Megan Mondi ’06 would love to chat, but she has a leaving do for a workmate at half five and must attend to a lot of bits and bobs.
Such is the vernacular for a study abroad alumna living her dream of working in London. Fully translated: Mondi has a going-away party for a colleague at 5:30 p.m. and must finish some odds and ends at work before she gets there.
After four years in the United Kingdom — first as a graduate student and now as a marketing executive for an educational publisher — Mondi uses British expressions without even thinking about it. She’s also trained her brain to use British spellings and punctuation.
“Sadly, I don’t have a marvelous English accent,” she says, “but my intonation is certainly different.” For example, when she signs off the phone, Mondi’s “goodbye” is a very British upbeat, sing-songy “bye-ee!” rather than the more direct American “bye.”
Mondi’s trajectory toward a career in London was launched at IWU, where she majored in history and English literature and completed honors research on King James I of England and VI of Scotland. Her research advisor was History Professor Michael Young, who also encouraged Mondi to enroll at the University of Oxford’s Worcester College during her junior year. Founded in 1714, Worcester features buildings that date back to medieval times and a 26-acre campus considered among the most beautiful of Oxford’s colleges. Says Mondi: “I loved every minute of the experience.”
After graduating summa cum laude from Wesleyan, Mondi interned at Shakespeare Squared, an educational development company based in Glenview, Ill. Impressed with her performance, the company hired her full-time as its business development manager. “From my internship, the company knew me and trusted me enough to give me responsibility from day one,” Mondi says.
Gradually she began to feel the itch to resume her education. Reflecting on how much she enjoyed her college experience at Worcester, Mondi says, “I decided to apply to Oxford so I could get a degree from one of the best institutions in the world and live in the U.K. again.” She succeeded in both goals, earning a master’s in modern European history from Oxford in 2010.
“I don’t think I would have moved to the U.K. if I hadn’t studied there previously,” she adds. “Spending a semester abroad helped me become familiar enough with British culture to be certain that I would enjoy living there for an extended period of time.”
Mondi also says by studying at Oxford she experienced the British educational system firsthand and finds the contrast between the British and American systems fascinating. For example, in the U.K., students sit for their General Certificates of Secondary Education when they are 16. Those who want to continue their education attend what are called sixth form departments, where students specialize in a few subjects in preparation for their A (advanced)-level certificates.
“It is their A-level grades that determine which universities they will get into,” says Mondi, noting, “If I had specialized in the areas that I enjoyed most at 16, I would have studied chemistry or theatre at IWU, not the English and history I majored in.”
Mastering intricacies of Britain’s educational system has been essential to Mondi’s success at Hodder Education, one of the U.K.’s largest publishers of secondary education materials. For her job as a marketing executive, Mondi says, “I plan, implement and evaluate all marketing campaigns and day-to-day tactics for particular subject lists, including history.”
With her office just a short walk away from Regent’s Park in central London, Mondi feels grateful she has been able to continue her exploration of the history and culture of one of the world’s greatest cities. Though she misses her friends and family in the U.S. (including cousin Amanda Paz ’07), she plans to live and work in the U.K. “at least until I get dual citizenship.” Looking back at the path she’s traveled to get to this point, she regards her first study-abroad experience while at IWU as the crucial first step.
“Studying abroad increases self-awareness and strengthens a commitment to civic engagement. If you have never traveled far from home to experience cultures different from your own, then you don’t appreciate how unique your way of life is. And stepping away from your normal routine opens your eyes to different ways of doing things and can make you an advocate for positive change.
“People have called me ‘brave’ for moving 4,000 miles away from my family and friends, but I never thought of it that way,” Mondi adds. “Plus, I now have friends from all over the world. Some of these same friends are the ones who have reminded me, in the end, just how similar we all are.”