MFYO – Sammie Ibrahim ’16

Today, we have another edition of My First Year Out!

Our featured grad this week is Sammie Ibrahim– she is the recipient of a Fulbright research grant, and is currently abroad in Kazakhstan! Since she went abroad after graduation, you could call this more of a “MFYO – Abroad edition.”


How did you get to where you are, and how did you get involved in your area of academic focus?

I applied for a Fulbright research grant the fall of my senior year with the encouragement and support of the UVM Office of Fellowships Advising and my academic mentors. I found out the following April that I was awarded the grant. Since November, I’ve been conducting research on labor migrant communities in Almaty, Kazakhstan.


Did you study abroad as an undergrad? If so, how has this experience been different?

I studied abroad my junior year in neighboring Kyrgyzstan for 8 months. There are a lot of similarities between my study abroad experience and my current Fulbright experience in the sense that both countries have a lot in common culturally, historically, and linguistically. However, I didn’t have the same struggles with culture shock or communication like the first time I traveled to Central Asia.

The biggest difference has been the amount of independence and control I have over my schedule on a day-to-day basis. When you study abroad, you generally have a structured schedule and a built-in social network and support system through a host-family, classes, fellow study abroad students, and your host institution. Since coming to Kazakhstan, I’ve had to build that structure and network completely from scratch, which has been frustrating and gratifying in equal parts. The beauty of a Fulbright research grant is that you are your own boss and there’s no one looking over your shoulder…at least for 10 months, that is.


What about your UVM Experience inspired you to continue your studies?

I was involved with several research projects related to migration and refugee resettlement during my time at UVM with Prof. Pablo Bose in the Geography Department. I’ve had longstanding interests in studying both migration and the Central Asian region. I always thought of them as separate and distinct spheres of interests in my mind, and I wanted to find ways to combine both of them through a Fulbright research grant.


What was your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge continues to be managing the logistics of field research. Developing connections tends to occur through word-of-mouth or simply knowing the right person (not unlike in the U.S., I’ll add). Email isn’t a terribly viable form of communication here, so I have to arrange all of my interviews and meetings by cold-calling or simply showing up at someone’s office uninvited. This process has pushed me out of my comfort zone, because I’m not an extroverted person and I’m loath to talk on the phone in English, let alone in Russian.

More often than not, there are a lot of dead ends and meetings that don’t go anywhere, and I’ve felt like, at times, it was difficult to establish a steady momentum of progress. I try to deal with these frustrations with combination of patience, humor, and creativity when things seem stalled. I also think learning to be flexible and adjust my expectations was important. There’s nothing I love more than a 10-point plan and well-organized schedule, but those things are often incompatible with the realities of qualitative or ethnographic research.

On a more mundane level, another challenge is simply daily life in a non-English-speaking country like Kazakhstan that operates with its own set of logic and rhythms. Basic tasks like paying your utilities, going to the doctor, calling a plumber, dealing with an electrical outage, etc. can suddenly seem like insurmountable feats of language and negotiation. I like to think of myself as a competent and self-sufficient person, but I’ve definitely had to swallow my pride a few times and ask for help with the most basic things. Much like the challenges of field research, patience and a good attitude can go a long way as a foreigner living in Kazakhstan.


What’s Next for the Class of 2017?

With graduation coming up this weekend for the class of 2017, it’s an exciting time to check in with a few seniors to find out what their plans are for next year.

You all might remember where you were at this time a year ago; excited or nervous for the unknown of post graduate life, or just thrilled to finally be done with exams.

To add some perspective to your own experience, I thought it could be helpful to take a look at what these seniors are going to do during their first year out.

What are your plans for next year?

I will be moving to South Africa for the Peace Corps, where I will be living in a rural community and working in a primary school.

How did you arrive at this decision?

I’ve wanted to join the Peace Corps since high school. I knew that I wanted to travel or do something unconventional after graduating UVM so I decided to go into the Peace Corps!

