Global Alumna Profile: Dena O'Brien

Career Administrator

UVA alumni span the globe in a variety of career industries and geographic locations. One such alumna is Dena O'Brien: originally from Pelham, Alabama, Dena graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology. She was also a Track and Cross Country athlete during her time at UVA. Since graduation, Dena has created a life for herself outside of the United States.

What's your experience working abroad?

I worked as an au pair for 10 months in Barcelona, Spain. I moved to Nelson, New Zealand in September 2015 and worked at a gym for 9 months. I moved to Hawkes Bay, New Zealand in June 2016 to go back to school.  I am currently completing a grad diploma in marketing and working for an organization called Central Football (which is soccer) as a marketing/communications coordinator. 

What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned from working internationally?

I have learned to see outside our bubble that is America. As an Anth major, I really enjoy getting to know different people and cultures; I think the best way to do this is to immerse yourself entirely. 

How has working abroad shaped your career path and/or aspirations/goals?

It has completely changed and shaped the way I think. I have met so many inspiring people that have instilled in me a desire to not settle for a career or path based on what I knew in America. I want to give back, enjoy what I do and surround myself with genuine and inspiring people (preferably in a beautiful place)- New Zealand has given me all of that. 

What advice would you give to current UVA students who wish to travel or work abroad?

Do it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. America isn't going anywhere and neither is the corporate ladder you're looking to climb up. Working and living abroad is such a unique experience and will facilitate your personal and professional growth immensely.