Posted by: claire.mangine | February 15, 2013

Post Three- meeting with Director of International Studies at SBU

On Wednesday of this past week I was able to sit down and have a great conversation with Alice Sayegh, Director of International Studies at St. Bonaventure University.

Although her schedule is usually packed, I was fortunate enough to score a slot in her day, and we chatted about the position she holds and what her job entails. Here’s what she had to say:

Claire: Tell me about your position? What does it entail? What programs are you in charge of?

Alice Sayegh: I hold a combination of three positions. My main purpose here was to be an international student advisor for foreign students who came to SBU. A few years later they (SBU) asked me to add a study abroad component to the office. We also sell our programs nationwide that are marketed to other students at colleges and universities.

The programs I market include three in Northern Ireland, five in Australia, one in Seville, Spain and one in Switzerland. There’s also the Northern Ireland exchange program with five exchange sites. These students are body for body meaning we send someone over to Ireland and an Irish student comes here, both are tuition free (meaning equal tuition exchange, nothing extra needs to be paid).

CM: Describe for us a day in the life of a Director of International Studies.

AS: I try to discipline myself to come in and check everything going on security wise in government sites, news sites, and agencies to see if anything is going on around the world. I do a financial update to check foreign currencies because we buy on the cheap to keep expenses down for students. I’ll check the British Pound, Euro, Australian dollar…

After all that I’ll start advisement at 9:30am. I see both foreign and study abroad applicants. We have a grad assistant and an intern to keep busy so they’ll work on our Facebook page and websites and respond to non-Bonas students so they’re up to date each week.

CM: What is the procedure to get a student who is at St. Bonaventure to where they want to study abroad?

AS: First they’ll bring in their audit and financial aid package to see how much money won’t go with them. Sometimes, they come in and say they want to go to Switzerland, but have a Costa Rica budget (the cost of living is much cheaper in Costa Rica). They need to know how to read their budget and talk with their parents about what they can afford. We’ll work to the academic piece to see if the program is academically relevant to the students’ major.

Two of my biggest challenges are making students understand that someone has to pay the bill if they want to go abroad and that the program has to be academically relevant so they graduate on time. I have to bring them to reality to what it really is. We’ll meet four to five times 1-on-1 before orientation and getting their ticket and visa and getting on the plane to wherever they’re off to. Students will send post cards or an email or two for little things, and we’ll poke bloggers to keep active and current (check out student bloggers abroad right now! http://www.sbu.edu/about_sbu.aspx?id=2804  )

I’ll have lots of conversations with parents in the planning process. Sometimes I meet with them if they can make it here. I like meeting with parents because then there’s no surprises for either of us, whether it’s an unpaid bill or something like that.

CM: You mentioned some difficulties your job entails, like having students see the bigger picture when it comes to picking a program, but tell me some things you really enjoy about your job

AS: I love every day of my position. I like dealing with students who are motivated to study abroad. Also with the foreign students who need things like bed sheets, a trip to the bank, it’s always a surprise. I probably see more students a day than anyone on this floor, even more than the Career and Professional Readiness Center. I find it easier to have a conversation face to face. (Hey Bona students! Alice’s office is located on the second floor of the RC, room 221 if you’re interested in meeting with her about studying abroad!)

CM: Have there ever been any major or minor emergencies when it came to a student who was going or already was abroad? How did you handle the situation?

AS: (knocks on wood) Thank God no we haven’t!! One time in the 90’s a student called my house in the middle of the night, woke everyone up, but got mugged when she was in Amsterdam and had her passport stolen. I was the only one in the whole world who had a copy of it so we were able to fax everything over and get her back to Ireland where she was for the semester. We have a crisis plan in place for emergencies like this. We’ll call the students home institution and parents but 9 times out of 10, the parents already know.

I had such a great conversation with Alice this week and I thank her again for her time!!

Have a good weekend everyone : )

Xo/crm

P.S. please enjoy this picture I took while at the Leaning Tower of Pisa 🙂

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