Let’s talk about those inappropriate fair attendees

We’ve all met one. Some are obvious, and stand too close or smile just a little too much at you with eyes that seem like they’re looking at a piece of cake. Others spring up on you mid-conversation when they ask if you are married or what would happen if they just happened to marry an American while studying at your university or if they could have your phone number. Some are students, some are parents or uncles, or women, and some are just randos who somehow get in to the event with no intention of study abroad for themselves or anyone they know.

Then there are those who go above and beyond to win the award of creepiest person you’ll ever meet. Those who you need to call security on.

I came across that award-winner today in Chandigarh, India. It was a fair like any other, and overall I talked to some really great students. Then there was one who seemed like a possible MBA student candidate, right up until it was obvious that he hadn’t registered for the event, and then again when he asked for my Whatsapp and Facebook contact, and then again when he nonchalantly told me that he was a model (and waited for my impressed reaction…I was not impressed). I didn’t think anything of it at the time, because okay, maybe he came late and his registration hadn’t shown up in the system just yet. And okay, he’s being weird and flirty but let’s just say no to sharing my contact, brush it off, and move on to the next student.

At the end of the event, which went an hour later than scheduled because of how many students came late to speak with me, I packed up and headed through the lobby of the hotel where the event was to go up to my room. Who should jump up as I walked by and follow me to the elevator? Mister Creepy Model Dude. I thought maybe he had a question, but he just followed me into the elevator. So then I thought okay, he’s probably going down to the parking level. Nope. He pressed the restaurant level, and when we got there he didn’t get out but instead let the door close. That’s when I started to get nervous. Up we went to my floor. All the while he was making awkward, personal, and uncomfortable conversation to which I ignored.

The doors open at my floor and I pressed the lobby button for him as I stepped out and said goodbye, but of course he stepped out and tried to follow me further. At this point my anger took over. I stepped in front of him so that he couldn’t get past, kept the doors open and pushed him back into the elevator, and very angrily told him he needed to go back down. Thankfully he didn’t push further, though he did reach out with his palm facing upward, as if to shake my hand goodbye perhaps.

#Metoo is a world-wide issue. Instances like this are so common that I didn’t even have time to feel scared in that moment, only angry. Men need to be taught as boys the difference between what is appropriate and what is unacceptable. And Hollywood needs to stop making movies that make it seem romantic to follow girls they’ve only just met, as if it were some big wonderful gesture. And women need to stop acting like that is in fact romantic, when really in the moment when a stranger is following you it’s actually just incredibly scary. I have no obligation to smile and permit creepiness, and stalking is not a compliment. It is simply an act that makes me feel uncomfortable to leave my hotel room for the rest of the night.

So no, Mister Creepy Model Dude. No handshake for you. And you bet your bottom dollar that if you do apply for our program, I’ll be sure to let our admissions office know just how little you respect women’s boundaries.

The perfect mission statement

51JzpEqFEnL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_“We aspire to graduate global citizens, individuals knowledgeable of other cultures, aware of the issues threatening the planet and its inhabitants, and willing to use their education to go forth and make a positive difference in the world. To this end, we will create a campus climate that welcomes students from every nation, celebrating and learning from their distinctive cultures, mindful that student exchanges break down walls that divide us. Through reasoning together and shared experiences with people of difference, on campus or through Study Abroad, our students will discover their common humanity with others – and, in the process, acquire and spread the language of peace and understanding.”

An excerpt from my dad’s new book, Creating a Culturally Inclusive Campus: A Guide to Supporting International Students, available on Amazon.

Recruitment itinerary

Just so you can see how chaotic recruitment can often be, I thought I would share the bare-bones of my itinerary for this Spring 2018’s 2-month journey, which I planned and prepped for in just 3 weeks leading up to today at that!

It started at 5:00 AM today, or I guess yesterday now, (what is time?) driving to JFK airport in my rental car for my 9:45 AM 12-hour flight to Doha (after watching the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Superbowl! Woo!!) And now here I sit in Doha, waiting for my connection to Kathmandu which will be another 4.5 hours flying…from there on, here’s the gist:

NEPAL | KATHMANDU

Tuesday, February 6:  Land in Kathmandu, find brochures that never arrived to the hotel, and finish editing a presentation
Wednesday, February 7:  Presentation at Education USA to prospective students
Thursday, February 8:  Full day of meetings with agent partners and prospective students
Friday, February 9:  Full day of high school visits and presentations as well as agent partner meetings
Saturday, February 10:  Early AM flight to Chandigarh, India arriving in the afternoon

INDIA | CHANDIGARH

Sunday, February 11:  Full day of a study abroad fair (IDP)
Monday, February 12:  AM 5 hour car right to Delhi airport, followed by a flight to Kolkata (since the Chandigarh airport will be closed…sarcastic yay..)

