2013 Oklahoma tornado – global moxie gets very local

I have been in constant touch from Italy with friends, family, and coworkers, as we work to accumulate resources for our friend and colleague, Robyn Rojas, who suffered a catastrophic loss of property in the May 20 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. Skype, MagicJack, and Facebook, along with a ton of old-fashioned email, and a web-savvy friend who quickly set up a GoFundMe account to help Robyn. Robyn is eight months pregnant – due July 25 – and she and her husband lost everything in the tornado. Literally everything.

There is a picture of her in the national news, sitting on top of a pile of rubble with her mother, eating dinner out of a styrofoam to-go box, looking with frustrated disgust at some small wooden tchotchke – perhaps a napkin holder; they are sitting in what looks to have been her kitchen; it’s hard to tell – and the look on Robyn’s face says, “well, here’s something to save, I guess. I wouldn’t have set it aside as something special!”

The Italians here in Arezzo have voiced constant concern and support. In fact, Robyn’s situation was even publicized in Italian news (she is not named) here (in Italian). They all invoke their concern and dismay and grief after the terrible earthquake in L’Aquila, Abruzzo a few years ago. Many want to know why Oklahoma homes do not have basements. Many have asked us why builders were issued permits to rebuild in an area that is known for repeat targeting by tornadoes of historic strength (1999, 2003, again now 2013). All have expressed special concern for the affected elementary schools, Briarwood and Plaza Towers. They want to know why children were permitted to attend school in a building that was known to have no safe shelter from tornadoes if it is a constant headline in our weather. They are grieving with Oklahomans for the loss of young life in Moore. People around the world are asking these questions.

I am working all channels on behalf of Robyn. We have three home options lined up for them as possibilities for this summer. A short-term car loan for the summer has been offered. As soon as she is ready, she will be taken care of and will have a support network for months to come. The collections on the GoFundMe site are in the five figures now. But how much does it take to repurchase life as it was? Is it even possible to do so? Probably not. But little ways can help. They need everything. At this time, they have nowhere to store anything. (They are still indexing what was not destroyed at their house, like that napkin holder.)

If you have not donated to Robyn’s GoFundMe campaign set up by their friends and colleagues, please consider doing so here. Please. They truly need our help. I am honestly touched by the donations from around the world from people who are most likely OU international alumni – Japanese donors who survived the 2011 tsunami, Chinese alumni, latino alumni. The list of international names grows and grows. Not to mention the list of our international education colleagues from around the country – Texas, Florida, Oklahoma… companies and campuses large and small.

Robyn has plenty of global moxie herself, having traveled and danced with a company in Asia. She abroad in Mexico as an undergraduate. She speaks fluent Spanish; her husband Ivan is Colombian. In her job, she works with people from all over the world every day (I know this because we shared a cubicle wall before my husband and I came to Italy for the year.) Honestly, Robyn could have a career in diplomacy. Her attention to etiquette, kindness, and detail is incredible, and she’s putting those skills to work locally, in Norman, Oklahoma – which is home to quite a large international community, thanks to the university.

Robyn’s dog Mona has still not been found. (If you aren’t busy and have internet access, here is a picture of her dog, Mona. It has been hard to match the lost and found pets with the limited internet access in Moore. And the fact that everyone’s laptop and computer and router are gone. And all the cables connecting all the telecomm.) Shelters and owners have been posting images, but it has been hard to play the lost-pet memory game online with so many different sites, grainy images, etc. There is a good chance that Mona is fine and is in shelter somewhere. A post-tornado picture of her might be on the web. Can you help Robyn look for Mona? Owners and pets are being reunited each day. Pets are smart – they know how to survive, if it is at all possible. I know Robyn’s heart would be far less heavy if she could just hug Mona.

Photo: This is Mona for those who want to post her missing. We lived near 19th/SW149th and Santa Fe.

globalmoxie is localmoxie

Global moxie is essentially local moxie. You’re always somewhere – you can’t be everywhere at once. The global moxie eats and sleeps on planet earth.