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

I am really excited to gain a new perspective, and have a global experience right out of college. I think experiencing a new culture and way of life, while working with children, will be really powerful learning experience. I am excited to see how this new experience changes my perspective on education and the way I work with children. I’m excited to gain new understandings of how other cultures and children value education, and how I can bring in new motivation into my future classroom.

What are you nervous about?

Although I can’t wait to move abroad, I’m nervous for what I’m leaving behind. I love change, and moving around, however I’m sad to leave my friends and family for two years. I think a lot can happen in our lives as we enter the “real world”, and I wish I could be experiencing this transition with my friends.

What will you miss most about UVM?

I think I will miss the friendships that I’ve made at UVM the most. Because I am moving to a new country, I’m unsure of the next time I will see my friends, which is quite sad and a bit surreal. I also feel so privileged to have gone to school in a state as beautiful as Vermont. I will definitely miss hiking in the Green Mountains.

What are your plans for next year?

I am hoping to get a job working in a brewery in the Midwest, and I am thinking of going to brewing school in the spring.

How did you arrive at this decision?

I became interested in brewing through my minor in microbiology, particularly after working with yeast in the lab. I started brewing at home and took the brewing in food sciences class which helped me learn more about it.

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

I am hoping to one day open my own brewery in Chicago or Milwaukee and am looking forward to getting experience working in brewing the next few years.

What are you nervous about?

Getting a good job mainly, and deciding if brewing school is the right choice.

What will you miss most about UVM?

My friends, and the scenery. The mountains are a lot better than the flatness of the Midwest.

What are your plans for next year?

I am moving to San Francisco to work at Accenture as an analyst, job details are to be determined.

How did you arrive at this decision?

I interned at Accenture the summer after my junior year and really liked the work. At the end of the summer I was offered a full time job and requested to be located in the San Francisco office despite having interned in my hometown of Philadelphia (I was feeling adventurous that day)! Much to my surprise I was offered a spot in the San Francisco office and decided to take it! It is kind of a big leap but I have always wanted to know what life is like out west and there is no time like the present!

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

I am really excited to see what the West Coast is all about. I am specifically looking forward to the moderate climate, the chill vibes, and the access I will have to so many of the country’s national parks and natural attractions!

What are you nervous about?

I am nervous about being far from home and moving to a city where I don’t know anyone!

What will you miss most about UVM?

I know I will miss Burlington and the sense of community I feel here as well as the flexible life style of a college student! It is still TBD if I will miss experiencing all four seasons (specifically winter)!

What are your plans for next year?

I plan to attend Millersville University in central Pennsylvania to get my Masters degree in Social Work. My hope is to intern at the VA during that time.

How did you arrive at this decision?

I went back and forth for a long time trying to decide if I wanted to go into the field straight away, take a gap year before graduate school, attend seminary, or go straight back to school. Eventually I decided that going to graduate school right away made the most sense for me financially.

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

I’m most excited about the opportunity to work in the field of my home community. I think I’ve grown and changed a lot through my four years at UVM, so it’ll be interesting to take all that back to where I grew up.

What are you nervous about?

I’m most nervous to find real community again. UVM has provided me with so much structure and support, that it feels impossible that I’ll have that again.

What will you miss most about UVM?

I’ll miss the culture of UVM for sure. It’s an incredible place and the people really make it.

What are your plans for next year?

Home to Maine for the summer and then going to grad school – Master of Medical Science Degree Program at UVM

How did you arrive at this decision?

Lots and lots of thinking. Decided I want to stay in Vermont and continue learning new things.

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

I’m excited to meet new people and stay in Vermont another year.

What are you nervous about?

Taking rigorous courses and finding a good place to live next year.

What will you miss most about UVM?

The interesting people.

What are your plans for next year?

Stay in Burlington for the summer doing part time graphic design projects and working as a hostess.  Then save up money and apply to programs to either Wwoof in New Zealand or teach English abroad in Russia.

