No compromise between career and travel for alumna Katie Borman
Katie Borman (BA ’15) came to Loyola as an Advertising and Public Relations major, but it was her Quinlan minors in marketing and management that led her to her career as a research analyst for C + R Research, a Chicago-based market insights agency that specializes in traditional and innovative research methodologies.
“I took Dr. Stacy Neier Beran’s undergraduate Market Research course and the class sparked my interest in consumer research,” says Borman. “The idea of looking at what consumers do and why, and the associated business implications was fascinating to me, so that’s what I decided I wanted to pursue. I found internships in account management and consumer research and have been in the industry ever since.”
Her Quinlan experience also inspired an international lens from which to better understand the world.
“Taking courses with an international focus, like International Marketing with Professor Eve K. Geroulis, showed me how imperative it is to look beyond the United States. It’s so important to be globally-minded in today’s business world, as we are more connected now than we ever have been before, and this will only continue to expand in years to come.”
Borman also had an itch to continue traveling, a passion that was ignited during her undergraduate experience at Loyola. But as a young professional just starting her career, the opportunity for international adventures seemed far off.
“During my undergrad, I studied at Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center for a semester and fell in love with travel and learning about different cultures,” says Borman. “I wanted to continue to explore the world after graduating, but it became difficult when I was trying to balance a demanding career.”
A priceless opportunity from an unlikely source
Borman never thought it would have been possible to find a way to travel internationally and continue pursuing her career simultaneously. But, she found the solution in an unlikely place: Instagram.
“An old friend was posting beautiful photos from various Latin American countries over the course of a few months, and I couldn’t understand how she managed to take so much time off work to travel internationally every month,” says Borman. “I knew I was missing something, but when I looked more closely at her Instagram hashtags I noticed that she had tagged #RemoteYear in some of her photos. All it took was one quick Google search and I knew immediately that ‘Remote Year’ was something I had to do.”
Remote Year is a program that offers 4-, 6-, and 12-month travel programs for working professionals who want to travel the world in community with other like-minded people without having to quit their jobs. Participants bring their jobs with them and work remotely from a different country each month for the duration of their program. Remote Year coordinates all travel logistics and accommodations and provides access to local co-working spaces so participants can focus on their work and experience. Borman partook in a four-month program in Latin America. She worked and lived in Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru; Medellin, Colombia; and Mexico City, Mexico, from August through November 2019.
A transformed work approach
Borman’s work often involves researching consumers in Latin American markets making this particular program a perfect fit for her career. Through her time in each country, the nuances between each country grew all the more striking.
“As Americans, we have a tendency to make generalizations about different places and cultures, and Latin America is no exception. We often see it as one culture,” says Borman. “But really, it’s a massive, incredibly diverse part of the globe made up of many different countries and cultures. States and regions in the US are known for their different cultural nuances, such as dialects, political affiliations, traditions, etc., but marketers are continuing to put Latin America into a one-size-fits-all cultural box, which isn’t accurate. This experience was a wonderful reminder that so many cultural nuances exist, many of which we don’t see or understand until we experience them first-hand.”
All four countries Borman visited were Spanish speaking. Having taken Spanish in elementary school through high school, it was an opportunity to stretch her language skills in a humbling way.
“It was deeply frustrating not to be able to fully communicate with people in the native language of the countries I was living in,” says Borman. “I felt ashamed when people would switch to English for me if they noticed I was struggling. I wanted so desperately to be able to show respect to the people I was speaking to by using their language and not have them adapt to meet me. I was the visitor; I should have been able to communicate in their language, not the other way around.”
While Borman’s Spanish skills improved over the course of her four-month program, she did not reach the level of fluency she had planned to, but is hoping to continue practicing Spanish now that she is back in the states.
“I think you gain a new sense of empathy when you attempt to learn a language that isn’t your own and have to figure out how to communicate with other people that you don’t fully understand and who don’t understand you,” says Borman. “It’s this deeply human moment; you quickly learn how challenging it is, and how difficult it must be for anyone who finds themselves living in a place where the language being spoken isn’t what they know. I think we could all be more empathetic towards anyone struggling through a language that is foreign to them.”
Four months of self-discovery
Over the course her Remote Year program, Borman learned as much about herself as she did the countries and cultures she encountered.
“I learned I’m a lot more adaptable than I thought I was, and more resilient. I travelled for four months with 30 people I had never met before in countries I had never been to, where I wasn’t fluent in the language. I was working full-time during our company’s busiest quarter of the year in environments I wasn’t accustomed to working in. Being able to work through all the challenges I experienced and find ways to continue forward was huge for me.”
One of her biggest takeaways from the program was a renewed appreciation for our global community.
“While the world is a very scary place sometimes, the foundation I received at Loyola continues to remind me that there is also great beauty in humanity and learning how to connect with others across borders and across cultures is a tremendous way to experience this beauty. It all starts with having curiosity, an open-mind, and a willingness to see the world from a different perspective.”