October 19, 2004 (STAR) By Julie Cabatit-Alegre - If you are a new college graduate and you can‘t get a job, what next? What are your options?

"We were looking at resumes and nothing jumped out," Maricar Sedigo, president of the Institute for Foreign Study (IFS), remarked. "I was thinking, if I were an employer, I would not short list this person. So we thought of programs that would enhance their resume. It’s an investment. How many new graduates can say they were trained in Australia or the US? So we always tell them, you need to know how to give yourself an edge, how to catch a prospective employer’s attention."

IFS offers two training programs, one in Australia and another in the US. The internship/work experience program in Australia is essentially a training program open to university students, new graduates, as well as young professionals, 18 to 29 years old.

The duration of the program range from six weeks to 52 weeks, and applications are accepted year-round. "We accept university students who want to do their practicum in Australia. These are non-paid internships," Sedigo clarified. "Visa restrictions apply. We do not do placements for employment."

The internship program offers the opportunity to develop links with industry and business in Australia. "While training with reputable and well-known companies, you will have the advantage of obtaining references from host employers that will be of great benefit to your future career," Sedigo remarked. "You will gain credit while completing the practical component of your formal university studies. Professional industry experiences will improve your knowledge of the English language and the Australian way of life." Popular fields are hospitality, business, finance, education, and communications. The available locations are Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Perth.

The training program in the US is open to university graduates and young professionals, 20 to 30 years old. Duration range from six months, 12 months, to a maximum of 18 months. Applications are accepted year-round. The program helps participants prepare for prospective employment. "In addition to giving participants an idea of how the workplace operates, it also gives them a competitive edge when seeking employment," Sedigo noted. "Obtaining work experience often results in more job offers, a higher starting salary, and more frequent promotions. The program is really an investment in yourself and your future."

Migo Samia graduated from the College of St. Benilde-De La Salle University with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. He decided to go on a 20-week internship in Brisbane, Australia. "I had my internship at the Rydges Capricorn Resort in Yeppoon, a beach resort town along the Capricorn coast north of Brisbane," he relates. He worked as waiter at the breakfast buffet, and then he was assigned to golf maintenance and landscaping. He also did bartending as well as booking tours. His last stop was at the activities desk where he took charge of activities such as jet skiing.

"I learned a lot," Samia remarked, "about systems and about going the extra mile." It was a good experience. Now, he finds that he has that edge during job interviews when they learn that he had training abroad. "He was rated high by the resort," Sedigo revealed. "In fact he was offered a job, but it’s not in his plans just yet. He’d like to work here first."

Besides the international internship and training programs, IFS has a whole range of programs that cater to students at any point in their lives. Quite popular is the summer enrichment program, an inter-cultural learning experience designed for students from 9 to 24 years old. Locations include Florida, Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, Spain, Italy, Australia Japan, and China. "Students live with selected host families for an experience that is truly authentic and truly an exchange of cultures," Sedigo noted. They return enriched, filled with happy memories.

Jennifer Lazo, who spent the summer in Avila, Spain, relates that she had to climb hills to get to school and since she was a slow walker, it took her all of 30 minutes. "Fortunately, there was no traffic and no pollution," she recalls. Enzo Chavez also spent his summer in Spain. He remembers going to Sevilla for a Flamenco festival that is held only once a year. "I watched families wearing different outfits riding their calesas," he relates. Sisters Denise and Justine Santos spent their summer in Oxford. What impressed them was that everyday, for three weeks, they had the same breakfast fare: butter, jam, toast, cereals, coffee, and orange juice. "But when we returned to Manila, I bought wheat bread because I was missing it already," Justine relates. Among the youngest students in the summer batch 2004 were Ryan Garcia, 15 years old, and Marvin Fung, 12 years old. They spent their summer in Cambridge, England. What impressed them most were the old buildings, the quiet town, and the friendly people.

"One of the most popular and longest running teen programs of IFS is the high school year in the US program also known as the Exchange Program," Sedigo revealed. "It gives 15-to 18-year-old students the opportunity to attend American local high school and live with selected American families for one school year." Alexandra Lyn Co spent a year in Morris, Minnesota. It was her first trip to the US. She was extremely shy. That was two years ago. Today, she exudes the confidence that she gained as an IFS exchange student. Elaine Abonal is now in her third year at the Ateneo taking up Communications Arts. She says she will never forget the year she spent as a fourth year high school student in Wisconsin. Recently, one of her American friends came to visit and it was her turn to show him a bit of our own Philippine culture. If there was anything she learned from her experience, she says, it is to "seize every opportunity. You don’t hesitate, you just go." She says she learned to be "unafraid." Miguel Orleans is all packed and ready to go. He will be spending this coming school year in New Mexico, USA. It will be his first time to travel alone. His expectation is simple, to have clean and wholesome fun.

Patrick Fernandez returned recently from a three-week stay in Oxford. An economics graduate from the Ateneo, he is now working at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. Ironically, it was while he was away that, he says, he learned to appreciate his country better. "There, I missed my house, my bed, my friends, my TV stations," he revealed. "I realized how lucky I am and that I should share my blessings." The IFS experience broadens the mind and enriches the spirit.

* * *

For inquiries, call the Institute for Foreign Study (IFS) at 812-1187 or 812-6229. Their office is located at Suite 820, Cityland 10 Tower 2, 154 De la Costa St., Ayala North, Makati.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved