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Be truthful, what’s more tiring: a 20-hour workday on the road overseas with hours in traffic, on flights, in line at hotels, check-in counters, taxi stands, etc. or 12-15 Zoom visits around the world at different schools, agencies, and EducationUSA offices in a single day? Having done both at various points in my career, there are obvious pros and cons to each. However, based on the volume of posts in my social media feed from international admissions road warriors, the current pandemic has resulted in significant emotional baggage many of us are now carrying around (or not, as the image below reflects).
So how are we doing, really? Are we coping well, or barely hanging on?
Maintaining balance and flexibility
While most of us would rather be anywhere else than in front of our screens right now, in our waking hours, our work-day reality is digital-first (if not only). More than any other time in our professional lives, work-life balance has been challenged in every way imaginable. The folks at Turnitin published a very useful article on prioritizing educator self-care in these Covid-19 months that is worth checking out. Let’s look at applying their themes to international admissions:
• Plan your time – managing your schedule across multiple time zones every day is a logistical challenge for even the savviest international admissions professional. Taking the time to ensure you are where you need to be, when you need to be there is mission-critical. Useful tools like Calendly, com, and others have freemium products (particularly for scheduling) that can help keep you on task.
• Set (and maintain) boundaries – Whether you are back in your office or still working from home, the likelihood is that you’ve seen a blurring of lines between work and home life. Having clear boundaries with your spouse, partner, roommate, and/or kids is a must.
• Get outside – If your stress relief is going for a walk or run, doing yoga, praying, meditating, letting out a silent (or quite audible) scream, or drinking wine, whatever it is, try it outside (while practicing social distancing). Get some vitamin D, breathe in some fresh air, and slow down for a moment. It will get better-- you are not alone!
Perhaps more than any other word we’ve added to our everyday vocabularies in the last few months (besides maybe “hybrid” or “new normal”), the one I rely on as a guiding rule to maintain sanity in our pandemic-riddled world is “flexibility.” All the mess that surrounds us, the conflicting voices we hear, and the demands on our time mean we must adapt to an ever-changing landscape in our private and professional lives.
What are the areas of your job that you’ve never had the time to work on in normal circumstances: refining your email communication messages, developing country-specific recruitment planning, launching an international student ambassador program, or other projects? Maybe even long-term strategic plans get fleshed out in these unprecedented times.
I’ve seen many colleagues banding together to do virtual recruitment roadshows. These small groups can be anything from like-minded liberal arts colleges, art schools, conference collegiality (e.g. Big 10), or regional/state peer institutions rallying together, pooling resources, and saving unnecessary duplication of effort with virtual travel planning.
While many of us would rather listen to Baby Shark on repeat over listening to another webinar, several groups like International ACAC host monthly Webinar Wednesdays on relevant topics for our field. If you’re experiencing too much webinar fatigue, IDP Connect also recently launched a podcast, Global Student Marketing. Other opportunities, whether through your state or regional NAFSA organization, certain service providers, or on your own campus may provide the chances you need to broaden your horizons (and your network) in the time you have.
It’s not clear when we’ll be able to have in-person mass gatherings again– perhaps not until next summer or fall at the earliest. Humans are social animals, especially international admissions professionals who thrive on connecting with others. Yet, too long a period without professional development and networking opportunities is not healthy. So, what’s available for virtual networking and conferences in the coming months?
• EducationUSA Forum 2020 – October 21-23 – free registration – all online
• NAFSA Online Regional Conferences – mid-October to mid-November – mostly free
• CIS Forum for international Admission and Guidance – November 17-19 – significant fees
• AIRC Annual Conference – November 30 – December 11, 2020 - $125-195 registration fees
• AIEA Annual Conference – February 15-17, 2021 – potentially in-person and virtual option
Until the next time we can gather physically, let’s give each other a big virtual hug, raise a glass, and keep our focus on the task ahead.