Campus Education Abroad ‘Sherpas’

I’ve just read a very important article by Goldie Blumenstyk in the August 16 Chronicle of Higher Education (via subscription only), “Meet Higher Education’s Newest Players: ‘Education Sherpas.’  It’s applying the analogy of the sherpa as guide to the acute need on our campuses for mentors to assist students make it through the “higher ed maze.” Especially for low-income and first gen students.  In case you did not know the stat, less than 50% of students who start college finish their degree within six years! 

But this idea made me think about my re-blog of a post I wrote last year asking why more students did not “see” or understand the link between their international experience and their employability.  Of course, these students come from backgrounds, relative to the need discussed above, of privilege –one where they do have resources and support to figure things out, right?  But, I also know that these are students who may need support or mentorship to fully make meaning of their cross-cultural experiences and place them in perspective when it comes to their career development.

Why not assign each student-or perhaps a cluster- going abroad a peer sherpa? A guide (someone who has already been abroad) who might be trained (much as RAs receive training for their dorm advising) and receive compensation for their work.  I was an RA and Head Resident Advisor as an undergrad; then in grad school I was a fellow in training and became a Residence Hall Director (my first job).  I know how much effort it takes to work through complex interpersonal issues, conflicts and misunderstanding among students living in campus residences.

Why do we think students can make sense on their own through the complex decision-making prrocess to go abroad for study/work/internship or service?  I’d like to be informed about innovative ways campuses work to guide students –using peer support-through their decision-making to go abroad, make meaning while overseas, and then fully integrate their learning in strategic ways which impact their employability.


Why Don’t Students Understand The Linkage Between Study Abroad & Employability?

With the start of a new academic year, I thought I’d share this again with readers…I’d welcome insights from career service or study abroad colleagues as to why their students don’t “get” the linkage. I’m still thinking about it. Still talking about it.

Global Career Compass

The short answer is–I don’t know and I’m not sure there are easy ways to expain why.

Last week, along with my colleague, Dr. Vera Chapman, Associate Director of Career Services at Colgate University, we conducted a webinar for NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) with participants from a diverse group working in career service offices at 71 colleges and universities (public, private, small, large, urban amd rural and in all regions of the country). When asked if their students understood the linkage of studying abroad to their students’ employasbility, 86% responded NO or UNSURE.

You may be saying, students have bigger things to be thinking about – like graduating on time. As a recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Karin Fischer pointed out (2-23-16), “2 Keys to Success for Underprivileged Students: When to Start College, and Where to Go,”, “If low-income students end up…

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Are we beyond “it was great”?

I’m pleased to share this guest post by Jessica Miller, on a topic which has often been discussed here. The difference is that Jessica is , as she says, a young grad and new to the international education field.  Her comments are instructive for students starting on campus this Fall or who are preparing for their first study abroad program- or who are graduating in 2017. And the answer to her question is:  not yet.


As a recent graduate, a recent study abroad returnee and an even more recent hiring manager for entry level candidates seeking a career in international education, I have a unique perspective, or more so a frustration, with the comment that studying abroad “was great!” Luckily, I can say that I have not heard this comment in from a single candidate. Does that mean we are beyond “it was great,” that we have successfully assisted students in integrating their study abroad experiences into their resume, cover letter and job interview?

Maybe my abroad experiences provoke a deeper conversation in the interview process. Maybe study abroad offices or even career service offices, are intentionally guiding students to make the direct connection between the transferrable soft skills learned abroad to future job prospects. Maybe students are becoming more intentional in their decisions to go abroad. This is great!

Not really. Students have made the connection that studying abroad often develops the skills necessary to become a successful employee. This is evident when candidates in my most recent hiring cycle said: “I studied abroad and that is why I am the best person for this job.” Although this represents a success in that a connection has been made between abroad experiences and future employment, there is of course a second half of this thought that must be completed to obtain employment.

Attention all study abroad returnees: going abroad does not make you stand out from candidates who have not studied abroad.

The specific experiences where you had to adapt to a new set of cultural norms, where you had to communicate in a different language to achieve a goal, where you had to make efficient and accurate decisions when plans changed at the last minute. These experiences and these newly acquired skills are what will set you apart.

Dive Into Selected NAFSA Blogs & Presentations on Career Integration, Employability & Best Practice Campus Advising

I wanted to make it easy to tap into some of my recent work, so here’s a link to several short blogs and other pieces of work I’ve done for NAFSA: Association of International Educators:

I welcome your comments !

