Tessa Breslin, an alumna of Queen’s University Belfast, spent a year at La Roche College in Pittsburgh on our Study USA programme in 1996-7. We asked her about her time in the US and what advice she would give to today’s students.
What made you apply to the programme?
I had always been interested in studying in the States and had chosen Queen’s University with international opportunities in mind. Another factor was that my boyfriend at the time was applying to do an internship in the US. I couldn’t believe he was going to leave me! So I thought that Study USA (previously the Business Education Initiative) could be my ticket to the States too. As it turned out, my boyfriend ended up on placement in Upper Galwaly, while I went to Pennsylvania! He is now my husband, so fortunately the long distance didn’t turn out for the worse.
Where did you go?
I studied at La Roche College (now University) near Pittsburgh, PA, along with three other students from Northern Ireland. The College had a very strong international programme, so I made friends from Bosnia, Macedonia and Haiti as well as from the US. When local students went home at the weekends the international students really became my family.
It was a terrific college. More recently I went back to campus, twenty years on, for a great reunion with a lot of the friends I had made from my time there.
What is your favourite memory?
College life in the States has to be experienced to be believed! There was a lot of fun and mischief. Making it on to the Dean’s List for both semesters was a particular academic highlight.
What were your tutors like?
So many of my lecturers at La Roche had led a business or worked in industry – they weren’t ‘pure play’ academics. That really impressed me.
Did the programme impact on your career?
I had been studying Psychology at Queen’s and was interested in what related ‘majors’ would be offered at my college. I ended up discovering a whole new side of my discipline: Industrial-Organisational Psychology. When I came home I pursued this further at postgraduate-level. Now I work in this field, so the exposure I had in the US became a pivotal moment in my career path.
I came home from the States with a sense of drive and purpose, very motivated, and with much greater confidence in what I could achieve. I’m also now on the Foundation Board of Queen’s University. It’s wonderful to still have a strong connection to Northern Ireland and an opportunity to give back.
Where do you work today?
I work for YSC Consulting – a leadership strategy consulting firm. We do everything from CEO succession work, to executive development and coaching. I head up the North America region, managing a team of fifty, leading on client assignments, and generally working to build and grow the business. I’m also part of the YSC’s Global Leadership Team and Board.
What advice would you give to today’s Study USA students?
Build great relationships and say ‘yes’ to invitations. Open yourself up to new possibilities, new cultures, new people, and the whole experience!
The Study USA programme is open to both undergraduate and HND/ Foundation degree students. Applications are now open for 2022-23. To find out more and how to apply visit: https://nireland.britishcouncil.org/opportunities/study-usa
Study USA is generously funded through the Department for the Economy.