ONSITE PERSPECTIVES IN FRANCE
Classrooms can only prepare students for so much before entering the working world. For this reason, I chose to participate in the On-Site Perspectives immersive professional course in Paris, France during the 2019 January term. My first semester in the International Education Management (IEM) program at MIIS helped me discover the width and breadth of the field of International Education—a crucial step to becoming a professional in this field. However, many professionals who work specifically on education abroad programs while based in the United States rarely have the chance to see the work done by their colleagues abroad, rendering their shared goal of student success while abroad more difficult and in-cohesive.
The On-Site Perspectives course provided the opportunity for myself and my colleagues to learn about the work of international educators in France who assist American students studying abroad at the undergraduate level. Our group met with professionals from more than 15 organizations during our three weeks in Paris. The majority of these meetings were conducted in French, which helped me improve my French speaking skills in a professional context. Additionally, these meetings were an opportunity to network with established professionals, which is an invaluable skill when building partnerships across cultures. This experience was a great opportunity to build these skills for my future career in an international office within higher education.
My fellow IEM students and I heard about the roles and responsibilities of on-site professionals and the many hats they wear. This valuable perspective will help inform my work in the U.S. as an International Student Advisor (ISA), as much of the work of ISAs and on-site education abroad professionals overlap. Hearing about their work has helped me anticipate the work I will do directly working with students, as well as other work that furthers the organization’s mission such as programming, recruitment, and organizational strategy.
Finally, the On-Site Perspectives course increased my interest in education abroad, which was a secondary interest behind international student services. Observing the structure and day-to-day jobs of international education professionals working abroad solidified my understanding of education abroad program structures and helped me realize the need to improve them. As American education abroad programs exist now, the majority of students could benefit from more challenge in terms of immersion in the host community, utilizing foreign language skills, and developing intercultural competency skills.
By participating in the On-Site Perspective January term course, my knowledge and understanding of the administration and management of on-site education abroad programs is more than just theoretical. I am thankful for the opportunity to connect with professionals, to expand my understanding of their work and how it is linked with the work of international educators in the U.S., and to continue to increase awareness of the quality of our programs for both American and non-American students.