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INTERVIEWS

Real-World viewpoints from leaders in our field

Interviews of Women Professionals

Sharing Real-world viewpoints


We are excited to bring you an amazing section dedicated solely to the pursuit of sharing real-world viewpoints from women in our field. Our goal is to interview women who have had either unique experiences or just plain more experience than you so that you can learn from their wisdom and apply it in your own daily work challenges.


Limelight Interviews

Our interview style will change with every chat so that we can keep it fresh.  We hope you will read our spotlight interviews and get inspired to submit suggestions of other women who we should interview.  Every one of you has something special to share so please let us know who you would like to hear from!

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  • 16 Mar 2021 3:30 PM | Anonymous


    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH GLORIA KASANG BULUS

    Gloria Kasang Bulus trained as a Climate Reality Leader in Washington State in 2017. She lives in Kaduna, Nigeria, and directs “Bridge that Gap,” an NGO working on the climate crisis and various other humanitarian issues, furthering the education of women and children. Last summer 2020, former US Vice President Al Gore presented the Alfredo Sirkis Memorial Green Ring Award to four climate activists at the 44th Climate Reality Leadership Corps Global Training. This Training is a virtual event to train attendees with practical skills and knowledge to build an equitable and inclusive movement for climate action and climate justice. Gloria Kasang Bulus was one of these four climate activists and where I first heard her story.

    We are delighted she agreed to share her story with the Global Leadership League, and we are honoured to share her inspirational story with you: 

    What got you into Climate Action, and how did you start?  

    I became very concerned and worried about the alarming rate at which climate change was impacting the world, especially in Africa. I knew there was a need for voices to be raised and people to take action. There was a need for people that can influence others to take action and lobby our elected leaders. Looking at the future and the coming generation, I realised there was a need for strong climate action, which has to take place now.

    I also understood the need for a clean and healthy environment because we do not have another planet, we only have now. Therefore, it is our responsibility to protect and take care of our environment. 

    The impact of the climate crisis is worse on the most vulnerable groups, such as children, women, the elderly and the sick, and people living with disabilities. The impact of the climate crisis is also worse on poorer countries due to a lack of capacity for adaptation and mitigation of these crises… these reasons alone were enough for me to take climate action.

    Starting out 

    I started taking action some years ago by visiting schools and teaching kids what climate change was all about and its impact, and how they can take climate action. I taught them using animated videos, games, etc., and also the planting of trees. I then registered a non-profit organisation in Nigeria that is focused more on environmental governance. Later, with support from other organisations, I started media roundtables with journalists to talk about the climate crises and support them in climate reporting. 

    I also brought together women to talk and advocate on climate action, especially with respect to energy-efficient cookstoves and climate-smart agriculture, through meetings, press briefings, focus group discussions, etc. With time I created a network called Network of Civil Society In Environment, which is comprised of different organisations and individuals working around environmental issues to support taking action collectively because together, we can have better results.

    What led you on the climate action journey? 

    My passion for a sustainable, clean, and healthy environment led me on the climate action journey. My eagerness to save the world for the future generation and avoid the next generation asking questions about why we didn’t take action even when we knew and saw the impact of climate change is what keeps driving me on the climate journey.

    Why do you think women are so key in the climate action story and combating climate change?

    Climate change impacts everyone, but not equally. Climate change can have a greater impact on vulnerable groups, including women, people living with disabilities, the elderly, and the sick. Climate Change can also have a great impact on developing countries. Women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens from climate change impacts due to existing roles, responsibilities, and cultural norms they have to embrace as women.

    If you agree with me, women and girls make up about 51% of the population. To meet the ambitious 1.5 °C target of the Paris agreement, it is critical that the needs, perspectives, and ideas of women are included in climate action so as to create just, effective, and sustainable solutions. Therefore, the role of women cannot be ignored if we truly want to combat climate change.  

    In climate action, indigenous women play a very important role because they have experienced the impacts of climate change for generations, and therefore, when it comes to environmental conservation and management, they take the lead.

    Their knowledge, experience, and expertise will contribute greatly to building resilience to climate impacts. The traditional skills and knowledge that women have relating to natural resource management in areas such as innovation, waste, and energy are effective tools in climate action strategies that I assure you can bring the desired results in addressing climate change.

    In building climate resilience in communities, women are very important. I can confidently say that communities strive better in resilience and capacity-building strategies when women are involved in planning. Women are more willing to adapt to environmental changes since their family lives are often more impacted than men. In terms of sharing information about community wellbeing that can involve climate action, which is important for resilience, women are good at this.

    By tackling climate change from a gender perspective, women’s rights are also addressed, which means climate justice for women.

    What role do you think education plays in climate change? 

    Education plays a vital role in bringing about behavioural change and plays an important part by teaching people how to live sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyles by becoming carbon neutral, energy-efficient, engaging in proper waste management, and reducing their own ecological footprint. 

    Education is essential in helping young people understand and address the impact of climate change; it encourages changes in attitudes and behaviour and helps young people adapt to climate change-related trends. In response to climate change, one can’t take away education because of the role it plays in bringing effective results.

    How do you get your word across, how do you campaign for climate action? 

    Basically, I use more women groups and media (both traditional and social media). Media is a powerful medium to get the climate message across to targeted groups and places.

    What obstacles have you come across?

    Lots of people think climate terms are too scientific and complex to understand. Some people don’t believe there is climate change despite the impact that is evident. They mostly believe some of this is happening from God and can be explained or addressed in that way. Funding, too, is a big obstacle but does not limit me.  

    What motivates you, and what keeps you going?

    My motivation comes from the fact I know that I am making some impact, and I can still make more impact. And that I am able to influence people to take action and speak about the climate crises. The messages of encouragement and commendations I receive daily keep me going, and when I see climate activists all around the world being active and taking climate action, I get motivated to do more.

    What advice would you have for the readers reading this in other parts of the world, in education positions, leaders of universities, student advisors, college administrators, etc.?

