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International Trade Specialist – U.S. Department of Commerce

Taylor Little
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International Trade Specialist – U.S. Department of Commerce

I graduated in 2005 and since then there have been many instances where I feel like what I learned through Comp Lit has been a significant asset. I currently work for the U.S. Department of Commerce – our agency assists small U.S. companies develop and increase sales internationally.

I enjoy working in a field with an international focus, and a lot of what we do is prepare U.S. companies for selling to international markets and customers – this could include discussing how their marketing techniques might need to change, the logistics of getting their product to a certain country, and what regulatory factors they need to be aware of, etc. A lot of the skills we learn in Comp Lit, such as being able to critically analyze a problem, understand the larger context of a question, and take into account cultural factors when looking at a situation, are crucial to these real-world interactions. Looking back on the discussions we had in Comp Lit classes, even though they were maybe focused on the reading we did for that day, the messages and implications were broader and more universal. Being aware that there is a larger cultural, economic and/or environmental background which we also need to understand to fully grasp the situation at-hand plays a crucial role in my day-to-day professional activities, and has proven to be an invaluable life skill for other interactions as well.

I actually changed my major to Comp Lit after seeing the enthusiasm of a Comp Lit professor in one of my first classes freshman year. I am glad I did, as before and after graduation, I very much appreciated the support and encouragement of my Comp Lit professors and advisor on a range of topics. I also greatly appreciated their support for study abroad. During my undergrad, I was accepted to two international programs outside of Penn State, and the Comp Lit department worked with me to ensure the credits transferred back. I also discussed my graduate studies with my professors and advisor, and all of them continued to encourage my interest in further international opportunities, and impressed on me the importance of gaining alternative perspectives and seeing different cultures. In a large university setting, it was nice to have that one-on-one attention, and I am glad I was able to join a major which matched my interests, but which also developed universal skills which have proven applicable in a professional environment.