Mind Opener: Webster Alumni Thinking Global in Vienna

Webster Vienna Alumni Eleonora and Isabella Neri, who both graduated in 2013 with a BA International Relations, discuss how Webster gave them the tools to begin their exciting professional lives, their fondest memories at WVPU and some helpful tips for current and future students.

As twins studying simultaneously at Webster, Eleonora and Isabella tended to stick out. For the sisters, it was always nice having someone to turn to in moments of stress or difficulty and maybe study together whenever they sat the same exams. Students and teachers, unaware of the existence of the one or the other, would sometimes confusedly ask questions like “Why do you change clothes between the morning and afternoon class?” much to the amusement of the sisters. In general, though, it was important for them both to stress their individuality, as well as avoid direct competition, so they tended to choose different modules and discover their own personal interests. While they graduated with the same major and they hold similar jobs, the direction of each sister’s role reflects these differing interests.

After leaving Webster, Eleonora and Isabella have gone on to exciting positions in the field of international relations. Both completed notable internships in renowned international organizations here in Vienna, such as at the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), while Isabella also undertook an internship at the EU Delegation to the international organizations in Vienna and Eleonora at the CTBTO (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization).

With the help of these internships, the sisters have managed to establish themselves within such organizations. Isabella currently works as Political Specialist at the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the UN and OSCE, helping Afghanistan with its representation at the UN and OSCE. Eleonora, on the other hand, works as CTBT Desk Officer at the Permanent Missions of Japan to the international organizations in Vienna and especially aids Japanese representation at the CTBTO, an organization which looks to ban nuclear explosions by everyone and everywhere. Their roles now include attending and reporting on meetings, drafting statements and press releases, responsibility for official communication and correspondence, acting as a liaison officer and project manager, organizing events and meetings and much more.

Eleonora and Isabella credit WVPU for their much of their success, as they gained an enhanced ability to work with people from different countries and cultural backgrounds due to Webster’s international community, which has proved crucial for their internships and later jobs in international contexts. They find their work extremely interesting, as they must keep up to date with every major global event, which could influence the course of action or politics for Afghanistan or Japan respectively. In addition, they find it rewarding to try to make a difference in the world in a variety of ways. They even find themselves coordinating at times, as both nations are Asian partners at the OSCE and Japan provides a lot of funding towards anti-narcotics and female empowerment programs in Afghanistan.

When discussing what stands out for them about Webster Vienna, the sisters cite the small class sizes and close relationships with professors not possible at larger universities, the opportunity to study through English, which has proven very useful to their careers, and also the flexibility to choose your own academic path, adjusting the courses to best suit your own needs and interests. The WVPU Ball in 2011, the 30th anniversary of the Vienna campus, is a particularly prized memory for the sisters, who volunteered to open the ball, a unique, Viennese experience.

Eleonora and Isabella sum up their time at Webster Vienna as a “mind opener” and there are really few better placed to offer advice to current and future WVPU students. The sisters recommend students to do a “double major” to make the best use of their time and money. Even more importantly, they encourage students to “seize every opportunity to grow” by always following your interests when choosing courses and getting involved in the many extra-curricular activities available at Webster to make the most of your time here. Because for Eleonora and Isabella, a student’s knowledge and experience is their most valuable asset, one which will stick with you for a life-time.