Suzanne Baker, Region V International Education Knowledge Community Representative
June 28, 2018
Chapter 10 of Supporting Students Globally in Higher Education, titled International Employment in Student Affairs and Services, provides readers with tools and advice for pursuing a career in student affairs and services abroad. As Stensberg, Silva and Medina (2016) point out, as student affairs professionals support and advise their students to become global citizens and more aware of the diversity of cultures around the world, it is important that we take our own advice and work to develop ourselves in these areas as well. One way of doing this is to pursue employment outside of our home country and work with diverse student populations abroad, experiencing for ourselves the challenges of adapting to a new culture, navigating a new environment and learning about ourselves throughout the process.
This chapter covers the various tools used to search for positions abroad, the necessary preparation one must take in getting ready to move abroad, the challenges and benefits of living abroad both personally and professionally, and considerations for returning home. As a reader, I could not help but compare the advice and information shared in this chapter with the information provided to students as we support them in preparing for their own study abroad experience. This highlighted the importance of student affairs professionals taking time to step back and take a bit of their own advice sometimes.
In preparing to work abroad, it important to start with a bit of self-reflection(Stensberg et al., 2016). Why is this the right choice for you? What do you hope to gain from working abroad? What will be your greatest challenges and what are you most excited to experience? After spending time in this space, the logistics of networking with colleagues abroad, linking up with professional associations and searching for available positions that are able to hire international candidates begins. Once a geographical area has been identified, it is helpful to travel to that area if possible and especially essential to educate yourself about the area and the local culture so you are well prepared. Upon obtaining a position abroad, the logistics of moving preparation begin. This includes ensuring passports, visa applications and other administrative details are considered as well as making the necessary preparations for maintaining relationships at home and sustaining connects to your communities.
Once abroad, it is important to consider the challenges one may face in living in a new environment (Stensberg et al., 2016). This may include adapting to the cost of living, the influence of religion or absence of and how that impacts other practices, potential discrimination, and conflicting values between your own values and that of the local culture. As a previous study abroad advisor and someone who has lived abroad, I always found it especially important to let my students know about the impact culture shock may have on their life abroad. Stensberg et al. (2016) focus on this process, showing that it is not something that just our students face, but a process that impacts anyone adapting to a new cultural environment. At the same time, though, living abroad provides a long list of rewarding experiences. This includes personal development, the opportunity to create meaningful relationships, the ability to learn a new language, and the increased ability to adapt to new situations and environments. Learning to thrive in a new environment fosters patience, creativity and flexibility.
Stensberg et al. (2016) address the importance of planning for your return home at the end of your employment abroad. Often returning home can be more challenging than it was to leave in the first place. Not only are you focusing on the logistics of funding new employment, ensuring you have sufficient finances to transition home, it is essential to consider how you will integrate back into a culture that was once familiar. For many returning home from an extended time abroad, reverse culture shock can be prevalent. Your home environment may no longer feel as much like home now that you have experienced a new environment. It is important to make space for this transition and acknowledge your experiences abroad to ensure maximum learning.
These experiences of preparing for international employment, adjusting for life and work abroad, and successfully returning home provide Student Affairs professionals with first-hand understanding of cultural awareness and global citizenship in a way that helps better support their students in navigating the same process. Chapter 10 provides a solid foundation for starting this process and is helpful for anyone who may have an interest in exploring these opportunities.
Admissions & Community Outreach Coordinator
Fairhaven College, Western Washington University
Region V IEKC Regional Representative
Undergraduate admissions coordinator for a small liberal arts interdisciplinary college within a regional mid-sized public institution. Previously served as a Resident Director and Study Abroad Advisor, providing a diverse career background to support students both on campus and abroad.
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