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Elaina Giolando on her way to a business meeting with the President of one of the national agricultural associations in Lagos, Nigeria.

Elaina Giolando ’11 followed her heart at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and beyond to New York City; Lagos, Nigeria; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; and to her current posting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Giolando attributes her globe-trotting career to the international exposure and encouragement she gained while a student at Carolina.

When Giolando came to Carolina from Buffalo, New York, as an undergrad, she expected to major in business. “But I left with a degree in international relations, full proficiency in Mandarin Chinese and a job offer from IBM Global Business Services,” she recalled. “I saw how successful other Tar Heels were who simply followed their hearts.”

Although Giolando currently works in the business world, as a student she interned with non-governmental organizations in Guatemala and Egypt. She studied Chinese, traveled to Singapore in the Southeast Asia Summer Program and proactively sought out the funding to make her path feasible. Those experiences paid off when it came time to launch her career, according to Giolando, who drew on her global education in interviews and job applications. She is also multilingual, capable of speaking Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish.

While a student at Carolina, Giolando seized a number of global opportunities. She participated in the UNC Semester in China Program as a Phillips Ambassador, an award for students to pursue study abroad in Asia. She also earned a Class of 1938 Award, which provides funding for students to pursue independent projects outside the United States.

“Because of what I learned at Carolina, I was not afraid to take a career risk by moving to Nigeria to accept my current position,” she said, noting that the move allowed to her embark on a unique personal and professional path.

Giolando left IBM to work with ASAP Worldwide as a project coordinator and international sales executive. For her work, she travels to a new country in Latin America, Asia or Africa every three to four months, interviewing business leaders and members of the government about emerging markets. Giolando also manages advertising sales.

Giolando after interviewing Norovyn Altankhuyag, the prime minister of Mongolia, for her company’s Fortune Magazine report.

Of all the places she has lived and worked so far, Giolando said that her personal favorite was Lagos, Nigeria, because of its intensity and oddly charming character. Still, she describes Mongolia as one of the most amazing places she’s visited. “Its sheer isolation, rich and [often] misunderstood cultural traditions and persistent nomadic lifestyle make it a destination that shocks travelers into beginning to appreciate the immense diversity of human life on earth,” Giolando explained.

Her professional experience has given her insight into how recent graduates can build the career of their dreams: “Gain two to three years [of] experience at home in a reputable company or organization but never stop looking abroad for what you really want to be doing,” she said. “Move to a big city after college to maximize your exposure to opportunities, utilize the Carolina alumni network and make sure you have a stellar LinkedIn presence.”

Giolando’s website ( explores the intersection between her career, travel and personal growth.

Story courtesy of UNC Global

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