On Monday afternoon, around 3:30, a historic tornado hit very close to home – Moore, Oklahoma, site of two other historic tornadoes in 1999 and in 2003. Destruction in the affected area is complete, again. Many University of Oklahoma staff live in Moore and commute to Norman for work, including my colleague and friend Robyn Rojas, who is the assistant director of International Student Services at OU.
So imagine that you, as a mama bird, are about ready to hatch a giant egg. You’ve got that nest all feathered and done up – daddy bird has made a crib out of twigs and leaves. Spring is here. The sun is shining. Then, one day, almost without warning, the sky goes black, and a funnel drops from the sky. Your nest is blown away. All your friends’ nests are blown away. The tree you built it in looks like some kind of fire-hydrant medusa. Your friends’ trees look the same. Hey, meanwhile, the sun is back out. You and daddy bird are fine, but what of the months of nest-building, and the perfect tree you’d picked out, and the crib you built? 
This, my friends, is what happened to Robyn on Monday. One day the thing you’re most worried about is labor and delivery, and your chidbirthing class starting soon, and cloth versus disposable diapers. Then, in the blink of an eye, a very different reality comes to you. A surreality, what with that sun shining on the wreckage. And you’re dealing with a very different, more basic, and serious set of worries, on top of the very basic and serious worries about taking care of a newborn for the first time.

As soon as the tornado left, but weather was still severe, Robyn and Ivan drove from Norman to Moore to look for their five-year-old daughter who goes to Briarwood Elementary School, in Moore. There were no fatalities reported at Briarwood, but those children looked like they had been through hell, and had kept going, as the Churchillian adage would have it, but had certainly lost some of their composure in the process. Who wouldn’t? Their little girl was pulled out from under a desk in the school. She is fine, but their whole family will have a lot of recovery and healing to do before they feel truly safe again. And maybe they never will, not after this close call.  

Spring in Oklahoma is downright schizophrenic.

We are all doing our best to help them, and to let them know that they have options, and a community support network. Robyn and Ivan are currently picking through what remains of their home. If you have not donated to their GoFundMe campaign set up by their friends and colleagues, please consider doing so here, now. Please. These are real people. This is real life.

What is global moxie?

What is global moxie? It is a plane ticket, a passport, a paycheck? Or is it a way of life, and a state of mind? Is it possible to be global when you’re at home? Does being out of country permanently change you, or the way you view the world, or the way the world views you?

Is global moxie a new pair of shoes or glasses, or is it an experience that becomes a touchstone for future endeavors? Can it be gained on a short trip abroad, or must the voyage be longer, or must one go abroad at all to find global moxie?

I am at the tail end of a year in Italy, and am mulling these questions. I’ve seen three seasons of students comes and go – summer 2012, fall 2012, and summer 2013 – and the 2013 summer students are arriving. I am wondering how the reentry experience has been for the students who have come and gone, and who are now in the US again. What has changed, what is different? Are you different? Do you feel more different than you look? I want to know.

Coming soon: the tale of Lauren Sanders, Ms. Global Moxie if I’ve ever met her, an Oklahoma girl from Midwest City who moved to Italy in 2008 and never looked back. I interviewed her last month – feature coming soon. Stay close!

Global moxie alert!

I have a wonderful anecdote about a recent OU graduate with a ton o’ global moxie. I would like to share it with you by way of illustration. (I haven’t asked for her permission to use her name, so let’s call her Opal.)

Opal studied abroad in Arezzo with the OU in Arezzo program last fall. She graduated from OU in December. Opal was very engaged in her Italian experience! She really wanted to find a job in Los Angeles in the industry (entertainment industry), like about 3 million other people. Opal had a great resume of internships that made sense and aligned with her interest in production and film. I was in touch with Opal by Skype and email, talking about her resume and her cover letter, helping her create language around her experience and creative passion that would speak to prospective employers.

Yesterday, she told me she had been hired as a full-time production assistant for a well-known television series (“The Amazing Race”) – one of just ten full-time staff members. Everyone else working on the show is a temp or contractor. Opal related how well her interview went because she was able to talk at length, and thoughtfully, about her experiences abroad. She said that she and the hiring manager really connected on this point, and the interview veered into about twenty minutes of personal chat about living and working abroad. She was proud of her recent study abroad experience, and I can just see her emanating enthusiasm in some Los Angeles office.

