Tag Archives: Study Abroad

International Education Week… Back Again!

As my regular readers know, in my non-blogging life I am an international student advisor at a school in New England. So I can’t let International Education Week slip by without giving it a shout out, like last year.

It’s also why I took a blogging hiatus last week– between IEW prep, an international educators conference, the end of Tihar and the unbelievably quick (soon-to-be) arrival of Thanksgiving, stuff just got piled up!

Anyway, back to IEW– As I put in all my program emails this week:

International Education Week was initiated in 2000, and has been held annually each November. Now in its eleventh year, it is celebrated in more than 100 countries worldwide. It is a week which allows communities, such as colleges and universities, to celebrate and highlight international and intercultural diversity, and to appreciate the importance of a multicultural environment, particularly for a learning community.

Even though the US State Department picked a horrible week to highlight international education (the week before Thanksgiving– seriously? When students are thinking more about turkey and vacation than school?) I still like getting into it. I decorate the campus with flags, send “international fast fact” emails to the whole school, and set up guest speakers and programs. I’m excited to be showing a film on Friday called “Crossing Borders”

…a feature documentary that follows four Moroccan and four American university students as they travel together through Morocco and, in the process of discovering “The Other,” discover themselves.

I met the director at the international educators conference last week, and was able to secure a copy of the award-winning film. Woo-hoo! To watch the trailer click HERE.

So take a moment to appreciate an (educational) international/intercultural moment in your life. Did you have a life changing study abroad experience? Did you meet your significant other when he/she was an international student at your school (or vice-versa)? What is your favorite “international” memory/story? (please share!)

My semester in Kenya as an undergraduate was one of my favorite times abroad... that's me standing on top of the landrover with some of my classmates and one of my favorite professors of all time (in red) while on safari in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya.

and who could forget the picture of me dressed like a Maasai woman? Taken right before I became horribly sick from sun poisoning, heat stroke, and dehydration (“delicate mzungu”)…

Weird Dreams and Pipe Dreams

I had a weird dream last night.

I dreamed that I was at a conference in a big room full of people that I didn’t recognize, but somehow  knew that many of the people in this big hall worked at the same institution as me, and they were all talking about Nepal… how professors at the school were writing a huge book about Nepal, teaching classes about Nepal, and talking about creating a new abroad program to Nepal, stuff like that. It was like Nepal was the hottest latest thing at the university, and I had no idea. I was running around the conference tables asking, “Why didn’t anyone tell me? I’d really love to help!” but no one wanted to listen to me. I was really frustrated and depressed. Then I woke up and it was 4:58 in the morning. Sigh.

Hmmm… what does it mean? I’m not big on dream analysis, although sometimes I think that my dreams are a way for my brain to sort through different thoughts and experiences that I’ve been having/going through–mixing them in a strange way and letting them play out on a stage in my mind.

So what can be relatable? Two weeks ago I wrote a paper (for some coursework I’ve been finishing up for a degree in international education) on creating international programs. When I first graduated from undergrad I worked for a “third party provider” high school study abroad program, and had I been better prepared to take on the challenges of it, I might have been able to create all sorts of programming. For a series of reasons (including being a one woman office with no director, and spending most of my time as a telemarketer instead of a program provider) the job didn’t work out, but it got me interested in something else… I thought it would be fun to create and run a program in Nepal some day… a “pipe dream” so to speak. Ideally it would be great to do it in conjunction with P… I could do logistics, recruiting, program design, orientations, culture stuff and P could teach the program from a sustainability and environmental background. I think we would make an incredible team.

I don’t know if it will ever really happen, but it makes my life kind of schizophrenic, because I’m always thinking about two potential paths– my five year plan always seems to have two directions. This leads me to have silly arguments with myself like: will we ever own a house, because if we did it would make it harder to up and leave the country; or I wonder how I’ll pay my education loans back if we have small Nepali incomes; or will it ever be too late to decide to do something really “out of our comfort zones” and really entrepreneurial like creating a company and running programs?  Not to mention, I like the job I have now (international student advising)… and I’m sure I’ll still really like it when P finishes his degree and we have to make a decision– stay here, move somewhere else in the US, go to Nepal. So I don’t know.

Also, last week I encouraged the Nepali students at the university to sponsor a “Nepali dinner night” (as part of the international student council activities) where they made nearly 600 (delicious!!) momos for the campus. It was a lot of fun, and when some students showed up early to eat and the momos weren’t quite ready, I happily put them to work teaching them my veg momo folding technique (I should make a video on youtube about this! Note to self).

This one history professor (in particular) who works at the school came to the “Nepali dinner night” who (I think) was in the Peace Corps in Nepal (or maybe he was a Fulbright?) and can speak the language fluently. He and I have run into each other a few times at different Nepali get togethers, although I have a feeling he always forgets who I am… I mean, I’m usually the only other American he finds at Nepali festival parties, how hard am I to remember? Anyway, we saw each other at the event and he mentioned that he wanted to push the study abroad office at our school to create a program in Nepal (BINGO!!!) although he had the feeling that the administrators there were still too leery about the political climate, and probably aren’t ready yet. The study abroad people have already sent this professor to lead a program in Costa Rica and Australia, and with his Nepali-influenced background, he would be a prime candidate in helping to organize something like this if he could allay the fears of political turmoil.

I think this might be where my dream came from. I told him not to forget me if he moves ahead with the plan, because I’d be VERY VERY (did I mention VERY?) interested in helping, and that I knew of several college programs (like SIT’s) which were planning to start their programs back up again (a sign of the political situation getting better). He kind of smiled non-committally.