    The climate crisis is no respecter of persons, countries, class, or status. The only difference is some are most vulnerable than others. The responsibility for climate action is for everyone and not selected individuals or countries. We must take action now. We must advocate for a just transition to environmental sustainability. We must understand climate governance and lobby our elected leaders, and we must live eco-friendly lifestyles and continue talking about the solutions to climate change.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Noreen Lucy

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 02 Mar 2021 5:28 PM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH ATEMBE GILES

    What is your current title, and where do you work?

    I'm an ESL teacher and the Program Coordinator for Children's & Cultural Programs. I work at the Gangnam International Education Center for the Gangnam District Government Office in Seoul, South Korea.

    How did you learn about your current position?

    I found the job listing on a popular job portal online.

    What sparked your interest in working in international education?

    My undergraduate degree is in International Studies (now known as "Global Studies"). I thought I would work for an international corporation, but I tried out working for major advertising and marketing firms, and it just wasn't my cup of tea. My favorite classes in college were anthropology, where I could really dig into the culture, and I knew I wanted to immerse myself in other cultures to learn and experience them more authentically. Also, when I studied abroad in France as a senior in college, my advisors really encouraged me to teach abroad. I wasn't really interested at the time, but coming from a family of educators, I realized that it could be interesting to at least try it out in an international environment, so I did.

    What was your first job in international education?

    My first real job was as an English guest teacher in Seoul, South Korea, via the EPIK (English Program in Korea) government program. The process isn't necessarily difficult, but it does have a number of steps: acquiring many documents and notarizing them; gathering reference letters; creating a resume; submitting a cover letter; answering essay questions; creating a sample lesson plan; getting a background check; etc. Overall the process took about nine months, from applying for my federal background check to applying and waiting for the results to landing in Korea. However, if you don't use EPIK and apply to schools directly, it can take less than three months if you already have the necessary documents for your visa.

    Tell us about your first international experience, either traveling or working abroad.

    My first international experience was studying abroad in Toulouse, France, in college. I went through the SIT (School of International Training) program. There were about 10 of use from various universities in America, taking French language, history, and culture courses together at the university in Toulouse. We also had internships as part of the program, and I was able to work at a dance studio, translating promotional material and teaching dance classes (in French!). We also had many excursions and field trips: we learned about winemaking, wine pairings, and the importance of French gastronomy; we took historical tours and learned about the architecture; we also had a second homestay in rural French villages where we chose a research topic and conducted research with the locals, which we then presented (also in French).

    It was an extremely eye-opening experience, where I learned many similarities, parallels, and differences between my culture as a Cameroonian-American and the French culture and their underlying social struggles as well. It also highlighted how race, nationality, and culture are viewed and handled outside of America and how much privilege our passport holds as Americans. I only wish I'd studied abroad sooner; I made ENORMOUS progress in my language ability and probably would've tried to study abroad again if I'd started earlier!

    Describe a typical day/week at the office at your current job.

    My work hours are from 9-4, though I stay later at certain points of the year if we have children's camp or other special projects. Our school is primarily for adult language learners, but when I was hired, they had just begun working on elementary programs. Since I have lots of elementary teaching experience, my director was very eager for me to join the team and help with the design of those programs. I teach adults from 10 AM to 1 PM, have lunch from 1:00-2:00, then depending on the day, I either have an elective with adult students from 3:00-4:00 or teach elementary students from 3:00-5:00, or I'm doing assessment tests and processing applications for elementary students from 3:00 until…I feel like I've done enough for the day. Every other month, we have a Culture Day for our adult students, and I'm in charge of developing activities and informative presentations on the theme. The themes are usually around American or Western holidays, though I try to add a more global spin to it. For example, in October, our Culture Day was about Halloween; December is about Christmas; May was about weddings, but since we have teachers from many different countries (such as the UK, Ireland, South Africa, and Kenya), we had each teacher do short presentations on weddings in their countries with Q&A discussions from the students, and activities to follow.

    What do you enjoy the most about your job?

    I like that I can work with many different age groups. I like that, for the most part, all of the students are very motivated to learn. I absolutely love my staff and co-workers and appreciate that our opinions and knowledge as educators are taken into consideration when implementing new procedures or selecting materials; it's very rare for a Korean school or educational institute to do that with its foreign staff. We all love teaching and want to help the students as well as we can, in fun and creative but meaningful ways, and we try to do that within the demands and confines of Korean culture.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

    Communication is not always clear or succinct, and some decisions seem illogical or more complicated than they need to be. In Korean culture, the order of power and respect is very seriously adhered to, and because of that, questions have to go all the way up all the rungs of the leadership ladder before a decision is made, then we have to wait for that decision to make it all the way back down to us teachers. It can be tedious, and there is sometimes a disconnect between us teachers, who are on the ground and directly understand the needs of our students, and the education heads at the government level who don't really see our day-to-day needs and challenges.

    What has working in international education taught you about yourself and your own culture?

    I've learned that I really value the push to be creative, unique, and outspoken that is instilled into American children. Growing up, I was very introverted but also very competitive. In America, and in my African family, trying your best in order to shine or be the best and be recognized is a good thing. It's not like that in Korea. While they value education, the motivation is different. They are taught to blend in and be one; it's almost seen as rude to "show off" how much you know or to just be a very eager student. This made it challenging in some classes where students would not raise their hands or answer questions if they were the only ones to do so. Also, the pressure to excel and succeed here, as well as the definition of success, is very different from what I was raised to believe. However, I've also learned that Americans tend to think we and our culture and ways of thinking are the center of the universe and the norm everywhere, and it's definitely not. Other cultures work just fine, and their people are thriving and enjoying themselves on ideals that are almost the opposite of American ideals. I've learned that there is more than one way to do something and to live your life.

    Is there a value/principle from another culture that you have embraced and applied to your own life?

    I really like how Koreans tend to share, especially when it comes to food! When Koreans receive a gift, they tend to offer it to others around them first (if it's shareable), and they are extremely conscious of how others in a group feel or are perceiving them. It doesn't always work out well, but I appreciate the awareness—in Korean, it's called "nunchi," which is kind of like your intuition about others, and it's something I think many people could practice more. I also love the focus on skincare vs. heavy makeup—I never tended to my skin so much before moving here, but they really value good skin and also appreciate being in nature and spending time outside.

    Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth?

    At this point, I do not. However, I do keep in touch with a few supervisors from my college days, and I look to them for inspiration and as role models.

    Describe a moment in your career that you consider your greatest achievement.

    As a personal achievement, it was the moment I learned that I HAVE to make the classroom fun for the students but also fun for ME. If I'm not having a good time, I know my students can't be. When I focused on this, it made lesson planning and teaching much more enjoyable, which was an asset to my students' experiences. In Korea, for English learners, one of the main challenges is that students are super self-conscious, shy, and critical about their speaking performance. It's more important to create a comfortable learning environment where they know they can speak freely and practice out loud without feeling afraid or embarrassed. Testing and assignments are important to the higher-ups, but the goal is to be able to function well in English, and sometimes you as the teacher need to make an executive decision on how your classroom and lessons will be. Other things I'm proud of - I was able to teach at a school for the deaf and blind, and it was such a fulfilling and humbling experience. The students (high schoolers) were so bright and just as eager and fun as any other student I've had. I also got to create many courses related to the arts and my culture. Korea values education but doesn't really see art, music, dance, or theatre as something that is as important as English, math, or science. They also don't have a lot of exposure to other cultures, so being able to share those things and help them connect those subjects with learning English was a great accomplishment. Finally, the International Institute of Education awarded me the Gold Prize for a video contest highlighting my life as an English teacher in Korea. It was very meaningful because it was my first year teaching, I was able to share my lessons and teaching philosophy with others, and as a Black woman, I was able to show other people who look like me that we can travel to ethnically homogenous countries and still be appreciated and make an impact on others' lives.

    How has COVID19 Impacted your work life?

    I'm actually on maternity leave right now, so I'm at home, not working. Before, I was working from home for a few weeks; before that, I was still commuting to school to teach online. Korea has handled this virus much better than many other countries, and there has never been a total shutdown or lockdown. Elementary schools are still meeting in person, with one-third or less of students coming in on their given days; all the higher grade levels (including university) are teaching online, either from the school or from home. The biggest impact is probably that student numbers have dropped at my school, so we have fewer classes and smaller classes. Some teachers also left because of all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic when it first began, so our staff has shrunk. Many of the programs for this year had to be canceled or postponed, so I've actually had a lot less on my plate in that regard. The biggest adjustment has just been transferring things to an online format. We do live classes, create more electronic materials, and I even hosted YouTube education segments for our elementary students as an alternative for the usual camps and culture programs we would do throughout the year. So, I've learned a lot of technical and presentation skills and have had to connect with students in new ways, such as lots of email follow-ups and actually having to schedule times to meet at least once per session versus seeing each other every day.

    If you are working from home, has that adjustment been difficult or enjoyable?

    It has been the absolute BEST! I actually only started working from home because I was pregnant, and my doctor strongly advised me to stop commuting and stay home; my school still had us coming in each day to teach virtually from our school offices. My commute was 45-60 minutes each way, so I'm very glad I no longer need to go through that!

    What type of things are you doing to balance your mental health and lack of social engagement?

    It's been very difficult with many places shut down. I was also pregnant for most of the year and now have a newborn to tend to, so I've been especially careful about where I go and what I'm exposed to now that I have a little one at home. The biggest things that have helped me are having schedule Zoom meetings with my family and friends, watching TV comedies, taking walks around the neighborhood, and just resting. I was feeling pressure to try and use this time to start this project and that project and basically try to monetize this time period, but that's also a very American, capitalist mindset, and it just doesn't work in my current situation. I've instead pursued hobbies that I've always wanted to do but haven't had time for, and I'm doing them just for fun, such as learning how to sew, polishing up on my French, and reading tons of new books.

    Has enrollment of international students at your institution decreased?

    Our center doesn't really accept international students; as a government institution, we are meant to serve the local residents of our district, so only Koreans are enrolled. As long as you are a resident of our district, you can enroll. We've had a few Japanese and Chinese students, but they were essentially Korean residents, not really international students.

    Has participation in study abroad activities decreased?

    It has definitely decreased. Many students enroll in our school to prepare for job certifications or to go abroad, either for school or work. The pandemic has halted that since the main nations where students go (the USA and the UK) are still seeing high cases of the virus. As an alternative to going abroad, we've offered more opportunities to speak one-on-one with a foreign teacher, but for the most part, students are just postponing their plans on their own.

    How are students at your institution coping with the COVID19 restrictions?

    We have moved completely online. It's good for students who had to travel long distances, or who didn't even live in our district, because they can participate now more easily. However, many of my students miss the face-to-face interactions, and since we have adult students, many of them are parents. This means they now have to watch their children during the time they would normally be taking classes, so many have had to postpone their studies in order to assist their kids with their own online learning.

    What is the best advice you can give to other global educators right now as we move into 2021?

    Instead of thinking of COVID as a temporary problem, see it as a lifestyle change and as an opportunity to try newer, better, more creative teaching strategies. The sooner we accept that this may very well be a permanent lifestyle change, the sooner we can move forward with creating a new normal for ourselves and for our students. This time has shown us that virtual learning is TOTALLY possible and can be just as, if not more, effective as face-to-face learning. Cracks and holes in traditional education have also been exposed thanks to this epidemic, and I only hope that our government and education officials will really see the value we bring and the challenges we endure as educators and make more deliberate measures to support us—and by association, our students and their families—in the future.

    Atembe Giles is an international educator, writer, and performer living in Seoul, South Korea. She has more than five years of international education experience and has lived in and traveled to more than ten countries since graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her specialties include utilizing the arts as a teaching tool and as a motivational device to encourage students to learn about the world around them while finding new ways to express themselves and excel in their language learning. She plans to continue her international education journey when she returns to the USA in 2021, either by helping international students enroll in American schools or helping American students to enroll in study abroad programs.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Kanette Worlds

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 16 Feb 2021 2:30 PM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH ADRIANA SMITH

    I grew up in Miami surrounded by a large Spanish-speaking population, so whenever I heard someone speak the language, I got really excited and wanted to understand what they were saying. My brother and I even formed our own type of Spanish just so that we could communicate and pretend like we were bilingual. What really solidified my interest in the language was hearing a black woman speak Spanish fluently while attending a summer camp. I just remember thinking – I want to be like her. It wasn’t until high school that I had the chance to actually study the language, but I never really connected that to traveling abroad. Miami has a really diverse population of Caribbean people, so I thought that was pretty much it.

