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Real-World viewpoints from leaders in our field

Interviews of Women Professionals

Sharing Real-world viewpoints

We are excited to bring you an amazing section dedicated solely to the pursuit of sharing real-world viewpoints from women in our field. Our goal is to interview women who have had either unique experiences or just plain more experience than you so that you can learn from their wisdom and apply it in your own daily work challenges.

Limelight Interviews

Our interview style will change with every chat so that we can keep it fresh.  We hope you will read our spotlight interviews and get inspired to submit suggestions of other women who we should interview.  Every one of you has something special to share so please let us know who you would like to hear from!

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  • 18 Sep 2023 2:00 PM | Anonymous


    In today’s globalized world, the opportunity to study abroad has become an invaluable experience for countless students worldwide. To shed light on the transformative power of international education and the intricacies of making it a reality for different young Canadian demographics, we had the privilege of sitting down with Liz Hong-Farrell, the assistant director for the International Experience Canada program.* With a wealth of knowledge and a deep passion for encouraging Canada’s youth, Liz has played a pivotal role in shaping the dreams and aspirations of students seeking to broaden their horizons. In this LimeLight interview, we delve into her journey, insights, and the profound impact of studying abroad. 

    1. What is your current title, and where do you work? 

    I work for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, a department of the Government of Canada. I am the Assistant Director responsible for stakeholder engagement and promotion for the International Experience Canada program. 

    The International Experience Canada program is a cultural program that allows Canadian youth between 18-35 to obtain a work permit and work and travel in one of over 30 partner countries with Canada. 

    As a reciprocal program, youth citizens from those countries can do the same in Canada. Being able to work in a different country is a great way for young people to experience cultures different from their own and gain the skills employers are looking for. You’re not just a tourist – you’re immersed in the culture because you live and work in it.

    2. How did you learn about your current position? (Ex. Networking, Promotion, External Job Posting)

    I was looking for a change and reached out to my network for possible opportunities, and this amazing role came up. It’s been so important for me to build and, more importantly, maintain my network of professional contacts. It takes a lot of work, but it’s so beneficial!

    3. What sparked your interest in working in an international field?

    When I reflect on my career, I’ve noticed a bit of a trend. While not always directly working in the international field, it’s always been there!  

    Early in my career, I worked in a government department focused on improving labour market outcomes for young Canadians, and while there, we had a few visiting delegations from different countries coming to Canada to learn about what we were doing and to share what they were doing. It was so interesting to hear about how so many things were the same despite being from different countries, and we were all just looking for ways to solve similar problems for our youth.    

    Then, I worked in a national charity where I had the opportunity to attend an international conference. Again, it was so eye-opening to see how things are done in other countries and what issues and barriers they face – sometimes, they were the same as what we face, but in other cases, so very different.

    Fast forward a few years to another government department where I worked with the medical sector to fund projects that supported internationally educated health professionals to obtain their credentials and practice in their fields in Canada.

    Finally, in this job, I promote the value and importance of international work and travel experiences to youth as a fantastic way to develop personally and professionally.  

    In all cases, it’s such an interesting way to look at the world. We are facing similar problems (e.g., youth unemployment, people wanting to work in the field in which they were educated, and wanting to increase civic and community engagement in youth). Learning about what strategies other countries used to mitigate these issues was so interesting, and it was wonderful when we could come together and work on a problem together.

    4. Tell us about your first international experience, either traveling or working abroad.

    For me, even though going to the US is technically an international experience for a Canadian (and we travelled to many parts of the US from a young age on holidays), I am going to count my first overseas trip as my first international experience – that was to Turkey in 2009! Yes, it took me that long to go abroad!! 

    It was travelling and not working, though. I found it fascinating to visit the many mosques, palaces, and other historical sites, knowing that THAT indentation in that marble step was made by people walking those same steps thousands and thousands of years ago! We are too new a country to have something like that. It made me think about how young Canada really is. Our buildings are hundreds of years old, not centuries. 

    Working while abroad was a different story. While I have always been working with international audiences in some way, I always did that either in Canada or through virtual means (email, teleconferences, videoconferences). I never had to go anywhere, and when I finally did, it was such a different experience!  