INDIA | KOLKATA

Tuesday, February 13:  Full day of a high school mini-fair (IDP)
Wednesday, February 14:  Full day of a study abroad fair (IDP)
Thursday, February 15:  Flight back to Delhi

INDIA | NEW DELHI

Friday, February 16:  Full day of meetings with agent partners and prospective students
Saturday, February 17:  Full day of a study abroad fair (IDP)
Sunday, February 18:  Flight to Ahmedabad

INDIA | AHMEDABAD

Monday, February 19:  Full day of meetings with agent partners and prospective students
Tuesday, February 20:  Full day of a study abroad fair (IDP)
Wednesday, February 21:  Flight to Bangalore

INDIA | BANGALORE

Wednesday, February 21:  Afternoon agent meetings after AM flight
Thursday, February 22:  Full day of a high school mini-fair (IDP)
Friday, February 23:  Full day of a study abroad fair (IDP), directly followed by an evening flight to Chennai

INDIA | CHENNAI

Saturday, February 24:  Full day of a study abroad fair (IDP), directly followed by an evening flight to Hyderabad

INDIA | HYDERABAD

Sunday, February 25:  Full day of a study abroad fair (IDP)
Monday, February 26:  Full day of meetings with agent partners and prospective students
Tuesday, February 27:  Full day of meetings with agent partners and prospective students
Wednesday, February 28:  Flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka

SRI LANKA | COLOMBO

Thursday, March 1:  Full day of meetings with agent partners and prospective students, and an afternoon presentation at Education USA
Friday, March 2:  Full day of meetings with agent partners and prospective students, and local high school visits
Saturday, March 3 – Tuesday March 6:  My first free days in 25 days! Woo! And it coincidentally overlaps my birthday, which is even better – I have an awesome 4-day excursion booked to get the most out of these free days (nearly the only free time that I’ll have in the whole 2 months really) and I can’t wait! Blog post about this vaca time to come!
Wednesday, March 7: 1:00 AM flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

VIETNAM | HO CHI MINH CITY

Wednesday, March 7:  Afternoon email catch-up
Thursday, March 8:  Full day of meetings with agent partners and prospective students
Friday, March 9:  Full day of meetings with agent partners and prospective students
Saturday, March 10:  Full day of high school visits and meetings (Capstone Vietnam)
Sunday, March 11:  Full day of a study abroad fair (Capstone Vietnam)
Monday, March 12:  Flight to Nha Trang

VIETNAM | NHA TRANG

Tuesday, March 13:  Full day of high school visits and a study abroad fair (Capstone Vietnam)
Wednesday, March 14:  Flight to Da Nang

VIETNAM | DA NANG

Wednesday, March 14:  Afternoon cultural trip (organized by Capstone)Something fun! I love it when fair organizers do things like this. It’s a nice mental break amidst the non-stop schedules!
Thursday, March 15:  Full day of high school visits and a study abroad fair (Capstone Vietnam), followed by an evening flight to Shanghai

CHINA | SHANGHAI

Friday, March 16:  Arrive to Shanghai in the morning, and catch up on e-mails in the afternoon
Saturday, March 17:  Full day of a study abroad fair (IDP), directly followed by an evening train ride to Nanjing

CHINA | NANJING

Sunday, March 18:  Full day of a study abroad fair (IDP)
Monday, March 19:  Full day of a university visit and presentation, followed by an evening train ride back to Shanghai

CHINA | SHANGHAI

Tuesday, March 20:  Full day of a high school visit and presentation and a meeting with an agent partner
Wednesday, March 21:  Full day of a university visit and presentation
Thursday, March 22:  Morning Education USA visit followed by a flight to Chongqing

CHINA | CHONGQING

Friday, March 23:  Full day of a university visit and presentation
Saturday, March 24:  Day without meetings – probably spent catching up on emails and sending more follow-up email campaigns
Sunday, March 25:  Morning flight to Beijing, followed by a train right to Cangzhou

CHINA | CANGZHOU

Monday, March 26:  Full day of a university visit and presentation, followed by a train ride back to Beijing

CHINA | BEIJING

Tuesday, March 27:  Full day of a university visit and presentation
Wednesday, March 28:  Full day of agent/partner meetings, an Education USA visit, and an alumni dinner
Thursday, March 29:  Full day of a university visit and presentation
Friday, March 30:  1:00 AM flight returning home to JFK!

