What is you educational and professional background?
Framingham State is a second home to me. I studied history here and completed a minor in diversity studies. I graduated from here in 2013, and then, from there, I worked part-time in this office – in International Education. Then, I left for a year and worked as an English teacher in Thailand. I taught English for a year there, I returned, and there was a position here full-time, which I applied for and got. I’ve been working here full-time as the Assistant Director since 2016. While I’ve been working here, I completed my master’s degree in counseling psychology at FSU.
What is your job like?
The office of International Education is responsible for incoming international students, as well as faculty and scholars. In addition, we work with study abroad students – American students who are interested in studying abroad, from semester programs to short-term programs, so maybe going abroad in the summer for a few weeks. My primary responsibility is to advise students on their study abroad opportunities. In addition, we work with the international students and faculty. I process immigration paperwork for international students to come study here and get their visa to come study here.
Do you think FSU students are interested in studying abroad?
I do. I see the interest. I think the biggest barrier our students face is cost and how to financially afford the experience. What’s great is that students are able to use most of their financial aid to study abroad for a semester. Jane Decatur, my director, has done a fantastic job of creating a program list of really affordable options that are pretty comparable to what FSU tuition, fees, and housing costs. We try to work with programs that are comparable to here. However, for summer programs or short-term programs, you can’t use federal aid. That can be a barrier for students – to pay out of pocket to go away for a few weeks in the summer. I do see the interest, but I think that cost can be a major factor.
What is it like working with international students from abroad?
It’s such a great experience! I think that the international students bring a new perspective to the classroom. They’ve learned in different countries. They’ve learned in different ways. They’ve experienced different cultures than what our students have here. For them to bring that kind of experience into the classroom is really phenomenal. For the past few years, I’ve set up an international buddy program. FSU students are matched with one of our visiting international students so they can help the student adjust to life here at Framingham and in the U.S., make sure they acclimate well, show them around campus, and show them how to get to Boston if they want to go on the weekend. That’s been a really great program because international students are connected with an American student here right away, and have that kind of peer connection, which is great.
What challenges do you face in the study abroad program?
I find that some students don’t know about our office or don’t know about the opportunities available. Outreach has been a really big focus of mine to try and let students know of the opportunities for them. On a side note, our office works really closely with the Alumni and Development offices, so we have set scholarships for students. This past academic year, our office – in collaboration with Academic Affairs and Alumni issued around $40,000 in scholarships. I think our biggest mission is to let students know of the opportunities. Although there is interest in studying abroad, I think coming from a smaller state/regional school a lot of our students haven’t travelled that much – including myself when I was a student here. I had never left the country until I was a student here and I went abroad to Italy with my roommate. It opened doors for me. For many of our students here, travelling seems kind of an obscure dream. My goal is to make that a reality.
What career accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’ve been working full-time here since 2016, so this July will be four years. This past January I was awarded the Beacon Award on campus, which is “in recognition of noteworthy contributions and outstanding efforts that have assisted in advancing Inclusive Excellence.” By no means do I take full credit for the diversity of students we have studying abroad. Jane Decatur has created a great program list of affordable options. Once I came into this role, and she wasn’t a single-person office anymore, I was really able to promote, publish, and advertise the opportunities, which has really gained a lot of interest and traction in studying abroad. I think that’s a huge accomplishment for our office. We are going above and beyond in assisting our students.
Do you have any hobbies?
You would probably not be surprised – I travel often. I’ve been to 25 countries, last I counted. I really love to do anything outdoors, whether it’s a simple walk or a hike. I’ve started skiing more this winter, which was great. I do love some good live music – going to any kind of concert. Personally, I was drawn toward this career because of my interest in diving into different cultures. Whether it’s going to Cambridge and trying a new restaurant of a new ethnic cuisine, or it’s travelling to Europe, Latin America, or Asia, I just love being out of that comfort zone and trying something new.
What advice do you have for FSU students?
I love the Nike phrase “just do it.” I think this is the time – as a student – whatever your interest may be – go for it! Try it! If it’s a class you maybe think isn’t your cup of tea, but it sparks your interest for some reason, go for it. If it is studying abroad, but you don’t think you can make it work financially, still come in and try it out. Utilize and take advantage of everything the campus has to offer. After you graduate, it’s so much harder to travel and to go to talks like we have here on campus. Connect with your faculty and your advisors here. They’re such a huge resource. I tell students to make those personal connections with advisors and professors now because they can really help in the long run.