Education Center intern makes most of college, career opportunities
Submitted by Hillary Bailey, Education Services Specialist, Army Continuing Education Center /
FORT BENNING, Ga. – The Fort Benning Education Center would like to introduce you to one of our interns, Esra Mills.
Esra is completing her internship/practicum with the University of Oklahoma (OU) in the Master of Human Relations (MHR) program where she also happens to be the Site Director.
Even though she just recently began her internship with us, she has been a part of the ACES family since 2015.
In April 2015, Esra, a native of Germany, and the spouse of a Fort Benning Soldier, was working with the Goethe Institute in Atlanta teaching German Language classes at the language institute and at Porsche Cars North America.
Esra contacted us to set up a meeting to propose bringing her classes to Fort Benning. In our first meeting with her, we did not feel the classes would be successful due to the associated costs and other factors.
Esra, however, had a great personality and we knew she would be a great addition to our team in some other capacity, so in our follow-up meeting with her, we offered her a job at our front desk.
She graciously accepted the position, and from there, she moved up to be the Site Director for the University of Oklahoma when OU joined Fort Benning as an on-post school. She has done exceptionally well in managing the MHR program and became a student herself in February 2016.
It has been a wonderful experience to watch Esra move up and grow both academically and professionally.
What has been most impressive, despite the challenges of not being from the United States and English not being her primary language, is that she has gained valuable experience by putting herself out there, taking chances and working hard.
We asked Esra to share more about herself and her experiences.
Tell us about yourself …
I was born and raised in Germany where I studied German and English/American Studies and worked at my university when I met my husband.
When he received orders to move to Fort Bliss, I had to stay in Germany for another year to complete my courses and to wait for my Permanent Residency to get approved. Then I sold my things, packed everything into two suitcases and some boxes that I sent to El Paso, and said good-bye to my family and friends.
It was definitely not an easy thing to leave my old life behind, but I don’t regret it for one day! Five years down the road, one move to Georgia and one baby later, I feel like the United States is my home now.
I am very happy to be able to work in higher education. The Human Relations program that the University of Oklahoma offers is very interesting and I love that I was able to attend half of the classes in the one-week long format here at the Education Center.
A part of this Human Relations Master degree is an internship and I knew right away that I wanted to intern with the Education Center counselors. The program really grew over the last year, and I am so happy that we can serve the Soldiers, spouses, and civilians of this community.
To sum it up, I can say that I am proud of what I have accomplished so far and very happy about the opportunity to continue to learn from the ACES family.
What were some of the challenges you faced coming to the United States from Germany and how did you overcome them?
I had already been to the States in 2009 for an exchange semester at San Diego State, so I did not experience a big cultural shock.
Adjusting to Fort Bliss and living in the desert, however, took me a couple of months. One problem I experienced was learning how the American higher education system works because it is very different from the German system.
Terms like GPA, GRE, GMAT, financial aid, credit hours … I had to make sense of it all, but thanks to the Internet and search engines, I could educate myself.
Military One Source was a great help because they translated my documents and reference letters for free. Then I found out that I not only had to translate everything, but also evaluate my German education, which took more than a year and was sometimes frustrating.
I studied for six years, double-majored, did multiple internships – yet the evaluation agency was only able to transfer all that to a Bachelor’s degree.
What helped me the most was talking to other spouses who went to college, asking questions, researching online, and utilizing the Army Community Service and Education Center counselors. I attended resume writing and other workshops to get a better understanding of how things work here. And I started building relationships and directly asked people with great careers how they got to where they are now.
What advice would you give to others that aren’t sure what to do or how to get started in college?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
First, you should figure out what it is that you love to do, then develop a plan how to get there and most importantly, don’t hesitate to ask for help.
There’s nothing to it but to do it, so you must become pro-active. Research online as to what options you have, talk to education counselors, google Military Spouse scholarship opportunities, and if you have people that you look up to, ask them how they got to where they are now. I discovered that choosing mentors beneficial – and they usually love to share their success stories.
What is one thing you wish someone had told you before:
Surround yourself with like-minded people who are also working on their goals – and don’t listen to people who tell you that it’s too hard, not a good time in your life, not important, etc. Having a supportive environment while you attend college is helpful and will keep you motivated. Raising babies, temporary single parenting while the soldier is gone for months, working… these are all challenging factors. However, secondary education is attainable and you just have to mute the negative voices.