Giving & Receiving - Top Gifts from the Global Road

By Samantha Deleon
The University of Illinois at Chicago

Survey Says!! : What's the BEST gift you received from a university representative or high school counselor ?  Whats the best memento you have ever shared with a friend or family member after a trip ? 

Thinking about giving and receiving at this time of year we thought we'd look at some of the best gifts the university reps have received from counselors, and some of the ways university reps are giving back upon their return home...



With each trip, I am always overwhelmed with the thoughtfulness and generosity of not gifts but the time, expertise and loyal friendships that OACAC has developed for me through the years.  So first off, THANK YOU all for the good times, living through the stressful moments and celebrating with me through the success stories that we have all shared in the wonderful game of college admission!.  

I polled the OACAC Facebook group in early November and noticed the best gift to receive included electronic gadgets such as travel adapters, power banks, and USB drives. Among the comments included a “survival kit” with water, snacks, and a trinket.  We all know water is a necessity when recruiters are continually presenting and snacks are great when there isn’t enough time to eat a meal. I consider the snacks that high schools provide as a gift as well, so thank you for feeding me Pão de Queijo, chocolate chip cookies, sandwiches, and COFFEE during my visits. Special gifts from the region make for nice takeaways including a Guatemalan luggage tag, which brings me to my next point. Gifts that are unique, have meaning, and purpose are things I personally keep. And of course, the smaller the better since they will most likely visit several more countries before arriving home at their final destination.  Fess many pieces of swag never made it past your hotel room door onto check out? #sosorry #mydogateit

Items I carried throughout tours included notecards with paintings from art students, a USB with a silver elephant attached to a keychain, and a travel coffee tumbler with water that sat on my table during a visit which also had a secret compartment "for pills" (at least that's what I was told by the counselor who gifted the mug). I also have a plastic cup that I carried throughout South America because a student started an initiative to eliminate plastic bottles in the school. The cup reads, “Every Action Counts.” Maybe I'm a hoarder but these gifts are special to me because they are creative, symbolic, and useful.  What are your personal faves that make it on every tour?

As a recruiter, it’s not that I don’t like gifts because they’re too heavy or bulky, but sometimes it is hard to justify paying overage for my 4 ceramic mugs, 3 polo shirts, 7 key chains, 2 coffee tumblers, and 3 reusable bags.  I also wouldn’t want a counselor to feel obligated to give something because really, we should be thanking you for allowing us to visit your schools and showering us with warm hospitality during our visits. From the university side, I want to say a great big thank you to the high school counselors for all your thoughtful consideration, genuine friendships and always welcoming us with big smiles! Even when you are frantically running around, looking for the table that was supposed to be there, enthusiastically inviting kids into have a chat, giving us tours of your school for the 100th time that month, we always look forward to seeing you and your students!


Finally in this time of year it’s also important to acknowledge that giving is usually even better then receiving. 

For many university reps, the job takes us away from family and friends for long periods of time.  One of the benefits of such work is being able to share the experience upon returning home.  Often this includes giving a small gift to loved ones.  A piece of local art from Rwanda, a box of authentic turkish delight, or a bag of the best Colombian coffee, all these items are a perfect way of sharing a little flavour of where our travels take us.  

Beyond giving gifts and mementos to friends back home, there is another excellent way of giving back locally or abroad.  Several institutions report that they have begun collecting hotel soaps and shampoos and other toiletries, and then offer them to those most in need.  In some cases universities are working with local secondary schools to connect those goods with families and organizations in the community in country. In other cases, universities representatives are bringing home the hotel items and connecting with charity organizations in their hometowns to donate the items. 

If you have any arrangements like this with a local organization or community we’d love to hear your story.  Please share in the comments! 

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