LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH TIERA DIGIORGIO
What is your current title, and where do you work?
I am currently a Global Transcript Evaluator at Walden University.
How did you learn about your current position?
I found the job posting through a LinkedIn search and applied through LinkedIn.
What sparked your interest in working in international education?
I think my interest in international education originally sprouted off from my interest in languages. Studying German and Spanish in high school sparked an early interest in cultural exchange, which led me to a 2-week exchange program in Germany during high school. I loved that experience so much; it led to multiple study-abroad occasions throughout college and graduate school.
What was your first job in international education?
My first job in international education was as a Program Coordinator for Education Abroad at Boise State University. Knowing how competitive the job market could be for international education, I started preparing for my job search pretty intensively as my final semester of graduate school approached. I don’t have my original job tracking spreadsheet from that time-period anymore, but I applied for more jobs than I could remember. I remember the process being quite difficult, time-intensive, and draining. I applied for what would be my first job in IE in late December, interviewed by phone in January, had an on-campus interview in February, and received an offer sometime in March, I believe.
Tell us about your first international experience, either traveling or working abroad.
The first time I traveled abroad, I participated in a 2-week exchange program for high school students called the German American Partnership Program. A group of students studying German at my high school hosted a group of German students here in the US for two weeks, and the following summer, we went to Germany to be hosted in return. It was my first international flight, my first time being away from home for longer than a few days, and I loved it. We stayed in Berlin and Dresden for two days and then traveled to Chemnitz for our homestay, which was also used as a base for day trips to Leipzig and Weimar. We attended school and various social events with our host families. My host family was originally from Vietnam, and my host sister was dating a Swedish man at the time, so I was exposed to a really eclectic mix of cultures right off the bat. It was a very challenging trip --2 weeks is not a lot of time to adjust, but I walked away from it feeling like I hadn’t been there long enough like I wanted more!
Describe a typical day/week at the office at your current job.
A typical day at my current job starts with checking emails in the morning to see if anything urgent has come up. With emails out of the way, I move on to reviewing cases. My job relies heavily on Salesforce to review various credentials received by international applicants to the university and input relevant information so that the applicant can proceed with the rest of the admissions process. I spend most of my time reviewing international transcripts and consulting internal and external resources to determine US degree comparability. Some days are very busy, with multiple cases being submitted one after another, and others are more relaxed. I utilize any downtime that I have to review my training documents and continue learning about different educational systems around the world. I’ve only been in my position for a year, and credential evaluation is complex, so I still have a lot to learn. I also spend a lot of time consulting with my colleagues on specific policies or asking their advice about particularly challenging credential evaluations.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
My favorite thing about my job is the amount of variety in the credentials we see. I am constantly learning new things, encountering new credentials, researching, and adding to my notes. Some cases are like solving a puzzle, which I find very intellectually-stimulating. There’s always something to do or something to learn. It’s rare for anyone to be bored in this role.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
I would say the most challenging aspect is just trying to get a handle on the sheer amount of information you have to internalize in order to do the credential evaluator job effectively. There is a huge learning curve, especially when first starting out, and I remember feeling overwhelmed during my first few months. Over time, the knowledge starts to become second nature, but you are constantly adding to that knowledge, too.
What has working in international education taught you about yourself and your own culture?
Working in international education has opened my eyes to just how big the world really is and to how many opportunities there are to learn something new. I think, as Americans, it is really easy to get wrapped up in our own worldview. We are, to some extent, geographically and culturally isolated. It’s entirely possible to live your whole life without needing to learn a language or engage meaningfully with a culture other than our own, while for those in other countries, multilingualism and multiculturalism are daily realities. My work in international education has, I believe, helped me be more open-minded and inquisitive. It’s helped me cultivate diverse interests and points of view. And it’s helped me realize that there is so much more to the world than just my own personal daily reality.
Is there a value or principle from another culture that you have embraced and applied to your own life?
It’s not a value or principle exactly, but I find that the German word fernweh is something that underlies most of my major life decisions. Fernweh is often translated as “wanderlust,” but the translation that resonates most with me is “the deep yearning ache to see far-flung places,” or the opposite of homesickness. I frequently feel a gaping restlessness, a lust for travel and new experiences, that is only sated when I throw myself wholeheartedly into something new and unexplored. I am always itching to broaden my horizons.
Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth? How has that person influenced your career?
At the moment, no. But I do think that having a career mentor can be incredibly valuable and helpful, and I hope to have one in the future.
Describe a moment in your career that you consider your greatest achievement.
I’m having trouble thinking of one single great achievement --I’m pretty proud of all that I’ve accomplished. Nothing really stands out as “the greatest” to me. I think what I’m most proud of overall in regards to my career is my willingness to always try new things, to remain open to new opportunities, and to take chances.
How has COVID19 Impacted your work life? Are you currently working from home or both?
We began working from home in early March and were eventually told the transition would be in place indefinitely. I am still working from home.
If you are working from home, has that adjustment been difficult or enjoyable?
It hasn’t been difficult for me at all. I personally love working from home --it’s what suits my personality and work style best. I have a lot of autonomy and control over how I accomplish my required tasks and can work at a pace that best suits me. It is really refreshing to be able to work peacefully without the constant distractions of a noisy office.
What type of things are you doing to balance your mental health and lack of social engagement?
To be fair, I’m both a homebody and an introvert, so I haven’t suffered as much during pandemic isolation as others might. Talking to friends or family on the phone every few weeks and with my husband daily is enough social engagement to keep me happy. I am someone that really enjoys access to nature, though, and that’s definitely been hard to come by this year. I’ve been making it a point recently to take walks outside and get some fresh air. Regular moderate exercise has also really helped me stay sane, along with sticking to some sort of daily routine.
Has enrollment of international students at your institution decreased?
Not to my knowledge. I don’t work on the enrollment side of things, so I can’t say for sure. But we are an all-online university, and I don’t think we’ve been hit quite as hard by some of the pandemic repercussions.
Has participation in study abroad activities decreased?
To my knowledge, we don’t currently have any study abroad activities.
How are students at your institution coping with the COVID19 restrictions?
As far as I know, everything has been business as usual. I don’t work with students directly, so I’m not 100% sure, but I don’t think very many of the COVID19 restrictions have impacted daily student life since we were already all-online.
What is the best advice you can give to other global educators right now as we move into the new year?
Ooh, this is tough. I would say to stay strong and don’t lose hope. Even though things are pretty horrible right now, the pandemic won’t last forever, and at some point, things will return to normal--or a new normal. I don’t think this year has signaled the “end” of the field or anything dire like that. Rather, I think it has shaken things up and called on everyone to adapt quickly. I think that giving ourselves grace for doing the best we can do and looking toward the future is all anyone can do right now.
- Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Kanette Worlds
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