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.

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.