Thursday, July 17, 2008

My New International Friends

Like anyone, there are days I am very frustrated at work, and others when I truly enjoy my work and feel lucky to manage the programs I do. Yesterday was one of those truly rewarding days in which I planned a campus visit program for people who were very appreciative of my efforts.

Yesterday, our office hosted 26 international high school counselors, who were visiting campus as part of a 2-week bus tour to various colleges and universities in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The counselors were literally from all over the world—Ghana, Venezuela, China, Malaysia, Turkey, Italy, Oman, Tanzania, Barbados, and advise both international students and US citizens who live abroad.

Since our office budget doesn’t allow for much (make that any) international travel and recruiting, this bus tour was a great way for us to indirectly recruit great international students. According to the Open Doors Report 2007, published by the Institute of International Education, UW­–Madison ranks 19th among other US colleges and universities in the number of international students on campus. And since our international applications increased by nearly 30% this year, I’d expect we’re quickly climbing the charts.

The counselors were only scheduled to be at UW–Madison for approximately 3.5 hours, so my task was to pack in as much information and campus experiences as possible into a very short time. We started with an informal luncheon with our counseling staff and several current students—both domestic and international. Then one of our international counselors provided a brief presentation about the admissions process, campus, financial aid, etc. Afterwards, we headed out on a combination bus/walking tour of campus with two of our fabulous student tour guides. After the tour, we gave the counselors the opportunity to sample Babcock ice cream from the Union or pick up gear at the Bookstore before they needed to depart on their coach bus for the next campus.

Even though I only spent a few hours with the counselors, and am oftentimes more than happy to say goodbye to these types of visiting counselor groups, this time I was sad to see them off so soon. When I stepped on the bus with Margo to see them off, two of the counselors came up to the front of the bus and presented us with gifts from their home countries—tomato sauce from Rome, and handmade pottery from Barbados. I was so touched. Above is a picture of my new cream and sugar set, from Indigenous Potteries in Barbados! All in all, the visit went extremely smooth. It was fun and rewarding to plan, and I very much enjoyed meeting counselors from all over the world and introducing them to UW-Madison!

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