    When I went to the University of Florida, I took Spanish courses. During my sophomore year, a study abroad advisor came to our class to give a presentation about a six-week summer program. My ears perked up! At that time, I had decided to declare Spanish as a dual-major because I was already pursuing criminology. The study abroad opportunity was a perfect fit because the credits from the experience would allow me to graduate on time instead of taking on another semester.

    I immediately went back to my dorm to apply. I didn’t talk to anyone about it, including my mom. I called her right after I submitted the application and told her I was going to Spain that summer. All I heard was silence. While I didn’t have that initial support, I was motivated by the opportunity to see the world and gain fluency in Spanish. After getting my passport and booking the ticket, I still didn’t know what I was in for. I had never left Florida, so I had no idea what to expect.

    When I first arrived, I compared Madrid to Miami, and that was a huge mistake. I dismissed an entire country and culture to fit my reality and comfort. Two days into the program, I got lost and was immediately hit with culture shock and homesickness. I thought – oh my gosh, what did I do?! I wanted to go home, but ultimately, I decided to stay, and I was so grateful that I didn’t leave. By the end of the program, I had an overwhelming appreciation for where I was and the opportunity to study abroad.

    In my senior year, I applied for a master’s program and decided to study abroad again through New York University’s linguistic program. I returned to Madrid, Spain, for an entire year- reveling in the country, appreciating local people, and making connections. I traveled to other parts of Europe, and I felt like that was the first time I really got to see the world. I was much more humble and I didn’t allow my arrogance or pride to get in the way. However, the idea of having a career in IE wouldn’t hit me until ten years later.

    After graduating from NYU, I took a position teaching at a middle school through Teach for America. It was one of the hardest years of my life. I was teaching math and science, which was already difficult, but there were also a lot of behavior issues with the students and pressure from the administration. Looking back now, it was a blessing in disguise because it made me tougher. On April 8, 2014, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t sacrifice my passion for money or anything else - no matter what. I call it the day of rebirth and the moment I knew that I wanted to work in international education.

    I came across an internship position with GoAbroad on SECUSS-L.  I applied and got a six-week internship in Colorado. Things started to align for me after that. Spending that time allowed me to really get to learn the ins and outs of an international ed provider. It was the perfect place for me. It took two years after that to get a full-time job in international ed, but I continued communicating with my contacts, and I took another internship as an education manager with Inside Study Abroad. During that time, I responded to an RFP to present a poster at the NAFSA convention in order to establish credibility and enhance my resume. While taking a lunch break from the convention, I met a woman who worked at Presbyterian College. She told me about an internship position for graduate students in the international education office. I applied for the internship and was hired, and the rest, as they say, is history! The person I met at NAFSA, left her position ten months later, so I applied for that job and became the Assistant Director of International Programs.

    Adriana loves sharing her journey into IE and travel experiences as the founder and blogger at Traveprenuer. Through her platform, she has become a speaker/trainer on the topic FIRST Step 2 Resilience. She also published a book called Studying Abroad for Black Women to encourage other students and young women of color to pursue study abroad opportunities and careers in IE. Adriana also recently published a guidebook in response to COVID-19 called 5 Ways to Reset & Refocus: Your Mindset During A Major Disruption.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Kanette Worlds

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 28 Jan 2021 5:15 PM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH BECCA YOUNT

    Becca Yount was bit by the “IE bug” while taking German language classes, starting in middle school through high school. While in high school, she participated in an exchange program that enabled her to become a host-sister to a German student. Becca later traveled to Germany to spend two weeks with her own host family.

    After graduation, Becca enrolled in Illinois State University to pursue a degree in education. The university had a strong international student presence providing the perfect environment for her to explore and learn about different cultures.

    “From freshman year, I lived and worked on the international student floor. I was a live-in resource for the students. We had students from all over the world with significant populations from Brazil, China, Australia, and England. It was a fantastic opportunity and where I got my inspiration to study abroad.”

    After talking to some of her fellow students, Becca decided to study abroad at the University of Limerick, one of the top-ranked universities for international students in Ireland. There, she took courses in Irish language, folklore, and music.

    Irish is complicated to learn but beautiful when spoken,” she says.

    Upon returning to Illinois State, she took on a role as a Study Abroad Ambassador in the International Education office – a position she would hold for the remainder of her junior and senior year. Her primary job was to host campus presentations and setup information tables on the quad during various events.

    Becca decided to go back to Europe a third time as she finished her degree. This time, she went to England and completed her student teaching requirement at a small school on the southern coast. She spent two months living with a host family and gained valuable insight and a completely different perspective on educating elementary age students.

    “We were outside for a couple periods of the day, teaching students how to do boy scout type stuff in ‘forest school.’ I think it was better structured for young children. They had six terms in the year, and each term had a different theme. One of the themes was outer space, so every lesson that they taught incorporated that theme.”

    Becca also appreciated the school's location, which was adjacent to a church built during the 12-1300s and a castle built during the 700-800s. She was in awe at the history and architecture but said the students were accustomed to sites and not as impressed by their surroundings.

    Following a temporary stint at the Disney College Program in Orlando, and a part-time gig at a local living history museum in Naperville, IL, Becca found a home at the Chicago-based study abroad organization, IES Abroad, where she has worked for the past three years.

    As the Senior Program Advisor, Becca oversees eight centers abroad in cities such as Cape Town, Dublin, Paris, and Granada. She helps students coordinate their academic trajectory and obtain travel visas, among many other things. Like other international education providers, COVID-19 has brought their activity to a standstill- with the exception of a virtual internship program.  

    “We had been following the spread around the world because we have programs all over the place. In China specifically, we had to stop the program before it started. I also saw things unfolding faster than many of my local friends because of our centers in Europe, but we thought we were going home for two weeks.”

