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Tackling Challenges on the Main
Alumna turns foreign language degree into a global opportunity
Talk to any foreign language teachers about recruiting and they'll likely describe how studying a second language instantly broadens horizons: No matter what a student's other interests—business, international relations, the arts, anything—mastery of another language amplifies the opportunities that lie ahead.
Fleischer in Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Julie Fleischer is a prime example. The Webster alumna graduated from the St. Louis campus in December 2005 with a bachelor's in German and a bachelor's in Advertising/Marketing Communications. Eight months later, she had parlayed her twin passions into a dream communications position with the Frankfurt am Main office of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany. The chamber (AmCham Germany) is a private, nonprofit, membership organization that represents the interests of its 3,000 American and German members.
By day, Fleischer manages the Chamber's many publications, corporate design and branding, and printing of marketing materials. But outside work, her mornings include a jog along the bank of the Main River—"50 minutes of serenity," she says—while evenings and weekends include the galleries, museums, clubs, and theaters of Germany's financial and banking center colloquially known as "Mainhattan."
Fleischer's route to Frankfurt included persistence, a short-notice transatlantic flight, and a few American-style job-hunting gestures that aren't quite as welcome in the German job application process.
Fleischer's first faux pas was a follow-up call a week after she submitted her application—a common gesture in the United States. "In Germany," she explains, "the applicants just have to assume everything arrived alright, and if they don't hear anything, just assume the company was not interested."
Fleischer recalls Religious Studies professor Joe Stimpfl's words after she missed out on a Fulbright: "'So what?' he said, 'Do something else!' - Possibly the best advice I've ever received."
Nonetheless, Fleischer's call spurred a phone interview. When the response was lukewarm due to the fact she was still living in the States, she offered to be in Germany the next week for an in-person interview. That offer accepted, her second breach came when she followed up the interview by sending a thank you note, a proposed work sample, and five reasons to hire her.
"I find the etiquette so different," Fleisher says. "But I wanted the job, so I didn't care if I had to go about it in an unorthodox manner."
Indeed, what Fleischer wants, she does not easily relinquish. Spurred by her passion for German, she participated in the International Business Internship Exchange housed at Webster after her freshmen year. She boosted her c.v. further by taking a year off to study at Munich's prestigious Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität through the Junior Year in Munich program.
For inspiration, Fleischer turned to Webster professors, such as professor of German Paula Hanssen. "She really supported my enthusiasm for German language and literature," Fleischer says. She also credits communications professors Sally Howald and Chris Kelleher for encouraging her to take risks and envision her success.
Yet achieving success often requires overcoming failure. Fleischer particularly remembers Webster Religious Studies professor Joseph Stimpfl helping her handle the disappointment of missing out on a Fulbright scholarship.
"I think his exact words were, 'So what? Do something else!'" she says. "That is possibly the best advice I've ever received in my life."
That "something else" became a new chapter in her life, still quite consistent with her dreams: Speaking a language she loves, working in her chosen field, all while living in a vibrant European city.
"Living and working in Germany is certainly an amazing professional experience," she says. "The job is an awesome challenge. Sending the publications to print is a great adrenaline rush. It has all the intensity that I imagined in my early days of 'envisioning success' at Webster."
Fleischer says Webster's broad range of classes also helped prepare her for handling the demands of full-time employment. Although the requirements of a double-degree and study abroad filled her plate, Fleischer still "ventured out and took fine art, film, social science, and environmental studies courses," she says. "The variety stimulated all my senses, so I never fell into that trap of a daily grind that leads to burnout."
For now, at her age, Fleischer is thrilled with how far she's come. "Of course, my vision also included a sunlit corner office with plush furnishings and an espresso machine," she jokes. "But I'm only 24, so maybe next year."
Until that personal espresso machine arrives, Fleischer is focused on absorbing the experience.
And the long term? "I just want one thing: A good challenge."