President’s Corner: As We Move Into the 2020 Application Season...

The yellow dot. I look down at my passport and see the round yellow sticker that adorns my passport.  I haven’t removed it since March 18, 2020 when I arrived back home to the Shanghai airport from Sweden last spring. There was one of three colors affixed to passports once you landed– green, yellow or red. Green meant you proceeded through immigration and were able to go straight home. Yellow and Red meant COVID-19 testing, then, dependent on a negative result and apartment complex acceptance, you were able to go home under strict government and medically monitored quarantine. I was traveling with my two young children and tried to look strong and confident but I was very frightened as our passports were taken away and we were unsure of what would happen one moment to the next. All told, it took nearly 50 hours from the time our plane landed in Shanghai until we arrived at our flat to serve out our quarantine. Yet, throughout the process we were treated with such kindness and thoughtfulness and I was simply left with the impression that no one in the country wanted to get sick or get anyone else sick.  Everyone followed the rules. As I was preparing to move my family to Zurich, a position I accepted long before COVID-19 hit the world, I felt an immense sense of gratitude towards the city of Shanghai, its inhabitants and my wonderful former colleagues who made me feel welcomed and cared for over the last difficult months.  I also keenly recognized my privilege in never having experienced before the lack of control over my physical and emotional safety.  The memory of that time, the fear and responsibility of protecting my family, is like a small black dot in a sea of the blue sereneness of that period.

In Shanghai, towards the end of May, we were able to live and work without masks. As I entered Switzerland, the country was just introducing masks again. Despite feeling a bit triggered by covering my face again, I feel fortunate to have ridden the wave of “normality” as I have shifted locales.  I am in a school, working face to face with students, trying to help them navigate the shifting sands of university admissions. I am impressed with their optimism and flexibility, just as I was inspired by my Shanghai students’ resilience as they worked through extreme isolation and uncertainty.

I think it is important to realize where we have been and where we are headed as an organization. While last spring I was certainly thinking about my students and their wellbeing, my thoughts now expand to include my fellow counselors, admissions officers and other members of our organization who are trying to adapt and serve our community. Yet we remain just that – a community. We face challenges ahead in a variety of arenas in our profession. No one has escaped loss or struggle during the COVID-19 crisis and as we move into the 2020 application season, I am reminded regularly of how different everything is and will continue to be. It has never been more important for every one of us to show empathy and encouragement as we work and grow together to build profound and lasting change in our organization. I hope that all members will continue to participate as we call you in to engage with our Board and DEIJ consultant. Please stay safe and healthy and don’t forget to take care of yourselves.

Kathleen Shultz
President, International ACAC
University & Career Counselor
Zurich International School

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