So, it may be a long trip, but my hope is that it will be a productive one! Now, it’s time to pop an Airborne and catch my connection flight to get this started. It’s a whirl-wind, and often after those full days I’ll squeeze in a visit to whatever nearby cultural site I can if there is time and if I’m not exhausted. But nearly always, whether it’s before a meeting, during lunch, at the airport, on an airplane, or after checking into a hotel, I’m catching up on emails, sending follow-up emails and campaigns to students and partners, and prepping for upcoming presentations. It may seem like a lot, but I honestly love it (when I’m not so tired that cartoons on the hotel tv make me cry for no reason). The constant fast-paced schedule makes me feel alive, and the incredibly interactions with strangers and fellow recruiters and partners and students along the way remind me why I do what I do.

Speaking of flights, before I go, Here are the total estimated miles I will spend on airplanes this trip……

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Unpacking “recruitment”

In what is probably one of the most helpful online forums for my profession, a Facebook group called Globe Trotters United, I asked the question: if you could describe “recruitment” in one word, what would it be?” Here were some of the answers, from other recruiters themselves:

  • rewarding
  • exhausting
  • engaging
  • outreach
  • fun
  • opportunity
  • manic
  • potential
  • communication
  • eye-opening
  • jetlagged
  • complex
  • unskilled

I could agree with all of these words, with the exception of “unskilled.” I do realize that it depends on one’s definition of “skilled”, but the word choice was accompanied with the explanation that recruitment merely takes common sense and nothing more, to which I would whole-heartedly disagree with. Sure, it is not rocket science. And common sense is a necessity to do the job. But from my experience, through my own job as a recruiter and especially from meeting so many other recruiters on the road, it seems to me the type of job where one wears quite an endless number of hats.

A good recruiter is someone who understands, loves, and accepts different cultures, languages, and ways of doing things that are far from their own. We adapt to any environment, because we must. We take a hard toll on our bodies, both mentally and physically, when on the road – experiencing intense lack of sleep and completely erratic schedules, talking until our voice goes hoarse and many times in other languages so that our mind is a fog by the end, getting sick and having only the comfort of a hotel room, sitting for hours on endless flights and long taxi rides, and missing out on things at home. All the while, keeping our spirits up and smiling, and making time to enjoy the amazing countries we’re in whenever we can.

A recruiter understands higher education, not just in the U.S. but the education systems of other countries. We research market trends in other countries and keep track of economic and political impacts that may make our job that much more difficult. And when challenges arise, we must get creative and work that much harder to show international students how we will do everything it takes to make them feel welcome on our campuses. We study and brainstorm all of the effective ways to market our universities and programs. We aim to address the needs of international students and to help them become a part of the campus community. We network and negotiate partnerships with agencies and universities while jumping through the bureaucratic hoops that often come with cross-cultural business agreements.

We are educators and advocates. We are strategic miracle-workers and creative brainstormers, and experts at time management. We are admissions counselors, and immigration advisors, and project managers. We are travel agents and meeting planners, and expert packers. We are bilingual, or trilingual, or simply lovers of linguistics. We are speakers and leaders and animated salespeople. We are culturally competent and attuned to current events. We are advisors to students when they are in a bind, or confused, or homesick, or worried, or struggling, or just needing to talk. We are ambassadors for our countries, and global citizens. We are globetrotters, roadwarriors, and we are those who wander and yet are not lost.

When it comes down to it, yes a lot of it is common sense as for many jobs. But they are not all things that are common sense to everyone. I think it seems that way to those who have the skills required to do the job well, who understand international education and marketing, and who understand the incredibly positive impact that international students have when they study in our countries. But I do not think just anyone could do it well without training or with common sense alone.

Of all the words given to describe recruitment, I think “complex” was most accurate. Though at the moment, sitting in the airport after a 12 hour flight waiting for my connection, getting ready to move from this post to editing a presentation that I’ll be giving tomorrow to a room full of students, “jet-lagged” is certainly the most relatable…

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Truth about travel

Another favorite quote of mine:
“This is why once you’ve traveled for the first time all you want to do is leave again. They call it the travel bug, but really it’s the effort to return to a place where you are surrounded by people who speak the same language as you. Not English or Spanish or Mandarin or Portuguese, but that language where others know what it’s like to leave, change, grow, experience, learn, then go home again and feel more lost in your hometown then you did in the most foreign place you visited.” 