    My first working abroad experience was attending a conference in South Africa for this current job. Before I left, I tried to prepare myself for the culture shock, but you never get it until you experience it. This was an international conference focused on the travel and tourism industry, and it was just so interesting to learn about the different barriers and considerations that each country faced when their youth travelled abroad and what and how they marketed their destinations. There were some things that would never have occurred to me as a Canadian working and travelling abroad: things like how safe it was for me as a person from X country or X community to go to a certain country, for example. Luckily, this was an international conference, so I was exposed to so many different people from many countries. That’s when I knew I was hit with the travel bug… but it also gave me a new appreciation for how much you can learn when you step out of your comfort zone! 

    5. Describe a typical day/week at the office at your current job. 

    Does anyone actually have a typical day/week in their jobs anymore? 

    My team works on stakeholder engagement and promotion, so much of what we do is all about how to best communicate the value of international work/travel/work-integrated learning and how we can work with other organizations to help break down barriers to going abroad.

    We spend a lot of time talking to people – I think that’s likely the best part of our jobs. We all like to get out and talk to the people who work with youth to see what we can do to support them in encouraging more of their students and clients to take on an international experience. We, of course, love to talk to the youth that we serve – or are hoping to serve – to hear about why they are hesitant to go abroad and see if there is anything we can do to provide them with the information they need to make an informed choice. And if we can work with different organizations to create new resources or connect people together, then that’s a win for us. We take all this information in, do some of our own research, and try to come up with ways we can support youth in deciding to go on a work/travel/work-integrated learning opportunity. 

    And it’s so rewarding when we hear from youth who have gone on an experience through our program, and they come back saying how life-changing it was and how it helped them to make a decision about their career or about going back to school with a better sense of purpose. We’ve also worked with what we call communities of interest – youth who identify as being a part of a community that may face additional barriers to going abroad (e.g., Indigenous youth; youth identifying as part of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities). For example, we’ve had Indigenous youth who have told us that, because of their experience abroad through our program, they have learned more about another Indigenous culture in the world and want to then come home and learn more about their own culture- and they then want to become role models for younger people in their communities to show them that they can go abroad, too.

    The most challenging thing for us is that going abroad just doesn’t seem to be in the mindset of many Canadians. It’s not a natural pathway for youth, and many parents that we’ve run into are not convinced that it’s a good idea. 

    Unlike other countries (like Australia, for example) where it’s not a matter of IF you go, but WHERE are you going, we run into many Canadian youth who don’t know that they can do this; their parents are not supportive of their kids “interrupting” their linear pathway of school-to-work transition; and even some academic advisors that don’t know what information to give their students who actually do want to go. We have work to do to shift Canada’s culture so that going abroad is a natural option – for youth, their parents, and their academic advisors.

    Another challenge for us is knowing that we have a very limited sphere of influence – there are so many barriers to going abroad, but we can only do so much. We would love for more young people to have international work/travel/work-integrated learning experiences, but we can only give them the most up-to-date information that we can so that they can make an informed decision.  

    6. What has working in an international setting taught you about yourself and your own culture? 

    For me, I’ve only been able to work in an international setting for very short periods of time (e.g., days or weeks), and this has been focused on events or conferences. Even so, I think it’s been an important learning experience for me as I learn about different cultures and how similar we are, even if it seems so very different at first glance.

    I am learning about my Canadian culture and my Chinese culture. 

    I spent most of my life here in Canada, and I was able to see how these cultures intersect as I travel to different parts of the world. This is, I think, something that really hit me more than I thought it would. The intersections of my two cultures, my gender, and how this was seen (and how people reacted to it) were quite interesting. For example, in some countries, there was an expectation that I would be able to relate to one culture over another because of my appearance, but once I spoke and did not have an accent, some perceptions changed. There was an understanding that I didn’t understand the nuances of some behaviours and customs because I was raised Canadian. I was able to ask more questions about customs and how they worked. These experiences gave me a much better understanding of some of the things my parents and grandmother used to do when I was young.

    But no matter where I went, being Canadian was definitely a bonus! It’s so great to see how welcoming people were when they found out I was Canadian. And there were always questions about the mountains, polar bears, being sorry all the time, and the use of “eh”!  

    I have also learned that I really, really want young people to benefit from going abroad. There’s a t-shirt that I saw once that really resonated with me. It said, “You can’t have a narrow mind and a thick passport.” That is so true – you really learn about yourself and how adaptable you are when you’re abroad. I now continue to encourage my kids to think about taking a gap year or going abroad for a co-op placement or work-integrated learning opportunity if they can.   

    7. Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth?

    Actually, I’ve been lucky to have a few people that I can turn to – each of them I met in different phases of my career. It’s been so useful to be able to talk to someone who can understand what I am going through. And because they have been with me through some significant periods of my career, they’ve been able to guide me towards my next steps. It’s also been quite helpful to have their support and to confirm that some of my decisions have been right for me at certain times of my life.  

