Tag Archives: Life

Natural Talent

Hubby and I had an interesting conversation last night about professions and why some get paid more than others. For example a professional basketball player probably works less hours than many factory workers, but his salary is exponentially larger. In the end we decided that he can do something that the majority of the population cannot do. Because of his unique talents, we as a society compensate him financially. While hard work is certainly part of his success, part of it is also natural talent. The same goes for pop singers, actors, brilliant business people, etc.

I am a study abroad advisor. Perhaps anyone could do my job. Anyone could learn the programs and visa requirements. Anyone could encourage others to travel. I think the difference between anyone and me is that I really love college students. I light up when they come in the office and bribe them with food to come visit me. I can’t wait to hear about their planning, their challenges, and their adventures. When one called me yesterday to tell me she got a job, I felt so proud. Each of those students make me want to go to work every day. Though my profession may not be financially rewarded, I feel paid in full by the relationships I have with them. That is my natural talent.

Friday was my last day at my university. Originally I was going to write that it was my last day as a study abroad advisor, but that is not true. I think I will always be a study abroad advisor. It’s something I am truly passionate about. So whether I’m paid or not, I think in order to be truly happy, I have to be doing something in this capacity. So as Hubby and I move to Oklahoma and I continue to be global from home, I will also be seeking as many opportunities to help college students experience the world around us. In this way, I hope to use my natural talent.

What are you really good at? Are you pursuing it?

Becoming a Study Abroad Advisor

When I tell people what I do for a living, I usually get one of two responses:

  1. What is a Study Abroad Advisor?
  2. That is the coolest job in the world.

I tend to prefer the second response as I 100% agree. I am living my dream job. How many people at the age of 30 can really say that?

I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a Study Abroad Advisor; in fact I doubt many people grow up with that goal. My path was round about. I started pre-med, switched to pre-law, then contemplated getting an MBA and finally decided to get a Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration. But even then, I still didn’t think about being a Study Abroad Advisor.  Nope…I wanted to be Greek Life Director. I had just graduated from college, had accepted a job with my international sorority as a leadership consultant and planned to go to graduate school so I could advise fraternity men and sorority women for the rest of my days.  At least that’s what I thought, until one day when I was in Italy.

After studying abroad twice with my Italian professor, she asked me to be her program assistant for the summer after I graduated. My job consisted of counting to 40 a lot (40 students on the program), buying tickets, enforcing quiet hours, etc., and in return I got to be in Italy for 8 weeks for free. Best job ever. At the end of every program, my Italian professor took our group to the Aeolian Islands to get some rest and relaxation before final exams. It is one of my favorite places in the world; I love the black volcanic sand and swimming in underwater craters. It is a true paradise. It is also the location of one of the most significant moments in my life. I was standing on the docks with my Italian professor one evening after dinner and I remember her saying, “Elise, I just don’t think you’ll be happy working with fraternities and sororities for the rest of your life. I really think you should consider international education.”

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Vulcano, Italy – one of my favorite places in the world and where I first contemplated a career in international education

While I didn’t think much of it at the moment, her words resound in my head still today. As I started my job with the sorority, I quickly realized she was right. It wasn’t fulfilling. I wasn’t inspired.  Six months into my job, I was headed to Argentina to visit my best friend and I felt troubled and lacking direction. While on the plane I began reading The Eighth Habit by Stephen Covey, a book that had been given to me by one of my mentors. The book said that in order to be effective, we have to be great. In order to be great, we have to be passionate. I let this swirl around in my mind. What was I truly passionate about? I loved the college experience. I loved traveling and exploring. I loved studying abroad in Italy. It was at that moment that my Italian professor’s words came back to me and everything clicked. I realized I could combine all my passions if became a study abroad advisor.

Grad school, eight years and three universities later, here I am, in the best of positions I could ever imagine. My students awe and amaze me every day. I am energized by their experiences abroad and find so much joy when I can convince a student to do a semester overseas; I know it will be the best semester of her life.  While my time as an advisor in San Diego is drawing to a close, I am more confident than ever that this is the perfect career path for me. And until I find the right position in Oklahoma, I plan on being a virtual advisor via the blogosphere and Facebook.  So any study abroad students out there, if you need some help, don’t hesitate to ask!

