We got in touch with SAI alumnus Patrick Sutton, who studied abroad with SAI Florence in Spring 2012, to ask him about his experience and his life now.
What have you done since studying abroad?
A few days after returning home from Florence, I started an internship at Paragon PR, a financial communications firm in Westfield, NJ (now headquartered in Hoboken, with an office in London). Coming home after a whirlwind semester of traveling wasn’t easy, but joining an exciting start-up eased the transition back into “normal” life. Now, I’ve been with Paragon for almost four years full-time, and am leading the U.S. media relations team.
On the travel front, I’ve thoroughly explored the U.S. and several national parks on a few different road trips. I haven’t been back to Europe yet, but I have a few trips on the horizon.
How has studying abroad affected you personally and professionally?
Studying abroad is one of the foundational experiences of both my personal and professional lives. Personally, I had the opportunity to explore new cultures and grow within them. Traveling, whether with a group of peers to Munich for a festival or a nine-day solo excursion to Ireland and Scotland, can unlock parts of your personality you won’t find in your comfort zone.
Professionally, my internship with GANZO through SAI allowed me to ingratiate myself with the local culture by working with the Center for Expressive Arts La Tinaia, an association dedicated to the rehabilitation of psychiatric patients through artistic activities – and eat some fantastic food along the way. For a sophomore who had little internship experience in my field, it was invaluable.
Did your study abroad experience play any role in you obtaining your current position at Paragon PR?
As I pursued an internships to jumpstart my career, I found study abroad to be a consistent talking point – always a perk if you’re nervous. Now, I show extra consideration for interview candidates for roles at our firm who have studied abroad.
What were some of the most important lessons you learned abroad?
I’ll try to avoid some of the standard clichés, but take every opportunity to travel that you can – there are only so many weekends – and venture off the map of the “must see” places to whatever interests you most. It might sound obvious, but if art galleries don’t get you excited, don’t travel to a city just for that! Exhaust your Google search in the months before leaving, and while you’re abroad, to find places off the beaten path or ten cities in five days bus tour.
What was your “SAI moment” – a defining moment in your study abroad experience?
Landing in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day morning before bussing over to Galway for a weekend was pretty incredible, but I’d say Strong Beerfest (Starkbierfest) in Munich is the memory that always jumps out. It’s the smallest of the German beer festivals, but just like its namesake, packed a punch.