However my boss helps with the Denmark study abroad program—teaching a Danish Culture class before students depart, and travels to Copenhagen every year to grade their final projects. Sure, my boss is Danish, and speaks the language fluently, but I think if given the opportunity I could design a great Nepali culture pre-departure course! I’d love to travel to Kathmandu once a year to grade projects. Not to mention this would bring me one step closer to my “pipe dream.”

So anyway… I think my subconscious is worried that opportunities are abound that might pass me by. Powers of the universe, I plead, don’t let that happen! Remember my secret talent… “I can talk about Nepali culture for three hours without stopping… probably without even taking a breath…”

Education Abroad

I have been working on this really boring project at work. Basically we are installing a new database program for management of international student files, and as part of the program prep I had to go through all of our students files and cross-check their addresses, then update the current system and convert their “local” address to a new special address form called “IN” and then switch their “permanent address” back to their foreign address—an ongoing battle—since other university admins have different definitions of what “permanent address” means and are forever changing it (If anyone touches my changes I will hunt them down!!!) With nearly 650 students, and working on the project by myself, as well as having to meet with students for regular appointments, it took me the better part of 3 ½ weeks to complete. Today I finished the “Z’s” and I now realize just how many students have last names that start with “L,” “M,” “S,” “W,” “Y,” and “Z” (thank you China).

OnPointAnyway to keep myself sane while working on this (besides taking occasional breaks to peek at blogs) I have been listening to a lot of NPR (I could go on and on and on and on about the love I have for NPR, especially for WBUR, the awesome Boston NPR station I listened to before I even moved to New England). In particular I’ve been listening to archived broadcasts of one of my favorite programs, “On Point with Tom Ashbrook” (and no… he’s not my favorite just because his wife is also an international student advisor who I have done visa workshops with, but because he is totally awesome.)

Anyway, as I was finishing the “Z’s” today I started listening to an archived broadcast from back in July called “Global Students” and the intro on the website that caught my attention was this:

Everybody knows the straight and narrow, up-and-out formula for American success: good grades, good scores, good college, big debt … good luck.

My guests today, Maya and Tom Frost, say forget it. There’s a better way, they say. And the path leads abroad — early.

Stay home studying for SATs and taking on college debt, and you’re guaranteed nothing in this topsy-turvy economy. Go abroad — as early as high school, especially for college, they say — and you’ll find low tuitions, big adventures, and the future.

This hour, On Point: A new American way in the world. Going global, right from the start.

I really enjoyed the program and felt that these parents reflect a lot of my own feelings about education abroad. So I wanted to make sure I shared the program with you all. Feel free to listen to the streaming podcast HERE… it’s only 45 mins long.

When I was a kid I was dying to study abroad. I found out about the Rotary Youth Exchange program in high school and contacted the local chapter. My parents “went along with it” for a little while (probably hoping I’d lose interest or chicken out) until I started filling out applications to spend a year abroad. I think they were horrified (especially since I am the oldest sibling, so perhaps the “overprotective” parent syndrome was in full effect)… “you are too young!” “we only get to spend x amount of time with you before you go off into the world, we would rather you stay home…” “it is too expensive… we can’t afford it…” basically any excuse/explanation under the sun that they could give me to dissuade me from going. I applied to the program anyway, and once accepted my parents refused to pay anything and contacted the local Rotary coordinator to tell them to stop encouraging me to do something they refused to allow. Instead, one of my best friends in high school who found out about the program through me applied and spent a year in Hungary. I was so jealous.

Then I found out about the amazing school program called the “United World Colleges.” I was encouraged to apply through a leadership program I was involved in, and I was ecstatic. This was the very type of educational program I was interested in… I sent off my application (are you noticing a pattern?) and again my parents refused. They wouldn’t allow me to go to the required interview and thus I was automatically disqualified. It didn’t matter that I could get a full scholarship to go to the school, or what educational opportunities might have come out of it. As a university student I ran into other “UWC” students and I couldn’t help but wonder what high school would have been like if I was encouraged rather than discouraged to do these sorts of programs.

me_and_Maasai_woman

Yes, I am a total study abroad geek. This is me and my Maasai homestay "mother" in rural southern Kenya. I was living with the community (staying in the mud and cow dung huts behind) and dressed in traditional Maasai clothing for an age-set graduating ceremony. I was also thoroughly burnt to a crisp at the end of the day.

When I had my first chance, and my parents didn’t have too much control over my choices, I signed up right away to study abroad… second semester freshman year I was off to France (and Senegal in West Africa). Ever since then I have been eager to jump at any international opportunities I can find. I love everything about traveling… the planning, the prep work, the plane ride (even the plane food, believe it or not), the new experiences, the language, the food, the culture, the eye opening exchanges… everything!! (need I go on?) I’ve made international education a career… and I am even completing a master’s degree in the field.

Anyway, I guess I can kind of understand my parents concerns… here was this wacky high school kid, full of enthusiasm to travel to some unknown possibly scary or dangerous place. I grew up in a sheltered little town, what did I know about the world? They must have thought I was crazy.

But regardless, I have connected with the world in my own way… through travel, through my work with international students, through my intercultural relationship, through my interest in reading world literature and armchair travel books, the list goes on… I hope to continue feeling this passion for “global knowledge” and I hope to be the kind of parent interviewed in the On Point broadcast. I just hope I don’t wind up with kids who hate to travel… then what will I do?

So check it out if you have the time… or if you are working on a boring project and need a distraction… or if you are making dinner, or whatever your reasons might be.