Interested in exploring a career in International Education?

1. Register for the study abroad listserv – SECUSS-L I recommend the digest version…otherwise expect 5 to 20 emails a day. This listserv is specifically geared towards education abroad and is very active. On the listserv you’ll see emails from professionals asking questions about different programs, marketing their own programs, and posts for positions. Many entry-level positions get posted here by both study abroad providers and universities. It’s a great place to know where you can apply but also to get a feel for what is going on in the field.

2. Check out NAFSA (the biggest organization for international ed) for job postings and conferences. It is our national organization for international education and their website has great resources. NAFSA is divided into into regions and usually the regional conferences are held in the fall. They are a bit pricey but having gone to a regional conference does show initiative and is great for a resume. It’s also a great way to meet people in the region and start building your network. There often are scholarships too that you can apply for to go and most regions offer a mentoring program for young professionals.

3. Explore graduate programs in Higher Education Administration or other relatable field (MBA, foreign language, etc). If you are interested in a job at a university, a masters degree is usually required. Sometimes exceptions are made if you have a lot of life experience, but if you are straight out of college, an advisor position will be hard to get. Once in grad school, engage with the study abroad office on your campus any way possible. I got started by volunteering for 5 hours a week on a project in the Study Abroad Office at the University of South Carolina while in my first year of grad school. When a job opening came available, it was pretty much mine.

4. If you aren’t ready for grad school, research different study abroad program providers. For recent grads, this is probably the easiest way into the field. Many program providers have university relations staff that typically are younger staffers (under 27) and travel around the US to market the study abroad programs. We call them road warriors because they are out of the office a lot and most people only do this kind of role for 2 or 3 years before they move into a more stationary position. The great thing about these positions is that there are lots of them, you get to do a lot of travel (some international travel may happen in the summer), and you get exposed to a ton of different schools. The down side is living out of a suitcase and the pay is usually pretty low. Then again, pay in study abroad is typically not so great so don’t expect to get rich in this field.

My final advice no matter what route you take is to really hone in on why you want to pursue a career in study abroad. Loving to travel is not a good enough reason. You have to really want to help others have the experience you had. I also believe that you can’t expect a career in study abroad means you’ll get to do a lot of travel yourself. Some positions do send you abroad a lot but often if you work at a university this is not the case. Finally, I would really research the issues currently in study abroad and find something that resonates with you that you can focus on in your cover letter and interviews. Some of the hot topics right now are curriculum integration, social media and study abroad, enhancing cultural integration, long vs. short term study abroad programs, returnee programming, and assessment of cultural learning. Melibee Global is great site to do some initial research.

Pottering

Today I am pottering.  I didn’t even know what that was until yesterday, but now that I do, I want to potter all the time. I was reading the blog The Silent Soul and her list of “50 signs you are a grown up”.  It didn’t take me long to realize the list was not American, but rather British.  Here were the ones that gave it away:

  • 17. Taking trips to the local tip
  • 29. Spending weekend just ‘pottering’
  • 46. Having a ‘best’ crockery set

There were others too, but these three definitely stood out.  For all you Americans, the local tip seems to be the same as a dump or junk yard and a crockery set is a tea set.  But the one I love best is pottering.  According to my Google search, pottering is to occupy oneself in a desultory but pleasant manner, doing a number of small tasks. Isn’t this great?  I’m wondering if I could be a professional pottering-er.  If I were, here would be my favorite pottering tasks:

1. Make my to-do list (I can’t live without it!)

2. Send everyone I know a birthday card on their birthday (Because who doesn’t love to get mail)

Courtesy of Little Red Mail Box

3. Make gifts for all my friends’ new babies. (There are a lot of them these days!)

I actually made these. 🙂

4. Practice Italian. (Because it was my second major but it is severely lacking right now.)

5. Try a new international recipe every day. (Blog-worthy material)

These lettuce wraps were delicious.

What would you do if you could potter all the time?

Check out these sites for more on pottering: