Pre-Freshmen in Belize Program Coordinator
In 2013, I had the opportunity to co-coordinate and travel with the Pre-Freshmen in Belize program. In the months leading to the start of the week-long program, I received all applicable documentation and submitted information to the vendor as necessary, ensured students received course materials and country information in a timely manner, and addressed parent concerns. The faculty director and I flew down a day early and met the students at the airport in Belize City upon arrival. Having participated in three study abroad programs myself, I knew what to expect from the students (excited, tired, and anxious all at once), so I had planned to facilitate conversation and break the ice with a variety of activities. There was no need – they quickly came out of their shells! As we traveled the country and learned about local sustainability efforts, Belizean history, and current issues facing the tiny nation, I got to know an amazing group of people. At the end of the week, as I helped the faculty director read through the journals the students were required to write, I was quite impressed by many of their comments and insights. I’m eager to see what they accomplish in the future, at Auburn and beyond. Don’t get me wrong, though – the week wasn't all fun and games. It was a bit stressful knowing I was responsible for each of them, and when I saw them off at the airport, I will admit that I finally exhaled, knowing the program had concluded successfully and safely. Even so, I had also already recognized the experience as an aspect of my professional life that I will remember fondly and refer to often when working with future students and faculty.
International Site Visits - France
As an Auburn Abroad staff member, I conduct site visits to our international exchange partners as assigned, and my first set of visits was to Lyon and Paris, France. I had only been to the country once, and the visit was rushed and unpleasant, so I was unsure what to expect while meeting with our partners. I shouldn't have worried – I had prepared much better for the second visit (specifically, I'd taken the time to learn more French), and I had more time in the country to experience the culture.
My visits with the two institutions were quite different. One university scheduled my entire day with meetings with the international office staff, a detailed tour of their facilities, an opportunity to speak with a professor, a class visit, and a meeting with Auburn students currently completing one of their programs. Also, knowing that my email inbox was likely filling up during my absence, they graciously offered use of their wireless network for as long as I was in the city. In contrast, the second partner took me on a brief tour of their buildings and conducted much of our meeting over a long lunch. Of course, neither method was better than the other, but the differing experiences did provide insight into the level of service our students could expect if they chose to study at these institutions, which has helped our staff when advising on these programs.
Since I happened to be in Paris at the same time as Auburn’s faculty-led program to the city, I also had the opportunity to tour their institute and housing and accompany them on walking excursions within the city. While I was visiting, the institute held a welcome reception, and I enjoyed watching the students converse with each other. As the faculty director pointed out, many of their peers were from non-English speaking countries, so the common language of conversation was French, forcing them to practice their speech.
These experiences were a fantastic introduction to higher education in France, and I had a much more enjoyable time than when I had previously visited. I even use these anecdotes as an example during our pre-departure sessions, pointing out that my lack of knowledge of the French language and desire to cram multiple activities into a very short time contributed to an initial negative perspective of Paris. However, when I was in Paris the second time, I found Parisians to be infinitely more friendly when I could at least begin a conversation in French, which demonstrated I had made an effort to "do as the Parisians do."