Connecting with alumni groups on your travels

The reach of your university’s network extends around the world

Fifteen years ago, as an undergrad at Boston University I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia. There’s no shortage of pages to write about this experience, but to keep it short: I made lifelong friends, learned through my studies and travels, and became close with cousins who lived there. Not only did these experiences remain as memories, but also they established a foundation that has only deepened with time.

After graduating, I was grateful to meet the BU leads in Dublin and London who welcomed me as a young alumni. I joined the Dublin program for Thanksgiving dinner one year, and the London team hosted me at its offices before and after job interviews. But more importantly, they enriched how I understood my alma mater beyond the main campus stretching along Commonwealth Ave. back in Boston Even now, whenever I spend meaningful time in locations with a formal program or a dedicated alumni network, I make a point of reaching out while there.

I suspect Cathlin was a bit surprised the first time I reached out to her alma mater, the University of Michigan, in hopes of finding a spot for her to cheer on Michigan football with fellow alumni overseas. So far, we’ve done so in Dublin and Sydney, both of which we organized and then passed along to the local alumni contacts with an invitation for others to join. And we *almost* watched the double-overtime 2016 Game against Ohio State at a bar in Tokyo, but we couldn’t concede to pay middle-of-the-night taxi fares, walk an hour each direction, or risk missing our early morning bus to Narita for our flight home. A year and a half later, we kept our eyes out for the Michigan team on their spring trip to Paris, thanks to a tip from the French alumni contact.

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Out for a crawl in Darling Harbour after watching University of Michigan football first thing in the morning from Sydney

No matter how large or small your school, dropping a note to your alumni network while traveling can be a great way to have a contact locally and to make new friends or even future colleagues. And whether or not you attended college, a search of your social networks (Facebook and LinkedIn especially) might similarly reveal a few friends, or friends of friends, who you didn’t realize are living wherever you’re visiting. If you’re moving there, even better.

Remember, before you reach out:

  • Review the alumni section of your school’s website to see where the local networks are
  • If the site lists a local alumni volunteer or club lead, use the contact info they’ve shared
  • If no local contact is listed, you may wish to search the alumni directory or contact the department of alumni relations to ask if they have any direct referrals there

Don’t forget to be clear about who you are and what you’re asking: Mention the dates you’ll be around and include why you’ll be there. There’s a big difference between asking if there are group plans for a sporting event and asking for professional introductions.

I’ve felt lucky to get back to the Boston University program in Sydney a few times over the years on account of both work and personal travels — and even luckier to be able to stop by with both Cathlin and Eliza a few months ago. The campus is now in an altogether different location from where I had studied, and much of the neighborhood is nearly unrecognizable; however, the local BU team was as warm and welcoming (and literally almost entirely the same people) as when I first arrived nearly half my life ago.

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Eliza’s closet represents both Dada and Mama

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