For the students in Dr. Chad Stebbins’ Introduction to International Studies class at 11 a.m. Friday, things like lunch, afternoon classes and the impending weekend were likely on the brain.

Speaking to them live via Zoom from her home in South London, Alexandra Starks had just wrapped up her workday at 4 p.m. and was now talking about her experiences as a MSSU student and living and working overseas.

“A lot of my friends in the U.S. still seem to have a mindset that I’m on a permanent vacation in the U.K.,” she said. “But at some point, you’re just living and working. And even though I got to study in a university library that looks kind of like Hogwarts, at the end of the day I was still inside writing essays.”

Starks was one of two Outstanding Graduates for the 2015-16 school year, earning her bachelor’s in international studies. She went on to earn her master of science in global health and public policy from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, though when applying she wasn’t sure if she’d be accepted.

“I didn’t think I’d get in, to be honest,” she said. “I applied just to see what happened. By October of the year I graduated, I found out I’d been accepted.”

Starks credited her acceptance to experiences she had at Southern, including her involvement in Model UN and Model Arab League, and studying abroad in Morocco.

“At Missouri Southern, I had access to a whole range of opportunities I might not have had if I had gone to a university with tens of thousands of students,” she said.

She began her career as an information analyst for the British National Health Service, the U.K.’s publicly funded healthcare system. Later she worked on the government side with the Department of Health and Social Care.

“After working in government for a very short time, although I very much enjoyed the experience overall, I don’t think I’m well-suited to that type of work,” she said. “I felt like a cog in a machine. I didn’t feel like I was having any real impact on the people I wanted to be helping.”

Starks’ current position is part of a two-hospital system that serves more than half a million patients.

“There is a massive number of people coming in and out on a daily basis,” she said. “I shadow clinical staff, do a lot of training for internal staff related to improvement and analysis, create dashboards – big walls of data to present to hospital leadership, discuss improvement methodology with medical students, and work with counterparts across London and the U.K.”

Her message to those in the class interested in following in her footsteps was simple: “Think big,” she said, encouraging them to apply to grad school, or for a job or internship that they worry might be out of reach. “Just try it.”

Following her presentation, students in Stebbins’ class were able to ask Starks questions about her daily routine, how she adjusted to living overseas and misconceptions people there had about her when learning she was from Texas.

Cooper Massey, a junior international and political affairs major, took the opportunity to ask Starks several questions about what it was like to live in London.

“(Her presentation) was very interesting,” he said. “We don’t often have the chance to talk to people who have lived, worked and studied in another country.”

Massey said he hopes to follow in Starks’ footsteps by studying abroad.

“I’m going to try a short-term study abroad trip,” he said. “I want to dip my toe in to see how I like it and then see about studying abroad for a full semester.”