How did you arrive at this decision?

I knew I wanted to hang out in Burlington for at least a bit post-grad, so when this graphic design position was offered to me as a summer gig, I jumped at the opportunity.  I am half Russian and have a deep desire to travel around before settling down so that’s where the Wwoofing and English teaching ideas came from.

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

Very excited to spend another summer in Burlington and see more of the world!

What are you nervous about?

Actually being financially stable enough to pull off my plans (..ha)

What will you miss most about UVM?

I will really miss the sense of community and security from all the connections I’ve forged here over the years.  I will also miss the reckless abandon that being a college student enables me to have.

What are your plans for next year? 

I chose very early on in the year I wanted to stay in Burlington, before I had a job lined up. There’s just something special about this town and I don’t feel ready to part with it quite yet. And I will be working at a local shop part time but I’m still keeping my options open!

How did you arrive at this decision? 

I think the great thing about Burlington is that even though it is a small town, there’s always something going on and something to do, particularly in the live music scene. I also think it’s a great stepping stone, for me at least, to ease into the real world. I already know my way around and a lot of my friends are sticking around for the next year too.

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

I’m excited to start my new job and learn more about local Vermont artists and just meeting new people too. I’m also looking forward to staying here over the summer, living with my current roommate Niky.

What are you nervous about?

I’m nervous about a lot of things, but right now I’m worried about tripping on stage when I go to collect my diploma.

What will you miss most about UVM? 

From the day I came to UVM for admitted students day, I immediately felt so welcomed into this community, and that’s exactly how I felt with so many of the professors here. I am so grateful to have had professors that have truly inspired me academically and in general and those who I have formed good relationships with. They have been a huge part of my happiness during my time here. That and also just constantly being surrounded by so many positive and genuine people.

My First Year Out (So Far) – Octavio Araujo

On this edition of My First Year Out (So Far) we check in with Octavio Araujo, who shares some helpful tips on adapting to an exciting (and challenging) new work environment, learning about airplane structures, and moving to the west coast.

Describe your first year out of UVM:

It’s only been 11 months, or so, but it sure feels like year. I left Burlington shortly after graduation to spend two weeks in Florida with my family before the big move. I had accepted a job offer in Seattle from Boeing without having ever visited the west coast.

I’d say that was intimidating given I didn’t know anybody living there.

Boeing is a big company and I was constantly asking myself if I was going to be up for the challenge ahead, learning how to design plane structures, especially in a place renowned for designing the best commercial airliners.

I had only a vague idea of the team I would be working with, so I didn’t know what engineering topics I would need to brush up on specifically before starting.

It turned out that the team was quite amazing, mostly senior engineers, with the exception of three new hires including myself. The amount of knowledge I’ve gained in these last 9 months is incredible. I’m surrounded by experts in all airplane components, from wings to empennage and fuselage.

I must give credit to all the amazing professors in the school of engineering, who provided me with the tools, knowledge, and experiences I needed to succeed.

The work is challenging, but also rewarding. The designers I collaborate with have a lot of passion for their work. I would say that out of sheer luck I have the best job in the world, but must also admit that I’m really devoting myself.

Sometimes it can be stressful and difficult, days can be long, and due dates too close. I’m back in school for a Boeing/University of Washington certificate in Modern Aircraft Structures, which takes place after work. I regularly take optional training for 8hrs on Saturdays, and during free time I’m trying to teach myself advanced CAD workbenches in CATIA.

I also sometimes volunteer with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers doing high school STEM night.

What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

I’m most proud of two things. First, I was presented to Boeing’s chief design engineer and given a task by my manager very hastily. I had to read up on some specific material to bring out specific differences between industry standards and in-house standards. I was unfamiliar with both, but brought myself up to speed and was able to deliver as expected.

