Do you have a passion for travel and exploration? Up next in our Careers Discovery series is Client Experience Ambassador, Kirsten Berlan. Long before she was supporting multinational companies’ global mobility programs worldwide, she experienced the joys of international travel and never looked back. Kirsten shares how she began her career in the global immigration sector and how the craving for global travel continues to drive her today.
My career can be defined by one trait: the love of exploration. This passion began at an early age when, at 16-years-old, my parents let me travel to Puerto Rico for a month – by myself! – to stay with family and immerse myself in the culture and Spanish language. I remember the first few days were scary and uncomfortable as I had never left the continental U.S. before this trip. By the end of the month though, I didn’t want to go home – what about the food, the people, and the culture I had fallen in love with? From that moment, I knew that traveling and experiencing the world would be an integral part of my life. When I went to college, I expanded on my love of exploration by studying International Relations: it was fascinating to learn about other cultures and their governments. If my studies taught me anything, it is that our world is deeply connected – now more so than ever – and our actions affect many others, even if they are on the other side of the globe.
It was almost by accident that I fell into a career in global immigration. I was fresh out of college and, like many young people my age, I needed a job to support my fledgling freedom. As chance may have it, a well-known U.S. immigration firm was growing their global immigration practice and needed energetic people who could think on their feet to build the foundations of the new team. I loved the work from the beginning as each case was different and provided unique challenges depending on a multitude of factors. Case managers could never be complacent and that drove me to improve every day. I learned the value of hard work as I strove to ensure that my clients reached their destinations with the proper visa to do their jobs.
Even though I was happy with my career helping clients, my wanderlust was calling once again and I knew that I needed to spend some time seeing the world on my own terms. The need to explore is as much about discovering yourself as it is about seeing new and exciting things. My husband and I saved every penny and planned an adventure that would change our lives. With the blessings and well wishes of our families, we boarded a plane headed for Hong Kong. Eighteen hours later we arrived at the first stop of a year-long backpacking adventure that would cover nine countries, test us, and delight us in every way imaginable. We traveled from Hong Kong to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. We crossed international borders by bus, car, and airplane and I truly came to appreciate what my clients must have felt like entering a foreign country with just a suitcase, a passport, and a visa stamp granting them access to a strange new land.
I returned from my wild adventure a different person, changed by the culture, people, and history to which I had been exposed. I adopted the mindset of “Jai Yen” which translates to “Cool Heart” in Thai. It is the belief that if you lose your temper, not only do you lose face and hurt yourself, but you also disgrace the person to whom you are speaking. To have a cool heart means that even in tense situations, you show respect by keeping calm and collected and therefore your heart remains pure. I strive to implement this mantra every day in my professional and personal life to better serve my clients and enjoy time with my loved ones.
I have been with Pro-Link GLOBAL for six years and my love of adventure has only grown. I am truly lucky to have a career where I can help employees and their families start their own journeys. Their bravery in the face of moving their entire lives abroad, their hopes of a new adventure, and their fear of the unknown shows me that we are all the same, no matter where we come from. Each one of us is here for such a short amount of time that you must seize every opportunity to push yourself past your comfort zone. Who knows, you may find that you have the same love of exploration.