The point here is this: Opal had had great experience so far, and a sharp resume. But it was her ease talking about living abroad that helped that hiring manager really connect with her, and see her passion for learning and exploring.

You might be well-qualified for a job, both on paper and in person, and have the skills necessary to do it well. In fact, I think that this is true of everyone. But what sets you apart? You’re never the only person applying for a job, and if you were, ummm … maybe you shouldn’t be. Many people have your skills and interests. But remember – most hiring managers look at 10-200 applications for every position they hire. Stand out. Have that energy. Be memorable. Talk about your international experience as something integral to who you are (it is), as something that has helped form your professional identity (it has). Those hiring managers are tired of reviewing lackluster applications. Honestly, they would like to talk to someone who not only has skills, but who lights up when they’re excited about something. Because that is just the kind of energy that every hiring manager wants to see on the job. You know, the work that they pay you to do. Do it with style. Be international. Bring it.

Opal, good luck in LA! I knew you could do it!

Basic stuff

I’m going to cover some very basic stuff here if you are in a job search, or planning one soon, as a person with global moxie.

First, draft a good cover letter. They’re important. I am always surprised by young professionals or soon-to-be graduates who have not written a good cover letter, or been advised to do so. Why are cover letters important? First, they show your written communication skills. They show that you can think coherently, and that you understand your own narrative about your experiences and your career goals, and how the specific application you are submitting aligns with your goals and experience. Think of a cover letter as a friendly way to have a professional introduction that you get to initiate – you’re basically holding the attention of the hiring manager for a few minutes. Just you! You alone! Talking to a person who might want to hire you. Don’t waste this opportunity.

Start with an introduction, reference the position, and then give a first paragraph about your skills and experience. In your second paragraph, explain how your skills and experience can address specific requirements of the job. Then make a nice conclusion. Be friendly, but not pushy. Say you hope to speak with the hiring manager further about your application.

And for Pete’s sake, do it well. A bad cover letter is the kiss of death. Check for grammar, typos, word choice. Keep it professional. Don’t sound crazy, and don’t use nutty fonts.

welcome to GlobalMoxie!

This is the inaugural post for GlobalMoxie, a blog dedicated to rising graduates and young professionals who have studied abroad, lived abroad, interned abroad, or worked abroad, and who now find themselves back home wondering how to position themselves to get that next job – or their first job.

The world is a big place, and if you’ve ventured forth into it, you’ve got great experience – skills and understanding that people often don’t have if they’ve never explored beyond their comfort zone. You can understand problems and how to solve them; you have learned how to function in a different language or culture; you know firsthand how to analyze a complicated problem and move through it to find a solution; you can get along with different people. These skills are important, and every hiring manager in America wants to find someone like you. A bachelor’s degree isn’t enough anymore in our labor market. What distinguishes you? Study abroad? A master’s degree? Significant work experience? What else? Let’s find out.

I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I want to help you do it too.

I’ve traveled extensively (lost count a few countries ago), lived abroad a few times (Spain, France, Italy), and love to learn what makes the world – and people – tick. I put in my time in the classroom learning languages, but it was rarely as rewarding as being immersed in a culture, taking it all in, all synapses firing. I’ve enjoyed an evolving international career since 1997, working in the field of U.S. immigration, writing, and editing in New York, Seattle, and Oklahoma. I teach. I’ve reviewed thousands of cover letters and resumes as an immigration specialist and as a hiring manager, and I know what works – and what doesn’t – in a job search. Believe me. There are some basic tenets.

Every job I’ve ever been hired to do since I was 20, paid or unpaid, was due to the fact that I had studied abroad and lived abroad, acquiring language skills along the way. I know I’ve turned searches and interviews my way because of my ability to talk about my international experience. I have good ideas about how recent graduates and young professionals might shape their job search. I’ve had some great conversations in the past year or two, but I think we can reach more people this way. Are you interested? Want to follow? Good, because I’ll be putting a lot of ideas here in the future.

Comments, suggestions, ideas are welcome!

– Monica