Alumna catapults her global career with Steelcase

Nearly a decade after two life-changing study abroad experiences offered through Davenport University, Sara Brondsema, ’07, MBA ’09, is living and working in Munich, Germany.

The adventure wasn’t something she had planned to pursue so early in her career. Hired by Steelcase in 2015 as a learning consultant, Brondsema was only beginning to get a handle on her role when the opportunity to help open the new Steelcase headquarters in Munich came up.

“Sometimes great opportunities present themselves,” she said. “But more often, great opportunities happen because you’re constantly preparing yourself to make them happen. Doors don’t always open at the exact moment you want them to, so you have to be ready to jump.”

Last July, Brondsema boarded a plane to Munich with a handful of her personal items in tow and a shipping container of her furniture set to arrive a few weeks later.

“Adventure is not easy,” she said. “Moving to Europe is great, but it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be emotionally difficult and I’ll question if I can do it. When you’re climbing that mountain, you’ll have moments of doubt. Can I get all the way to the top? Why did I start this? It’s about having the courage. Rewarding experiences are often difficult.”

Adventures in Learning
Brondsema, who picked DU because of its reputation for hands-on learning and small class sizes, studied abroad twice — in London as an undergrad and in Germany during her master’s program.

“Studying abroad gave me a safe way to get out of my comfort zone and travel to build my confidence,” she said.

Born and raised in West Michigan, Brondsema traveled quite frequently to visit family living in Pennsylvania and Florida, but never had an extravagant family vacation. She spent her time outdoors in the country, riding bikes, hiking and finding adventure in active and frugal ways. After her college study abroad experiences, however, she continued to travel with confidence and without a guide, making solo trips to Spain, Ireland and Germany.

“I feel like life is too short to have a small set of hobbies and interests,” Brondsema said. “I like to collect experiences and having that richness gives me a palette to connect with other people.”

Her experiences traveling abroad shaped the beliefs she holds now about the important and distinct differences between cultures and being a better-rounded person when she experiences diversity.

“Those beliefs shaped my actions of seeking an international company to work for and being vocal about seeking international work,” Brondsema said. “Finally, it led to my courage to seize opportunities when I see them.”

Brondsema advises others seeking adventure — in their life or career — to take the leap when an opportunity arises.

“Say yes and see what happens,” she said.

Supporting study abroad
Sara Brondsema supports the Davenport University Study Abroad Scholarship Fund that helps DU students seek adventure, learn about new cultures and gain experience.

“I will be forever thankful for the opportunities to study abroad as a DU student,” she said. “My trips opened my eyes to new adventures and experiences. And, now, that’s why I go on adventures – to learn something about myself or other people. It’s about growth.”

No matter what adventure you experienced with the help of DU — whether it be studying abroad, BPA, an internship or a dream job — you can support the experiences and growth of others through a gift. Give today. 


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