    When Becca realized that working remotely would be indefinite, she decided to move back home with her parents in the suburbs to avoid commuting on public transportation. Although she now enjoys working from home, she misses her colleagues and is eager to get back to in-person engagement.

    “Working in IE during a pandemic is a fascinating look at what’s going on around the world. Hearing from my colleagues in other cities and listening to how they are doing and how their countries are managing is especially interesting to see. Many of my colleagues were very interested in the outcome of the US election the effects that will have on the next few months.”

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Kanette Worlds

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 14 Jan 2021 10:30 AM | Anonymous


    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

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 29 Dec 2020 8:59 AM | Anonymous


    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH HAILEY GOUZA

    What is your current title and where do you work?

    Student Advisor and Marketing Coordinator at Barcelona Study Abroad Experience (SAE).

    How did you learn about your current position? (Ex. Networking, Promotion, External Job Posting)

    Initially, I discovered Barcelona SAE when I saw a SECUSS-L post for an International Education Internship and applied! Since then, I have moved up and had a few different roles at the company.

    What sparked your interest in working in international education?

    Growing up, my father was always very involved in our town's Historic Association and that sparked my initial interest in history. My first true cross-cultural experience was during an internship I had one summer during college. I worked with Somali Bantu refugees, offering job search solutions and resume building training. My interest in history and culture came together after a study abroad experience of my own, in Barcelona, Spain. I was fascinated by the intersections of history and culture and how each influenced the other in this city. After my experience, I was struck by the transformative nature of international education and realized the value of cultural learning coupled with personal growth and the coming-of-age journey it provides for college students.

    What was your first job in international education? Did you have a hard time obtaining this job? How long did it take?

    I started at Barcelona SAE as an International Education Intern. I graduated from college in May and it took me until February of the next year to land the position, almost 8 months. I had applied to hundreds of jobs across the US and abroad and was working on completing the Global Pro Institute. The internship with Barcelona SAE was the perfect fit for me, it provided me with a crash course in the field as well as practical job training and experience.

    Tell us about your first international experience either traveling or working abroad.

    My first experience traveling abroad was to Barcelona, Spain for my semester abroad. At the time, it was only my second time on a plane and first time leaving the country, first time traveling alone and my first official time being considered an “independent adult”. I was scared and nervous upon arrival and trying to remember every tip from my well-traveled grandparents. After a few weeks of adjusting and having some cultural hiccups- including buying mayonnaise thinking it was alfredo sauce- I quickly fell in love with the city and the adventure.

    Describe a typical day/week at the office at your current job.

    As Student Advisor and Marketing Coordinator at a small, but agile company, I wear a few different hats. My main responsibility is to advise applicants through the application process from initial interest through pre-departure. This includes form collection, data management, working with university partners, and the not-so-glamourous visa advising process. I spend a lot of my time talking to students (and parents) about their goals for the program and sharing my own experience abroad. For the marketing aspect of my position, I manage our social media channels, assist our Marketing Director in digital and print projects, and make suggestions for improvements.

    What do you enjoy the most about your job?

    I enjoy sharing my own travel stories with students and sharing in their excitement for a new experience. I love hosting pre-departure workshops, talking about culture and hearing about what students expect their study abroad experience to be like. On occasion, I get to travel to Barcelona and meet some of the students in person and hear how their experience is going. I then get to act surprised when they say it is nothing like what they expected!

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

    I would say the visa advising process. Managing applications from students across the country means working with 8 different Spanish consulates, who all need slightly different documents from each student, some in Spanish and others in English. This process takes a lot of attention to detail and very strong organizational skills. Shout out to all advisors across the field who are championing this process every semester!

    What has working in international education taught you about yourself and your own culture?

    Working in International Education has greatly expanded my personal worldview. This work has helped me realize that education can be a tool used to combat racism, hate, and ignorance. Being able to understand others, empathize and, embrace differences are all skills that can result from an International Education experience. These skills make a difference in the face of injustices and empower people to advocate for others while spreading understanding.  

    Is there a value or principle from another culture that you have embraced and applied to your own life?

    The idea and value of a Siesta from Spanish culture is my favorite. I love the idea of taking a break when you need it without judgment. Work-life balance is so valued in Spain and something I think we need more of in the U.S.

    Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth? How has that person influenced your career?

    A lot of my senior colleagues at Barcelona SAE have served as mentors to me. Each have their own specialties and have offered me something different as I have advanced in the company. Specifically, both Kristin Uyl and Christina Thompson have leant an ear when I have had questions or doubts. Kristin is a marketing expert and has been an absolute role model of what a strong female boss should be. Christina and I go way back and she was my study abroad advisor in college! She has mentored me through many transitions and has worked to help me understand my own privileges and grow my passion for DEI work.

    How has COVID19 Impacted your work life? Are you currently working from home or both?

    I am currently working remotely from home, but that has always been the nature of my position! Now, I am just working on reduced hours and, of course not traveling to visit our partner universities.

    If you are working from home, has that adjustment been difficult or enjoyable?

    Having always worked from home I have definitely had an advantage and it has been fun to share my work from home strategies with friends and family who are experiencing this for the first time. Specifically, at the beginning of the pandemic, my fiancé was complaining every day and thought he would miss the human interaction. Now, he is hooked on the work from home life, getting twice the work done and hoping he doesn’t ever have to go back into the office.

    What type of things are you doing to balance your mental health and lack of social engagement?

    Taking walks is a huge way that I have dealt with mental stress. It has been so helpful to just take a break and get some fresh air.

    Has enrollment of international students at your institution decreased? What strategies will your organization use in 2021 to regain student interest?

    Enrollment has decreased but we have been working on some innovative solutions both for student engagement and for professional engagement in the International Education field. For students, we launched a virtual internship program that utilizes our network of companies in Barcelona and matches students with great projects they can do from home. Barcelona SAE has also launched a “study abroad menu” for our university partners allowing them to choose a-la-carte services to bring intercultural learning into their classrooms, virtually. We arrange guest speakers, virtual tours, and intercultural leadership sessions that adapt some of our best onsite offerings to classrooms across the U.S. Finally, for our colleagues, we just launched our newest addition to our Diversity Initiative: The TODOS Sounding Board. TODOS (The Outcomes-Based Diversity Outreach Strategy) is aimed at increasing financial resources, providing inclusive academic programming, and expanding outreach and training to those in underserved populations. The Sounding Board is an invitation for colleagues in the field to discuss DEI topics, collaborate, and share resources.

