In our new blog series, Alumni Life Hacks, we ask one of our alumni how life is treating them after their time at AMS. How did they develop themselves, how is AMS still playing a role in their lives, what are their dreams for the future and what can they advise to other alumni? For this first edition, we spoke with Meredith Wood, Program Manager of the Master in Global Management, Master in Global Supply Chain Management, and Master in Finance at Antwerp Management School.
Meredith is from Virginia, USA, and always wanted to have an international career. Studying at James Madison University in Virginia (“Go Dukes!”), one summer she was lucky enough to study abroad and travel for a few months. “I instantly fell in love with Antwerp and the European lifestyle.”
A love story
Once she graduated from JMU, Meredith knew she wasn’t ready to immediately join the workforce. She did some research and came across Antwerp Management School. “AMS holds all the right accreditations, such as AACSB. I then talked with one of my friends who had also studied abroad, and we decided to make the move together. We were both accepted into the Master in Global Management. Now, JMU and AMS have a partnership and each year JMU students come over to get their master’s degree. It always makes me so proud to see the new students embark on the journey that we were so fond of!”
"It always makes me so proud to see the new students embark on the journey that we were so fond of!”
While studying at AMS, Meredith met a great guy at an AMS party. Unfortunately, at the end of the year she headed back to the USA, as she got a good job offer working for an Ad Agency on Travel/Tourism accounts. “A few years later, that great Belgian guy flew over to the States and surprised me with a proposal. We knew we wanted to live in Belgium, and so my job hunt began.”
Living in Antwerp again has been a pleasant experience for Meredith. “While I was living in the States for a few years, I always received the invites to alumni drinks and events and was bummed I couldn’t meet my old classmates at any events. A big group from my MGM class just had a reunion here in Antwerp, for which some flew over from across the world. Despite that fact that we hadn’t seen each other in three and a half years, it felt like no time had gone by. The type of friendships and connections we made at AMS are clearly everlasting.”
"The type of friendships and connections we made at AMS are clearly everlasting."
As an American living in Belgium, Meredith and her (now) husband are constantly on the move. “Once my husband and I jointly decided that we were going to live in Belgium, everything started falling into place. I reached out to my old Program Manager (shout-out to Sara!) and asked if she had any advice for English speakers. The rest is history.” Meredith inherited a circle of close friends from her MGM experience and keeps a professional eye on everyone she met during the time. “Of course, now that I’m back in Belgium, it is easier to see each other frequently. I literally sit in the same office as Laura, one of my MGM classmates, and we love working together.”
Foreign working climate
Something Meredith had to get used to, is communicating with Belgians. Meredith is very talkative and social, and she noticed that Belgians aren’t the easiest persons to relate to. “Where I’m from, it’s normal to talk to the cashier that’s helping you in the store, or to start a conversation with someone sitting next to you. I love getting to know people! In Belgium, my experience is that people are more reserved, so my friends and coworkers have to deal with my talkative nature.”
She is, however, very positive about the work-life balance as we know it in Belgium. “Very different from the US,” says Meredith about this. “We are so lucky to have the time to travel. Whenever we have a long weekend, we might drive or take a train somewhere not too far away. We live right in the city center, so it’s awesome to get to walk everywhere and head to the market on Sunday without relying on a car. I could spend the whole day getting lost in Antwerp. And, of course, we’ve got the greatest friends and family in Antwerp, so on the weekends you can always find us enjoying some Belgian beer on Mechelseplein, right by the future AMS campus.”
"I’m lucky to work with a close-knit team. I always look forward to coming to work in the morning.”
Whether that last thing is good or not, she is not quite sure. Nonetheless, her job remains varied. “I arrive in the morning around nine, and start answering emails, setting up company visits, or talking with students who drop by. The questions students have range from A-Z, so that takes up a good bit of my day. We also do research on the international trips, or help new professors become acquainted. If it’s a busy period with recruitment fairs, sometimes I’ll head to a fair as well. I’m lucky to work with a close-knit team. I always look forward to coming to work in the morning.”
A promising future
Looking back on the past years of her Belgian experience, Meredith says: “I’m my best self when I’m surrounded by my friends and family. The happiest I’ve ever been was on my wedding day. I had my US family and friends combined with my new Belgian family and friends and it felt great. I’m also happy when I see the culmination of my hard work. There’s nothing better than planning an event, helping or giving advice to a student or friend.”
Meredith has an unshakeable belief in the future and, particularly, a more equal future. “The US just had a major party endorse a female candidate for president - how amazing is that? It’s 2017, women are ambitious and why wouldn’t they be? The so-called glass ceiling still exists, female CEOs aren’t necessarily the norm yet and there are still gender pay gaps, but women are making major strides and will continue to do so!”
"If you keep your head up and work hard, you can change the world.”
Accordingly, Meredith’s favorite quote is one of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” She recognizes that sometimes life can throw you curveballs and things can go wrong. “We are only human, but I’m a believer in the power of positivity. I hope that, in the future, I can motivate people one way or another. I love making people laugh and I hate it when people give something up because they think they can’t do it. We can do so many amazing things – whether your goal is running a marathon or becoming an entrepreneur – it’s 100% possible. If you keep your head up and work hard, you can change the world.” Therefore, her ultimate life hack is: You can and you will.