Ryan O'Connor - Department of Communication Alumnus
Communication alumnus Ryan O'Connor doesn't want to look back on his life and ever feel as though he turned down an opportunity to learn about the world.
It's for this reason that O'Connor, a Pittsburg native who graduated from PSU in 2001, may already have one of the most diverse resumes of his peers.
This summer, O'Connor moved to Shanghai, China, where he accepted a one-year contract to teach English at Sanda University. The fact that he knew only a few words in Chinese - and that his move there was his first time traveling overseas - didn't deter him from jumping at the chance to experience a new culture.
"I think this is a great opportunity, both personally and professionally," said O'Connor, who got turned on to the idea of teaching in Asia through a friend who does business there and whose wife taught in Indonesia. O'Connor started looking online and stumbled across a U.S. agency that works with Chinese schools to recruit English-speaking teachers.
"I'm hoping that I grow not only as a teacher, but also as a person," he said. "There's so much to learn in this world. I feel that if you stay in one area, you're missing out on so much the world has to offer."
It's a belief he's lived by since his days at Pitt State. Beginning as a sports writer for the Collegio, PSU's student newspaper, O'Conner went on to cover a range of sports from high school to the professional level in Kansas, Florida, South Carolina and Arizona. During that time, he also took a break to pursue a childhood dream: playing professional golf. He smiles when acknowledging it didn't work out, but said he eventually got back on track with his other longtime passions of journalism and English.
With a fresh perspective of the troubles that would lie ahead for print journalism, O'Connor earned a master's degree in education while living in Phoenix.
"I thought that the best way for me to still be a part of journalism was through education," he said. "It's one of the electives being cut from schools, which is unfortunate because it helps students with so many other skills."
It was after teaching in Rhode Island for two years that O'Connor began researching the job in China. Now living on the school's campus, meeting new students and quickly learning how to communicate, it's an adventure he encourages both current PSU students as well as alumni to consider.
"I wouldn't have had the success I've had if it weren't for my family encouraging me to reach my full potential," he said. "What I'm doing now is just part of the adventure of life. You can't be scared to travel and see different places because you can always come home. Seeing new things helps you appreciate what you had growing up, and it adds to the values you've learned. You discover new things about yourself you didn't know existed."