Second, I’m being mentored by a wing expert at the moment who assigns me work and coaches me through. As a mechanical engineer I’d expect to be doing only strict mechanical engineering. In this particular case, I’ve had to learn A LOT about fire.

As new airplane models undergo FAA certification, different engineering organizations are delegated responsible to comply with all regulations affecting your component. In this case, the wing, is impacted by FAR25.867 which defines certain wing surfaces must be fire resistant.

So I went along and learned [almost] everything about it, from fleet accidents to current regulation interpretations. I (with orientation from my mentor) came up with intelligence over how to achieve compliance and had to present to a committee of technical fellows (high regarding engineering ‘rank’ at Boeing, engineering decision makers).

In both occurrences I was nervous and unsure of myself, as coming into the presentations you’re told “it’s only another meeting in their schedule” but going upon leaving you realizing “this is where careers are made”.

I guess preparing and being able to think on your feet was necessary to overcome these challenges.

What did you learn from this experience?

At the end of the day, you need to be yourself. Bring who you are to the table and let people criticize your work. Take pride in your mistakes, they end up being lessons.

I learned that the only way to get better is by practice and preparation. Burrow like a worm.

Any advice for your classmates?

Convince yourself you can always do better. Everyone is on their own clock, but don’t procrastinate. Do something! Strive to find that which drives you.

What’s it like being on the west coast?

I’m focusing on getting a good start in my career, but whenever I can I try to head downtown and explore Seattle. I’m not the most outdoorsy person, but I’m exited for spring and hiking. I’m making plans for summer, I want to explore the west coast a bit more!

I’m also taking advantage of the Pacific North West and I’ve been able to go on some pretty cool hikes around the area, currently waiting for friendlier weather to enjoy more of the outdoors.


If you liked this post, check out our previous check-ins with your classmates Kristen Smith and Lyndi Wieand.

My First Year Out (so far…) – Lyndi Wieand

Today we have a special edition of My First Year Out. If you have been following along for a while, you’ll remember we checked in with your 2016 classmate Kristen Smith back in December.

This time we catch up with Lyndi Wieand who shares some lessons in juggling a busy schedule and persevering through career challenges.

Describe your first year out of UVM.

My first year out of UVM has been busy, busy, busy! The week after I graduated and moved back home, I went on vacation with my family to Jackson Hole, WY and Yellowstone National Park. That was an incredible trip and I feel so blessed to have experienced such natural beauty.

It was so different moving back home for good this time, instead of just for a few months during college. I do miss my friends, my rugby team, and the beauty of Vermont.

Shortly after that trip, I started working. I had one job lined up before I moved back working at a local hospital as a Nutrition Services Aide and I also started working as a waitress in early June. I worked those two jobs simultaneously for about two months, working about 50-60 hours a week.

The hospital job wasn’t what I expected it to be and it didn’t relate to my Dietetics, Nutrition, and Food Science Degree, so I resigned in August. However, in July I received an opportunity to work at a brand new local winery that would open in August owned by a former internship supervisor and her husband. My role at the winery is to give tastings, but I’ve also been able to help with the production process of several of the wines, getting Food Science experience.

My life got even more busy in October when I was offered a position at Lehigh University as a Nutrition Assistant to the Registered Dietitian on campus. Carrie, my boss also happens to be the winery owner and my former internship supervisor… oh how networking is important!

So now I am currently working three part time jobs, still at 50-60 hours a week, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge would be juggling three work schedules and having very little free time for much of anything. Sunday is my only day off, so I try to either recover from the work week, or finally get time to spend with my family, boyfriend and friends.

My second biggest challenge was going through heartbreak last April when I wasn’t “matched” for a dietetic internship–the next step I need to complete before I can become a real person in the nutrition field, a Registered Dietitian. Part of the reason I’m working so hard and so much since graduation is to get more experience in the nutrition field.

I recently went through the internship application process for a second time, and had three interviews in March. This coming Sunday, April 2 is when I find out if I get a “match” this year. I felt a lot more confident in myself this time around than last year, so I’m optimistic!

