What does attending a concert of iconic rock-n-rollers in Sydney, Australia, have to do with computer science? Quite a lot if you are graduating senior Kara Vaillancourt of Hamilton, Virginia.

While studying abroad Down Under, Vaillancourt checked some not-so-traditional sightseeing experiences off her list, including headbanging to rock legends Iron Maiden during her semester at the University of Technology Sydney.

Traveling is more than a mantra for her, though, it’s a way of life. Just as her journeys as an undergraduate allowed her to experience radically different cultures and ways of thinking, the hurdles and challenges she met  while making her way through Department of Computer Science classes in the College of Engineering allowed her to grow as an individual, also.

“Study abroad was not only an opportunity for me to become comfortable with being in radically different parts of the world, but also helped round out my education from strictly technical classes to classes that helped my understanding of the world through entrepreneurship and classical arts like drawing or painting,” said Vaillancourt. “If I find myself going down a project management route later, these skills will not only be useful in the information technology field in the future, they also helped me to become a more empathetic, considerate human being right now before I enter the workplace.”

Vaillancourt, who also served as a departmental ambassador, “takes pride in being a ‘serial traveler,' " so it’s no surprise that when her studies were completed in Australia, she traversed the Pacific Rim with stops in Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Hong Kong.

Her next great foray will be into the unknown wilderness of post-college life. There Vaillancourt will join technolgy juggernaut Microsoft as part of the company's Cloud and Enterprise Team.

It’s been a long journey from her high school in Loudon County, Virginia, to trading the mountains and forests of the New River Valley for those that encircle Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. When Vaillancourt was deciding which major to choose in college she felt pulled in many directions from areas as diverse as art to nursing. When she was selected as an Aspirations Award Winner by the National Center for Women and Information Technology her decision was made and she hasn’t regretted it since.

“I’ve been involved in two incredible research opportunities working with the latest technology in augmented reality, as well as redefining the standards for 3-D printing as a student here,” she said. “The Department of Computer Science has prepared me for a lifelong career of learning and accomplishment. During my time I was able to secure scholarships to attend the world’s largest female computing conference, the Grace Hopper Celebration, for several years in a row. I’ve also been able to work at some of the top tech companies including Qualcomm, Apple, and Microsoft thanks to the career fairs offered here each semester. I am very prepared to meet my future on the West Coast thanks to my education here at Virginia Tech.”

Written by Amy Loeffler