Work-related inspiration. I think it’s a pretty natural phenomenon for many of us who are lucky enough to be doing a job that we love: my job is a source of constant inspiration. My thoughts often center around my daily tasks, my students, my co-workers, my goals, my travels, my projects, and–of course–my never-ending to-do list! As a result, it will be no surprise that many of my posts will center around my work.
So, what do I do?
I oversee Admissions and Recruitment at the University of Delaware English Language Institute (ELI). To put it in very simple terms, this means that I do the following:
- Oversee the processing of applications for several of our programs;
- Handle a large amount of communications with prospective students and with our partners (agents) abroad;
- Represent the ELI by traveling to other countries on recruitment trips several times per year;
- Choose marketing and advertising options for the ELI (occasionally in collaboration with other departments) and oversee our social media;
- Manage the formation and maintenance of contractual relationships with our overseas agents;
- Advise our students regarding issues that relate to their visa status
To some, this may seem simple and straightforward; however, to those of us who work in international education, you can tell right away that my days are pretty packed.
So, why does this job inspire me so much? Two main reasons: the people and the challenge.
I love working with my colleagues every day. They are so much fun to be around, and they are amazing examples for both my professional and personal life.
Each of them has something wonderful and unique about them, whether that aspect is strength, trustworthiness, leadership, eloquence, diplomacy, charisma, a can-do attitude, or the ability to listen.
Most importantly: all of my colleagues have a sense of humour! We work hard, but we laugh harder. With the fast pace that we keep and the stress and challenges that we experience every day, that laughter is key–and there’s always someone with a smile to share or a good joke or story to tell.
The other amazing people in the mix are my students. I’m not a teacher, but I’m fortunate to work in a position where I get to interact with the students a great deal, both before and after they arrive.
Some of my students have had to overcome great odds to get here; others have to overcome many obstacles in order to graduate our rigorous program and move on with their lives.
Many have brought their families with them, moving them thousands of miles from their home countries in order to pursue their education here and balancing the demands of academics, jobs, and a home life.
Some are immigrants to the US who have chosen to focus on the development of their English skills in order to improve their job prospects.
Giving all of these students a fantastic experience that will “meet or exceed their expectations” is our mission, and it is worth the challenges that we face every day.
What are these challenges?
It often feels like everything that I do at the ELI is a challenge. There is much that I can say about this, but probably the largest challenges of all are
- to remain focused on our priorities as a leading institution for ESL instruction; and
- to communicate effectively in a non-native English-speaking environment.
Let’s face it: at the ELI, there are never enough hours in the day. We have so many tasks, projects, “fires to put out,” and we have to balance the priorities that are important against the “tyranny of the urgent” (to quote Steven Covey).
It’s easy to feel pulled all over the place because we care so much about each other and about our students. It is so difficult to remain focused on goals that are related to our mission or that affect our overall strategy. Plus, when you work in a situation where you are constantly interrupted, it adds another element in your day that deviates your focus. These are things that I know that I have to work on all the time.
As for communications…well, it can be tough! All of my communications–each message that I send out, each phone call that I handle, each meeting with a prospective student, each advising appointment that I have with my students–everything must be considered before it is written or spoken. Everything that is written or said to me has to be contemplated to ensure that I understand what I am being told.
Then there’s the language barrier…
Obviously, most of the people that I speak with on a daily basis speak English as their second, third, or fourth language. It forces me to gauge what they can understand and to tailor my message–and speed–to suit. If you knew how fast I speak in English, you know would know what a challenge that is for me!
Plus, there are so many things that factor into the message: besides the level of English of the person with whom I am speaking, it’s also important to consider elements of that person’s culture and background, body language, and even whether I am at home in Delaware or abroad. It definitely keeps my mind moving!
I truly could go on about this forever, but this post has been long enough. I just wanted to dedicate a message that would explain a major source of inspiration for my love of all things international. Working at the ELI has been a blessing and a positive experience in my life. I have been there for three years–three glorious, challenging, funny, adventurous, and occasionally frustrating years–and I feel that there will be many more years to come.
So prepare yourself: you’ll be hearing a lot about my experiences at the ELI in the future!