures through these international experiences.
In addition, Sicard is continuing her own education and planning to work toward a master’s degree in workforce education from the Mary Frances Early College of Education. She’s also completing additional CQ training for teams.
When she’s not traveling for herself (with the goal of visiting all national parks, in particular) or for work, Sicard continues to explore Athens. She also enjoys reading by the pool, cozy gaming, crafting with friends and cooking.
But for Sicard, life outside of work also means beyond Athens.
“Any international experience can really change your life,” she said. “It doesn’t even require traveling abroad. It can be getting involved with international groups on campus. It can be doing a study abroad session. It can be taking a language class. Any of that will give you a new perspective and a new way to think about things and approach life.”