New Book: International Higher Education’s Scholar-Practitioners: Bridging Research and Practice

A book I want to read. But my thought is this: are scholars rewarded in tenure decisions for their “practice” and do practitioners really have time to engage in research? I think I know the answer to both questions…

International Higher Education Consulting


The idea of the professional who bridges both research and practice has been largely overlooked and at times even disregarded by the academic and administrative structures that govern activity in higher education today. In international higher education, the number of students who now engage in mobility and exchange has expanded globally, along with the administrative cadre that manages all facets of internationalization, and the quickly growing scholarly attention to understanding the phenomenon. In this process, two distinct professional categories have emerged: those who ‘study it’ and those who ‘do it’ – the scholars and the practitioners. Practitioners are seen as those who manage the daily logistical flow of students and personnel around the globe, while scholars are seen as those who conduct research, collect and analyze data, and publish findings to inform, improve, and justify the activity. Yet this dichotomy is overly…

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A Students’ Place in the World

In the cycle of life, it’s that time once again. Students are graduating from colleges and universities across the country and for many, the unanswered question is: Now what?

Shortly, NAFSA: Association of International Educators will conduct its annual international conference in Denver. And one of its major speakers is NY Times columnist, David Brooks. In thinking about graduation and what “place” lies ahead for millions of youths, I re-read his September 8, 2014 Times column, “Becoming a Real Person.”

Brooks references three different missions of the current university: commercial (preparing for work), cognitive (acquisition of information & knowledge), and moral purpose (building an integrated understanding of self).  Of course, a week later, the Times published several letters to the editor from campuses around the country. The gist of these responses was that students should not have to choose one path over another.

A good follow-up to the Brooks column is an essay in the March 9, 2015 Chronicle of Higher Education by Lisa M. Dolling, “To Help Students Succeed Professionally and Personally, Teach the Art of Being Human.”  Her essay discusses the “false dichotomies” which she sees behind the ongoing debate about the purpose of college – or perhaps the ROI – and she states:

“Either you believe the purpose of going to college is to be able to secure a (preferably high-paying) job, or you think there is something more intrinsically valuable to be gained from the years spent earning a degree.  My question is: When did these become mutually exclusive?”  Exactly.

And I’d circle back to what I usually focus on in this blog which centers on the value of international experience in the life of an undergraduate.  And yes, how such experioence can add value to and become essential to a students’ employability as they seek entry into the workforce.  The above value questions relate to this goal — as a co-curricular “activity,” study-service-or work abroad adds a dimension to a students’ life experience with unparalled potential for personal growth and development of critical skills and competencies. Such experience complements classroom learning and provides invaluable perspective to their studies.

Whether in the community around campus or in the wider world community, I’ve always believed that experiential learning provides a laboratory for students to test themselves, challenge their values, and learn how to become more adaptable and flexible colleagues and members of a community outside their comfort zone.

My advice to members of the Class of 2016?  Keep challenging yourself. Keep communicating with your network of friends and mentors.Take risks as you move through your first jobs – be that person who says yes when there is a new task to be done.  Travel if and when you can.  Be persistent in your job search. It’s hard work. The search process can be very humbling and even humiliating. Stay with it. Rely upon the hard skills you developed in the classroom and those softer skills you honed outside in the community. You need both to succeed.

It will take awhile to “find your place.”  Actually, that’s a given.


The Seven Cardinal Virtues of Study Abroad

NAFSA: Association of International Educators Blog

Study abroad is a transformative experience of learning and growth for students. Although less than 1% of the U.S. student community participates in study abroad, we know that when a college student elects to take advantage of such a priceless opportunity, the borders that exist between peoples, whether defined or abstract, stop obstructing interaction.

Students who challenge themselves to make a deeper connection with our rapidly changing world are more adaptable, accomplished contributors to it. Students who immerse themselves in other cultures draw the world nearer to themselves. And the world reciprocates.

Study abroad is not a vacation or a trip. It opens students’ world far beyond themselves, an educational journey with dividends that last a lifetime. NAFSA summarizes the wondrous benefits of study abroad with seven C’s:

1. Challenge

Study abroad compels students to challenge themselves to grow beyond their comfort zones. They must leave home and enter…

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