On the ACCENT Blog, we often share stories of the experiences and memories our students treasure from their time abroad. The adventurous hearts of our students and the tireless efforts of our European staff account for many of these fantastic memories. But where does it all begin? Our front office staff here at ACCENT San Francisco work hard on pre-departure details, making sure each and every student makes it safely and easily to their host country. For this week’s post, we share their favorite moments and celebrate the important work they do.
One of my favorite things about my role here at ACCENT is being that go-to person for students, faculty, and administrators when they have any questions or concerns before their trip. When I was preparing for my study abroad program I had virtually no support. In our study abroad office at my University, there was one person in charge of all programs so you never really got the support you needed and you had to do a lot of research on your own. Our pre-departure orientation consisted of ALL students going abroad that fall (200+ students!) so it was very general information and not at all city-specific. I really didn’t have anyone to go to when I had questions about purchasing my flight, where to go from the airport, etc. I love the fact that here, if I don’t have an answer to give to a student, faculty, or administrator, I can easy contact one of our European Study Centers to give them the answer. I love being able to ease some of the anxiety that students have when going abroad!
Working in the front office here at ACCENT offers me a lot of great opportunities to speak and interact with our student population. These conversations vary from questions about paperwork, to packing tips, to safety abroad. I’m always happy to hear from a student, even with a basic question. Because when preparing for study abroad, particularly if you have never traveled abroad before, the adage that “no question is a bad question” rings especially true. Advising students as they prepare for their time abroad is one of the things I enjoy most about my work. I’m able to draw from my own experience having studied and traveled abroad, and guide students on their own journeys.
I recently completed an orientation for a group of our students heading to Madrid this summer, and as I most frequently interact with our participants over the phone or via email, it was a new and enriching experience to meet these students in person. Often, our work deals in a lot of logistics and details, but meeting these students in person, able to see how each of them reacted to the information in the orientation really made me feel their excitement and eagerness. It felt great to know that I was helping to prepare these students for their upcoming adventure, and I was endeared to see them eagerly practicing their Spanish with each other after the orientation, breathlessly discussing plans to visit different destinations in Europe during the weekends. Studying abroad is such an exhilarating experience, and I feel as though, doing what I do, I can experience that exhilaration vicariously through our students.
As one of the Programs Coordinators at ACCENT, my position requires a lot of interaction with students, which is one of my favorite things about the field of study abroad. I find it very exciting to be a part of what I know will be a life changing event for many of these students. I field a lot of questions, either via email, phone, or pre-departure orientations. These orientations are a great part of my position because I get to interact with students in-person and one-on-one. Students tend to focus on the logistics (how they will get from the airport, what housing will be like, what days they will have class), but I also like to get them thinking about the fact that their cultural assumptions will be challenged and how to handle negative feelings that can arise from unexpected frustrations in unfamiliar surroundings. I also encourage students to go outside of their comfort zone, as far as what they feel they are capable of doing on their own. During one of my orientations, a previous student shared their experience with the new group. Her time in Madrid had expanded her confidence so much that she went from a student whose parent did almost everything for her pre-departure to a student who planned her own travels after her program and tackled applying for (and being hired for) a job in travel abroad once she had returned to the U.S. I want students to understand that study abroad will show them all that they are capable of.
ACCENT’s custom study abroad programs include comprehensive on-site and pre-departure support. If you’re faculty or a study abroad office and ready to collaborate on a new program, check out our program design FAQs (link: http://accentintl.com/program-development/program-development-faqs/) or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.