How study abroad can shape a career path

May 3, 2019

It often seems like the most fulfilling opportunities are never ones that we expect. For Galen Karlan-Mason ’16 MBA ’17, his study abroad experience changed his career path for the better.

As an undergraduate at Brandeis, Karlan-Mason was an international and global studies and business double major, originally in a concentration of real estate. He was also a varsity soccer player during his first three years at Brandeis.

During his spring semester of junior year, he traveled to Peru to study and was extremely immersed in the Peruvian culture, playing soccer and taking courses. Karlan-Mason made the ultimate decision to take a semester off from Brandeis, so he could spend an entire year in Peru, forgoing his senior soccer season at Brandeis.

“I really felt like I was not done,” Karlan-Mason said. “There was more learning to be had and that it was never going to get easier to take this time away.” He knew that this could be a “life-changing experience” but needed more time in Peru to make it happen. “It’s going to fundamentally form who I am as a human being and as a young adult, and there was [sic] reasons that I would’ve denied myself that, but I had to seize it,” he said.

Unlike some of the other students that were abroad with him, Karlan-Mason felt his experience was different because of how immersed he was in the culture. He had the opportunity to play soccer while in Peru and made a lot of Peruvian friends through the soccer team.

While staying the extra semester in Peru, Karlan-Mason took only one class to not only focus on playing soccer, playing both varsity and on a semi-professional team but also work on a non-profit, Golazos2, with one of his Peruvian teammates. In Spanish, “golazo” refers to a “magnificent goal,” according to Karlan-Mason, which was the inspiration behind the name of the organization.

“It’s a play on working with life goals and using soccer to help achieve those,” he said. “We had created a soccer-based curriculum to work with boys and girls ages nine to 13 on issues of equality, gender relations, healthy living and goal setting but all in the form of a soccer practice. Outside looking in, it just looks like soccer practice, but close up, every activity is designed to foster some type of collaborative effort, problem solving and discussion around these issues.”

After coming back to Brandeis from his year abroad, Karlan-Mason learned that his nonprofit, which took three-fourths of a year to build, had died in two months. “It was incredibly sobering,” he said. “A true failure… But the greatest lessons come from failures.” He went on to talk about how he was humbled by the challenges of building a business, which helped him realize that there are organizations that work towards righteous causes, but “these efforts will live and die by their funding. I started to obsess with that idea,” Karlan-Mason said. “I was recognizing that there was a lot more to learn.”

With both his parents as educators, Karlan-Mason was taught from a young age that “our choices have an impact, and we have to be very conscious and make them with the right intention and that if we make these conscious choices as a collective, we can have a profound impact and can affect large scale change.”

While in graduate school, Karlan-Mason started to shift his interest towards sustainability and bringing together environmental and sustainability issues toward food shopping. His biggest goal was to leave the Brandeis International Business School (IBS) wanting to work with him on his project.

Through his work with IBS, he started GreenChoice, an organization that makes healthy and sustainable shopping more affordable and easy. “Time is our most valuable asset,” said Karlan-Mason. “Which is why we do all the research for you, so you can save time and still live sustainably.”

The GreenChoice team looks at different food products in grocery stores on various dimensions and gives out a green score based on nutritional value, carbon footprint, etc. to help consumers learn which foods are the most sustainable and best to consume.

According to Karlan-Mason, they have 12 major retailers that they work with and have created scores for over 55,000 products, all of which can be scanned with their mobile app. He hopes that over time, people are able to realize the impact that they can make to live a better life.

Menu Title