Some backstory

When people notice my travels on social media, or hear about my upcoming work trips, I often hear something along the lines of, “I want your job!” to which I usually awkwardly smile at in response, (mainly just because I am awkward sometimes…) But I truly feel blessed to have earned this job. For me, it’s the dream, and I absolutely love it. It is without doubt exhausting, and often overwhelming, but it is fulfilling work that allows me to travel and explore countries and cultures around the world.

I never at any point thought to myself, “I want to be an international student recruiter!” I didn’t really understand what that was myself until I tagged along on a short recruitment trip with my dad once during my undergraduate studies. But even then, I didn’t see it as a career, just something that was a part of his job. It wasn’t until graduate school that I really learned what it was about.

Orlando and Natalia

Incredible friends from Colombia who taught me that friendship knows no borders, no oceans, no miles.

I stayed on working through most of my undergraduate studies as a part-time office worker and an international student mentor, and I even tutored at one point. I couldn’t get enough of being around international students. They taught me so much about the world, right in my back yard. And so many of them became incredible life-long friends.I grew up around everything ESL. My mother teaches ESL at a high school, and my father is the director of one of the most respected intensive English programs in the U.S. It’s in my blood. So when I was 15 years old and my dad said his office was looking for student workers, it was natural that I wanted to see what all of this ESL stuff was about. I started working at the University of Delaware English Language Institute one summer, giving new students campus tours, helping administer placement tests, working the cashiers window for students to pay for trips and bills, and filing student paperwork (while getting many paper-cuts in the process – thank goodness we all now have e-filing and online applications!)

Nadia and Amanda in Paris

Nadia and me in Paris

After finishing my bachelors, I continued on further at UD to get my masters in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), and mid-way through my first year I was snagged by Nadia Redman, the Assistant Director of Recruitment, Marketing, and Communications at the English Language Institute, to be her GA. While my dad is the one who influenced and inspired me to get into international education, it is to her who I owe for all of the training I received to make recruitment my current career. She was (and still is to this day) my mentor in all things marketing and recruitment, and she gave me opportunities both during and after graduate school that many would not be so lucky to be entrusted with. During that first year for example, she brought me with her to France to attend a recruitment fair in Paris. I watched her do her thing, giving her pitch to prospective students in French and me in English, following her lead. Then during my second year, she sent me off to Turkey for my first solo recruitment fair in Ankara, Izmir, and Istanbul. That trip is probably what sealed the deal for me – I felt confident, I felt like I was good at this, and above all it brought me to see incredible cities that I may never have had the chance to see otherwise. Through her training and her letting me figure things out on my own on the road, she showed me what recruitment was all about and introduced me to a career that I never would have known was possible. I was all in.

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IEFT organized for university representatives to take an optional cultural trip to Ephesus while we were in Izmir. We made it there just before they closed the entrance gates for the day, and we beheld the ancient city completely empty, sans hoards of tourists. It felt ethereal.

So, I graduated from my masters program, and Nadia offered me a job to be International Recruitment Specialist for the English Language Institute, and to move to Brazil to pilot an in-country recruitment base, a vision she had wanted to implement for years. (That however is a whole story worth it’s own blog post, for another time!) After I moved back to the U.S., and after roughly 13 years working at UD ELI, I felt in my heart that it was time to move on.

Though things were never easy on the job, I was getting too comfortable, and I wanted to challenge myself by stepping outside of that comfort zone. So last Spring I started occasionally looking at job postings, just to see what was out there. It was then that I came across the listing for my current position, Manager of International Recruitment at the State University of New York at New Paltz. I read the job description, and it just felt like it was written for me. I felt like I could check off every qualification they were looking for, required and preferred. I had never felt that kind of confidence in myself before, and that’s something that Nadia, my mentor and friend, helped me to develop. I didn’t even apply to anything else – after my interview on the beautiful SUNY New Paltz campus, and meeting the people who are now my amazing co-workers, I knew it was meant to be. It was bittersweet to leave my family and friends from Delaware, but I was excited for this new journey, and I have been loving every minute of it since.

So, that is the personal and long-winded yet still condensed story of how I got into being an international student recruiter. A mix of hard work, influence, mentoring, luck, and passion. And I am just so thankful to everyone who helped me along the way. I am no expert; I am constantly learning about myself and about this field, and I am always being challenged with new goals and endeavors – and I hope that this blog helps me to continue learning by being more mindful of my career and travels.

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Here’s to new beginnings at SUNY New Paltz.