    How are students at your institution coping with the COVID19 restrictions? (Social distancing, virtual classes, on-campus testing, etc…)

    Many of our virtual interns have reported they are attending online classes and are hoping to re-evaluate for the Spring or even Fall term. Many are patiently waiting for things to go back to “normal”. 

    What is the best advice you can give to other global educators right now as we move into the new year?

    Remember that you are not alone, every single person in our field has been affected by this pandemic and even if it will be a while before we can all travel again, it will return eventually and the need for cultural learning will be greater than ever. It is easy to lose sight of that day-to-day but we must have sustained hope for the future. I would also say let’s keep checking in on each other and sharing resources and professional development. Reaching out to those in and outside of your network even to just say “Hi” means a lot in these times of social isolation.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Kanette Worlds

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 14 Dec 2020 8:37 AM | Anonymous


    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH JESSICA SCHÜLLER

    “I think pivoting is a big thing and you have to be aware of the fact that you’re going to have to pivot all the time,” says Jessica Schϋller, when asked how working in international education has prepared her to deal with the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    You have to learn to be resilient, be able to pivot, and then be resourceful especially in this field because it’s so competitive and the perceived entry barrier is low.”

    Pivoting is exactly what Jessica has been doing for the past 10 years. Growing up on a farm in rural Wisconsin, the idea of traveling or studying abroad wasn’t a popular education path. “Someone from my high school won a full scholarship to go to Russia and I thought that was cool and I wanted something bigger for myself as well.”

    Her motivation to travel abroad was enhanced even further in her junior year after two exchange students enrolled at her school – one of whom she eventually married. Jessica had hoped to get a scholarship for a program in Spain but was accepted into a German program. She lived with a host family and was able to become fluent in German. The experience living in Germany proved to be crucial in shaping the rest of her career trajectory.

    After graduating high school, Jessica enrolled in a first-year study abroad program at an American branch campus in Italy. She later transferred to the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, where she received a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in German studies. During that time, she spent the summers getting work experience in Germany through volunteering, interning, and teaching English.

    Her fascination with migrants living in Germany inspired her to apply for the Critical Language Scholarship Program (CLS) sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. This opportunity would take her to Ankara University in Turkey for three months where she became conversational in Turkish.

     Jessica returned to Germany and accepted a position in the international office at the University of Augsburg in Germany helping international students find jobs in Germany while also teaching German cultural studies. She used her personal experience with finding internships in Germany and founded the Germany Internship Program. Within three years she was able to assist ten students in obtaining summer internships, half of those from her alma mater. Three of those students are currently working in Germany or Switzerland and one of them has a Fulbright Scholarship in Austria and is planning to go to medical school in Germany.

    She considered returning to the USA but was given the opportunity to get a fully-funded master’s degree in research and innovation in higher education from Tampere University and Danube University Krems. “I spent my first semester in Austria and the second semester in Finland. I was supposed to go to the USA, India, and keep traveling but the pandemic happened. I’m currently in Austria and in the process of submitting my thesis because they switched the program around so that we are completing it in the middle of the program instead of at the end. I have six months left.”

    Once she obtains her master’s degree, Jessica is planning to intern with CIPES, a prominent center for higher education research in Portugal.

    In addition to continuing to provide career coaching and support to internationals, she also designs, develops, and facilitates workshops on topics related to working in Germany through Germany Career Coach, which she also founded. Her passion and future doctorate degree will be focused on helping high school students from rural communities gain access to higher education and study/intern abroad programs.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Kanette Worlds.

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 30 Nov 2020 10:26 AM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH MEG RAMEY

    Like many professional women in higher ed, Meg Ramey had reached the pinnacle of success in the academic world. She earned a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies and Literature from the University of St. Andrews, attained tenure status at Messiah University, and received a generous benefits package that included sabbatical time. However, she felt like she was not on the right path.

    “When I was a professor, I had no time for anything else. I was working 70-80 hours a week and didn’t have much time for family, friends, or a life outside of my academic career.”

    She recalls reading an article early in her career stating that among career professionals, female academics were one of the highest demographics to remain single, even more so than female lawyers or medical doctors. Out of the fourteen members of her department, the three women were single while all the men were married. “That was more or less my experience throughout graduate school and higher education,” she recalled. Wanting to find a better work-life balance, along with many other factors, helped Meg decide to leave her tenured position. 

    It was a natural transition for her to shift from academics to education abroad since during her eight years as a professor she had led students on many cross-cultural and service-learning programs spanning four continents and eighteen countries. When one of the program providers with whom she had worked—Tutku Educational Travel–offered her the position as Director of Education Abroad, she was happy to accept.

    Even though she was traveling a great deal in this new role, she also had more free time than before. She joined the Board of Directors of YesLiberia, a non-profit that seeks to “empower young people in Liberia through meaningful service-learning opportunities in education, healthcare, and technology” and began volunteering with her local Harrisburg Keystone Rotary Club, which is where she met her husband. 

    “I promised to show him the world, and he promised to show me Pennsylvania,” she laughingly recalled, “because even though I had lived here for 10 years, I had never had much time to explore the area. In 2019, during our first year of marriage, he saw five new different countries. When COVID hit earlier this year, however, our roles reversed, and he began taking me around Pennsylvania. We’ve been trying to get outdoors as much as possible—taking walks along the Susquehanna river, going camping, and hiking along the Appalachian Trail.”

    She is happy that she left academia when she did. Reactions among her colleagues were mixed when she made the decision:

    “Some people felt like I blew up my career, and others would say, ‘Take me with you!’ My life is a lot more balanced now, and I am much happier. I love my husband. I love my life. And I’ll be happy if this new business venture takes off.”

