Counselor View: The Value of International Counselor Fly-in

By Kelly Braun
Int'l School of Sacred Heart, Tokyo 

The contents of my suitcase are strewn across my bedroom floor, new college swag separated from laundry, toiletries that exploded twice waiting to be cleaned for the third time, and just enough room to maneuver around the bed to sleep and then make it to work in the morning. I've just returned from a week long international counselor fly-in and unfortunately there is just not time between returning home and school on Monday to deal with things like suitcases when you have a week of emails, lesson plans, and looming AP exams to prepare for.

Would I trade my week away for a clean room and empty inbox? Never.

International counselor fly-ins ask you to leave your entire life for a week, a whole week! For me that means leaving: 10 classes, 38 seniors, 275 AP exams, 5 home room mornings, 1 faculty/staff social, and a volleyball open gym.

But on the other hand, missing that week meant I was able to connect with 16 other colleagues from around the world who work with kids similar to mine, visit 4 schools (sometimes even more!), have meaningful conversations with professionals on each side of the desk, interact with current university students, and widen my understanding of individual admission processes, and the overall process of the country I am visiting.

I know that counselor fly-ins are an investment, I can't even imagine what this last fly in cost. But what I can tell you is that I walked away with more than any amount of money could buy. I walked away with a sense of what each campus offers to international students, the community my students would be a part of, and the feel of the institutions. I also walked away with a new sense of the hot topics for this year, 16 new colleagues extending my network of expertise farther across continents, and a better understanding of the issues facing different students all over the world. I’ve already connected some of my rising seniors to all the schools we visited. Will they apply? I don’t know. But the fact that I am confident in recommending each of the universities that I visited is security for me, my students, and their families.

As counselors, we were able to ask the hard questions to each institution and hear their individual answers and feelings on topics important to us. We were able to tailor our visits to best suit our international students’ academic and cultural needs specific to the areas of the globe they come from. Some of us are newer to the profession and picked the brains of those who have more experience. Between the actual institution visits, the individual conversations, and evenings where we mixed personal and professional advice, the amount that a counselor fly-in can teach us is beyond any expectations.

At the end of the day, we could look at the logical bottom line of missed work and expenses paid. However, I think a more accurate way of looking at the cost of an international counselor fly-in would be in the value gained from networking, meeting prospective students, and most importantly - understanding. It is this understanding of new campuses, programs, areas of the world, meeting new people on both sides of the desk, and very best of all: understanding and finding new ways of serving our students, which, at the end of the day, is why we do what we do.

Now back to my 200 unread emails, and maybe tackling the laundry pile... good thing I have some new clean college t-shirts!

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