    I would certainly recommend that young people take advantage of the wisdom of their “elders” and seek out this advice. It may not be something immediate that they get right away, but sometimes, that advice comes back later on as a voice in your head, and it just clicks!

    8. Describe a moment in your career that you consider your greatest achievement.

    Oh my… this one is a difficult one.  

    It is not really just one greatest achievement. This might sound sappy, but I have mentored some young public servants and other people coming into this sector, and just knowing and seeing when they have surpassed me in my own knowledge and capabilities is a truly wonderful feeling. For my management trainees, who in the past have come to me for guidance, and then watching them grow and flourish and seeing how they are now top executives within the Canadian government is honestly just so cool to experience.  

    There is another story that I feel really proud of. Within our program, we have worked really hard to get Canadian youth to want to go abroad. One of the communities of interest that we have worked hard on connecting with is indigenous communities. In 2018, there was a young man who I was talking to, and he was sort of hesitant at first about wanting to go abroad, but I continued sharing information with him and encouraging him to pursue these opportunities. Two years later, one of my colleagues actually ran into this young man again, and he not only credited our conversations and interactions for why he ended up working abroad, but he was getting ready to go to Italy to pursue a new career in fashion there. So cool!

    9. How has COVID-19 impacted your work life?

    Pre-pandemic, we were making progress in raising awareness of the IEC program and of the value of going abroad for work and travel/work-integrated learning experiences, promoting travel, and how young people could develop their skills if they travelled and worked abroad. We were out speaking to young people, their teachers, advisors, parents, and youth-serving organizations, and talking concretely about what information gaps were there and what we could do to support more young Canadians to go abroad.  

    With COVID, we could, of course, no longer promote travel. Instead, we switched our messaging to “Take the time now to research your options.” We hoped that we would be able to encourage young Canadians to learn about the possibilities and to research their possible destinations and pathways (co-op, internships, working holidays, work-integrated learning) so that when travel opened up again, they would have a plan.

    We, of course, all worked from home, and the conferences and information sessions we attended and hosted all became virtual. It took a bit to get used to, but the team was able to take advantage of as many virtual possibilities as we could. I think the worst part of that virtual model for presentations was having to listen to a recording of yourself as it was played back! 

    Virtual presentations and conferences worked to some degree, but you can’t replace that personal connection with people.  

    10. If you are working from home, has that adjustment been difficult or enjoyable?

    I think it’s been both difficult and enjoyable. The difficulty is, of course, not having that personal connection with people at various conferences and events and even missing the connection with your work team! We also had new people who started with us right at the beginning of the pandemic. 

    It was hard for them and for us to build that sense of team when some of them had never met in person. We had to really work on ways to build our social connections between team members virtually – those connections that would normally have happened naturally in hallways, coffee breaks, or lunchtime chats.   

    There’s also the tech difficulty – making sure that the connections are good enough, fast enough, stable enough! It took some time for employers to figure out what tools would also work from a WFH model.

    The enjoyable part was, of course, not having the commute into work every day, especially in winter! We were, in many cases, speaking to some of our stakeholders via virtual means anyway, as many were not in Ottawa, so that part didn’t change. But we did really then focus on building the relationships more purposefully because of the pandemic that loomed overhead. I think we all just decided that this was important now, and we just automatically spent more conscious time getting to know each other beyond just being potential work partners/collaborators.

    And we can’t forget the pandemic work wardrobe… work wear on top, pajamas on the bottom!

    11. What type of things are you doing to balance your mental health and lack of social engagement?

    During the pandemic, I made exercise a priority. With some chronic health issues, going to a gym or other structured fitness activity was a no-go. And with no more commute, I had the time to exercise. I started doing virtual challenges – earning medals while running, walking, stationary biking, or other intentional exercise! I now average about 4000 km a year (and I get medals at the end of my virtual challenges, too)! This actually put me in a better mental space, and I had more energy to face the day in front of a camera!

    For the social part, our team did make an effort to connect virtually, just for that social time, at least once a week. We would have an open chat going during the day, where we dropped jokes or observations throughout the day – the same way we would chat when we were in the office. That helped quite a bit – especially with the new people, since they were part of an ongoing team conversation that was not always about work.