    Meg’s latest adventure is becoming the Founder and Executive Director of WorldKind Journeys, a teaching ministry that facilitates studying the Bible “on the ground” while journeying to historic places and into sacred spaces across the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Europe.

    The business was birthed out of necessity and ingenuity in the aftermath of parting ways with her company, which suffered a reduction in staffing due to COVID-19. Part of her business development research included enrolling in the Brazen Business Institute and in Penn State-Harrisburg’s Launchbox program, which helps individuals develop their own business and organizes a pitch competition at the end. Meg won the pitch competition and received a small amount of seed money to invest in her new business.

    “After that it’s been figuring out how to do graphic design, web building, marketing, and all these different pieces that were not part of my academic training.”  

    Along the way, Meg has had the support of other women impacted by the pandemic. She had just begun a Mentoring Circle offered by the Global Leadership League in March of this year.

    “We were supposed to focus on salary negotiations, but we all just looked at each other and thought, ‘What’s there to negotiate?’ Half of us are laid off, and those who are still employed are not going to negotiate a salary because they are just thankful to still have a job. It morphed into us meeting once a month to discuss what was happening in the pandemic.”

    She had also just been accepted into NAFSA’s Trainer Corps program and was placed into one trainer group with two other women:

    “One still had a job, the other was furloughed during the summer, and I had just left my company, so we all had different stories. We still keep in touch periodically and hope that one day we will actually get to lead an in-person training session together.”

    Starting an educational travel business amid a pandemic has had its share of highs and lows, but like most companies and individuals, Meg is focusing her efforts on what she can do as opposed to her limitations:

    “The way that I’m making it work right now is that I’m doing a variety of jobs in addition to trying to build a new company. Next April and September, I am supposed to lead programs in Turkey, if there’s a vaccine by then, but I’ve also been teaching online and preaching at churches along with tutoring and editing online. Those are all the little pieces that have helped bring in money.”

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Kanette Worlds.

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 19 Nov 2020 12:15 PM | Anonymous


    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH LAKSHMI IYER

    What makes a great leader?

    This week was timely to ask myself that question. My lecturer in my “Leadership in Sustainability” course asked our class that question on Tuesday as part of my Postgraduate studies in Sustainability. 

    The definition of leadership I gave was “Leading from within, from the centre, with empathy, authenticity, acting swiftly and communicating clearly”, giving the examples of Jacinta Ardern and Angela Merkel. 

    But I could equally have given the example of my good friend and colleague, Lakshmi Iyer. 

    During our lecture we were reminded that the Anglo-Saxon etymological root of the words lead, leader and leadership is “laed”, which means path or road. The verb means to travel. Thus a leader was originally one who shows fellow travelers the way by walking ahead.

    If anyone knows Lakshmi then she truly embodies the word, “laed”. 

    As we spoke for this interview, I realised that Lakshmi embodies the person, the people, the women we have watched in action during Covid-19, be it global leaders such as Jacinta Ardern, Angela Merkel or Tsai Ing-Wen, or the leaders within our organisations, the universities we work with, that have risen to the challenges of Covid-19 and have led from within.    

    It is said that management is about doing things right and leadership is about doing the right thing. Lakshmi tells me it is all about our behaviour and how we react to crisis, how we manage ourselves on a daily basis. 

    She is very honest and tells me some days it is really difficult to face into another day of working and living with Covid-19, there seems to be no end in sight, we have no control over the situation, no control over when we will get a vaccine or when borders will re-open. 

    The only thing we have control over, she tells me, is how we behave. 

    Historian Thomas Carlyle, stated, “the history of the world is but the biography of great men”. But I think we are entering into a new phase and adopting a new definition of leadership, which is that of authenticity, the notion of leadership as serving others, our clients, our employees, and the environment around us. 

    Covid-19 has shown us leaders who have been capable of showing compassion for their employees that were working from home, trying to home school children, care for elderly parents, adjust their entire lives around Covid, and deal with less than ideal situations. She knows many colleagues that have lost their jobs. 

    When I ask Lakshmi, how she is doing, she answers honestly and tells me how she has worried for her staff, has fought to keep their jobs, has worried about her colleagues, who are more than clients to her. She tells me anecdotes of colleagues who have decided to home-school children this year, rather than sit them in front of Zoom, how she knows clients who have lost family and dear friends to the virus. She is seeing the world through their eyes. This for me is the definition of a leader. Yes, a leader needs to show strength and be clear in their decisions and communicate effectively, but we can do this by also showing kindness. 

    Lakshmi feels we are on the cusp of a new world. In our own industry, international education, in order to survive, we have all had to adapt our way of working. Readers will recognise this need and how we are continually adjusting to an ever-evolving situation. I recognise Lakshmi’s challenge in putting both feet into this new world when part of her wants to hang on to the old or keep a connection to the old way of doing things. We are going through massive changes and Lakshmi faces these changes every day. The need of business to change, the need to protect her staff, and the need to stay ahead of the market for her clients. 

    But Covid has ravaged our world and it is going to take huge resilience and ability to keep up with the changes. We reflect on the surge capacity that is required and how we are still in fight mode. There has been so much uncertainty that there is no time for reflection. We are, after all, still in this time of uncertainty. We talk about having to over-engage with people, to put on the war paint each day, to face personal challenges, and a compassion for clients, colleagues, and staff can often leave you so spent at the end of the day. So often we find ourselves doubting ourselves asking if we are doing enough.  

    Each morning Lakshmi wakes up, these are the battles she faces and we talk about these as mountains you have to climb, every day, but if you know Lakshmi, you know that she can take on this challenge. 

    Resilience was a word we often used in theory pre-Covid – but since March, it has been well and truly practiced. 

    Lakshmi has not seen her parents since January or her brother since February. Her US visa ran out during the summer and being unable to renew that visa with her brother living in the US, prioritised for her what was truly important in her life. I think we can all relate to the pain of not being able to see our loved ones.  

    Lakshmi and I both come from cultures where we have strong burial traditions and we talk about the impact Covid has had on people that are not able to mourn their dead, and what legacy this is going to leave. She hopes we do not forget the people this has had such an impact on, those this has taken a toll on mentally. 