What did you learn from this experience?

What I learned from this experience is that hard work and dedication can make yourself that much better than you ever thought you could be. I may be exhausted most of the week, but I’ve gained so much experience in the work world that I know I’ll be able to base my real life career off of.

The skills and quality of nutrition knowledge I’ve learned at Lehigh are exactly what I needed to be a better candidate for the internship I will hopefully be completing this coming school year.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to yourself as you prepared to graduate from UVM? 

I would have told myself to enjoy it as much as I can (even though I think I did), and take advantage of everything wonderful there is to do in Burlington and the surrounding area.

There were a lot of restaurants I never tried, as well as local beers, and outdoor activities. I wish I skied more last year, PA winters and mountains are nothing in comparison to VT. I barely went hiking, which is something that I wanted to do so badly, but rarely had the time.

I would have wanted to get more involved in the other clubs and get more nutrition experience and/or research done while in school, as well as networked more with some of my professors.

Another thing I would have told myself would have been to expect the unexpected. Things you plan won’t always go that way, which is hard for me to accept, since I’m a perfectionist.

When I was rejected by the internships I applied to, my “life plan” for the next year was shattered. I made a new plan to work as much as I could and get nutrition experience, and look where I am now.

Becoming an adult has certainly been a learning experience, but you’ve got to start small in order to get big!

What are you doing now and what are you looking to do next?

The most important thing I am looking forward to next is to get matched to an internship, hopefully my top choice at Cedar Crest College, and start that in late July until April. After completion, I’ll be able to sit for the registration exam, and upon passing, become a Registered Dietitian!

I’m also hoping to start Grad School either this year or next to get my Master’s in Nutrition. Until then, I’ll still be working my three jobs, but maybe cut back on some hours to give myself some more time to breathe and relax in the summer.

My First Year Out: UVM Couple Edition

This week’s My First Year Out story is from a UVM alumni couple. Emily Meltzer ’12 and Philip Bruno ’12 share the story of their first year out — which involved moving cross-country after graduation.

1. Describe your first year out of UVM.

We packed up all of our things in Burlington and moved straight to Seattle – 10 days after graduating. We both knew we wanted to move west, and Seattle had the perfect combination of the city and the outdoors. To be honest, we didn’t move with a plan in place. Emily worked in Pike Place Market for the summer until securing an AmeriCorps position, and Philip worked a few part time jobs until landing a full time position at a digital marketing startup.

Our first year out of school was all about testing the waters, discovering our professional passions, and exploring a part of the country that neither of us had previously spent time in. It was a total whirlwind!

2. What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

Our biggest challenge was getting past our original expectations of what employment is “supposed” to look like when you graduate. First jobs are hard work, often thankless, and definitely aren’t always trendy, glamorous or full of cool perks. Both of us were lucky to have growth opportunities happen very quickly within our places of employment, and had room to experiment with our respective career paths.

We are both strong advocates for ourselves and always came to the table prepared to provide input, even if we were the “lowest on the totem pole”, so to speak. At first it was intimidating to engage in conversations about topics that we were so new to, but we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of respect we were treated with by our more seasoned colleagues.

3. What are you doing now?

Emily is the Director of Development for the social services branch of the YMCA of Greater Seattle. She oversees fundraising, marketing and volunteerism for the organization.

Philip is the Senior Mobile Marketing Manager for Add3, a digital marketing agency based in Seattle. He leads strategy, launch and optimization of campaigns for national and multinational brands.

4. What advice do you have for recent graduates?

Believe it or not, more tenured professionals are excited to hear what you have to say. What you might not have in professional experience, you make up for in lived experience and creativity. People who have “been in the business” can become limited in their ability to think outside of the box, but recent graduates have a much broader view of what’s possible.

You have the ability to think beyond the status quo since you haven’t been confined to the status quo of your industry yet. Take advantage of your newness and use it as a super power!