    We look back on how naive we both were in February and March when we both thought this would be over by the end of the year. We look to the future and what that might mean. Lakshmi remembers as a student in 2000/2001 and coming to the UK, having to show her inoculation card and a cleared TB test in order to obtain her visa. This will be the future where we will need to show proof of Covid-19 inoculation. 

    As we speak we come around to talking about the amazing work that is being done by people like Bill Gates. As happens with every conversation I have with Lakshmi, we come back to the positives, the Hope Index is always replenished after a chat with her and she always finds the Silver Linings. 

    The key thing to remember, Lakshmi reminds me, is that it can be easy to feel isolated, we can have our good days, but we can have bad days in equal measure. Her words that the only thing we have control over at the moment is how we behave ourselves is such great advice and I think that might just get us through the next few months.

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 21 Oct 2020 8:37 AM | Anonymous

    LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH OLIVIA MOSS

    Imagine leaving your job, your home, a way of life you have known for 3 years and flying with your 15-month-old daughter and husband from Australia to Ireland to start all over again. Imagine saying goodbye to your friends and colleagues in Canberra, flying home with all your possessions, and landing at Dublin Airport to begin a new job and a new life. 

    Now, imagine doing that all in the midst of a pandemic… 

    Having to travel through an empty Sydney airport. Meeting all the strict travel requirements. Having to apply for and receive exemptions to the travel restrictions. Be Covid-19 tested, be met with hazmat-suit-clad temperature testers, all before you even got on the plane… and then, once you had landed, exhausted at Dublin Airport, you then had to start a 2-week self-isolated quarantine. 

    Starting a new job whilst still in quarantine, not being able to see your friends and family, having to adjust to another new normal, and trying to deal with your toddler’s jetlag doesn’t sound like much fun, yet Olivia Moss, the new Director of International at the National College of Ireland, seems to be taking all this in her stride. 

    After all, she is no stranger to change. She made a huge leap of faith by moving from Ireland to take up her position at The Australian National University (ANU) having never been to Australia. She and her husband arrived in July to Canberra in the middle of winter with a suitcase full of summer clothes. She had her first skiing lesson in Australia, living closer to the snowfields than the beach, something she just did not imagine doing in Australia! She settled in very quickly to the Aussie way of life, making lots of friends and calling Canberra her second home after a short time. 

    I loved talking to her about her previous role at ANU as Senior Manager for Future Students. This role encompassed domestic and international recruitment as well as community and government engagement. A demanding yet hugely satisfying role that could vary between engagement with International Strategy, Marketing, and Recruiting, or liaising with ANU’s offices in China, Singapore, and North America and ANU’s Public Policy and Societal Impact Hub. 

    The Australian National University needs no introduction to readers, it is one of the leading global research universities with over 20,000 students, ranked number 1 in Australia and 31st in the world by QS, and 59th in the world and 3rd in Australia by the Times Higher Education. It was a big move to make to come back to Ireland and take up her current role at the National College of Ireland. 

    While the move is certainly a big change, Olivia makes the point that every institution can have the same challenges when it comes to international recruitment- it is the way they do things that differs. 

    Working for a large public university, high in the rankings, with so many stakeholders working together can prolong the decision-making process for example. This is necessary to include academics and administrators to ensure all the strategic goals and measurements are being met with each decision. She loved her time at ANU but can already see the differences between working for a large group of 8 Universities to a smaller private institution. Sometimes, in the decision-making process, the smaller college can be more flexible, more agile, and can make decisions more quickly. This is just one of the differences she can already see from her new role yet she understands where the value comes in working for both. 

    At the moment Olivia is working from home and not seeing friends and family because of current travel restrictions in Ireland. Now, instead of Zooming from Canberra, she Zooms from her home in Ireland. Her mother, who lives in Spain, arrived back in Ireland at the same time as Olivia and her family from Australia so they could all self-isolate together. Contemplating how they had to manage this just reinforces what a strange and difficult time this is for so many people.  

    Sadly, Olivia’s father passed away suddenly this May and it has been a tremendous year for her, personally and professionally. 

    When asked how did she manage it all, Olivia talks about Ruth Bader Ginsberg and an article she read about her following her recent passing. 

    Ruth Bader Ginsberg talked about how being a parent made her better at her career and Olivia says she can relate to that. She explains that she differentiates the time she is with her daughter and being a mother from the time she is working. She appreciates the work-life balance so much more now because she can enjoy being an adult and strategizing and creating and working with colleagues when she is at work, but when she is not working, she enjoys playing, and telling stories, and being creative in a different way with her daughter. 

    I looked up the Ruth Bader Ginsberg quote Olivia referred to:

    “When I started law school my daughter Jane was 14 months, and I attribute my success in law school largely to Jane. I went to class about 8:30 a.m., and I came home at 4:00 p.m., that was children’s hour. It was a total break in my day, and children’s hour continued until Jane went to sleep. Then I was happy to go back to the books, so I felt each part of my life gave me respite from the other.”

    Having a work-life balance is necessary. It doesn’t have to be spending time with a child, it can be your pet, your elderly neighbor, the trees in the park, or spending time with yourself.

    I think one of the lessons Covid-19 has taught us all is that it is ok not to be perfect. It is ok to tell people, I can’t take that call at 6 pm this evening because I will be having dinner with my family, or having a socially distanced walk with my friend, or just sitting at home with a cup of tea by myself with my own thoughts.

    I am inspired by the choices Olivia has made and the changes she has undergone this year. It has been a year of transformation for her and maybe there is a lesson in that for all of us- that we can make changes in very difficult times in our lives. We can allow time for our family and friends and ourselves and we should remind ourselves of that. 

    Olivia is a truly inspirational story and we at the Global Leadership League wish her every success in her new role and thank her for sharing her story!

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Noreen Lucy

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

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Our members come from different backgrounds, abilities, levels of experience, and parts of the world. Our goal is to embrace this diversity and encourage relationships across generations and experience levels for the benefit of all involved. 

The Global Leadership League was started by a group of women in the field of international education for the purposes of advancing women’s leadership skills, knowledge, and connections.

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