    12. What is the best advice you can give to others in a global industry right now?

    I think for us, and for me in particular, it’s keep encouraging. Keep encouraging the youth and their influencers- keep encouraging the educators and the parents. If I can convince the parents, we are halfway there. If I can convince school advisors, we are halfway there. A lot of parents are not encouraging their children. I was at a secondary school promoting our work experience plan, and this young man I was talking to had everything planned out for his study abroad experience; he had such an extensive plan in place and ready to go. And his mother, from across the room, came running at me and said, “You can’t have him! He needs to go into law school first, and then he can do this later.” We have to show people that this is a valuable experience and that the students are not just wasting their time. After some discussion, the mother was finally able to say, “We will talk about this more at home.” It is really surprising the pushback young people get when considering going abroad. I don’t believe the parents know the importance of it and what it can do for their kids. Their thought is that they are wasting their time or that they will not go back to school after completing the program. And quite honestly, we have found the opposite of that to be true. 

    *This interview and the views expressed in it are solely those of the interviewee. They are not in any way reflective of the International Experience Canada program or the views, policies, or opinions of the Canadian government.

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 12 Jul 2023 2:00 PM | Anonymous


    Grace Twardy recently took the time to share her experience working in the world of global education with us. Grace entered the field of international education in 2016, and had just transitioned into a new role with Boston University in 2019 right before the COVID-19 pandemic caused everything to come to a screeching halt. Because of that, her experiences have been shaped by this event. However, her passion for connection with others and finding community in cross-cultural collaboration has kept her motivated and enthusiastic about international education. Read on to learn more about Grace Twardy. 

    1. What is your current title, and where do you work? 

    Senior Manager, University Relations & Program Development, Boston University Study Abroad

    2. How did you learn about your current position? (Ex. Networking, Promotion, External Job Posting)

    I was fortunate enough to have been promoted to my current position! I have now been in my current role for almost six months after transitioning from my former role as a Program Manager. I have been working at BU Study Abroad for nearly four years now, and it has certainly been an interesting and unique time- having joined the organization in the Fall of 2019, right before the pandemic. I learned a lot about BU Study Abroad from my network and colleagues who were already working in the office, and I feel lucky to have gained such insights about the organization before even interviewing. There have been some great individuals who have come and gone from our office and many who still work there, and I knew I wanted to be working as a part of this team. BU Study Abroad was a place I really wanted to be, and I’m thankful to have had an opportunity to continue to learn and grow here in different roles in the organization.

    3. What sparked your interest in working in international education?

    While many might typically answer this question by saying how their own study abroad experience inspired them to work in international education, I wouldn’t say that was the main motivator in my case. Of course, my semester abroad in Spain certainly influenced my desire to work in the field, but I didn’t really know that jobs in “study abroad” existed at the time I was beginning my career and exploring my options. I was fortunate enough to work in my study abroad office as a student worker during my senior year of college, and I had some great mentors who encouraged me to consider applying for some jobs with study abroad providers upon graduation. What I love about the field, and what sparked my interest in deciding upon this career path, was the fact that international education combines a lot of my passions that help foster a sense of community: experiential learning, foreign languages, and cross-cultural connections.

    4. What was your first job in international education?

    My first job in international education was actually working for the same organization that I studied abroad with, CIEE. My role was part of a pilot program they were experimenting with at the time, the Campus Coordinator Program, and it honestly felt like a crash course in the field of international education. I supported the Institutional Relations team with student outreach efforts on campuses in the Northeast, and I was traveling around from campus to campus, tasked to find unique ways to connect with students and help them explore their study abroad opportunities, whether it was tabling, giving info sessions, attending study abroad fairs, or participating in student events. Many of the connections I made during that time are ones I still have to this day, and I’m thankful to have had such great mentors who took the time to let me shadow them and teach me the ins and outs of this particular area within the field.

    5. Tell us about your first international experience, either traveling or working abroad.

    My very first international experience was when I participated in a Spanish exchange program in high school and had the opportunity to travel to Madrid, Spain. I was very lucky to have attended a high school with a robust foreign languages department, and the exchange program allowed us to host students from a high school in Madrid to stay with us for two weeks in the fall, with us then having the chance to stay with them for two weeks in Madrid in the spring. I love learning foreign languages and learning Spanish and Russian in high school was the gateway for me to learn about the world and other cultures. I am the first in my family to have left the United States, and my parents actually still never have. To have been able to experience and see such a lively, multicultural city at that age really opened my eyes to all there is to be explored, and Madrid holds a special place in my heart because of it. I loved the exchange model because I also really appreciated and loved being able to connect with students our own age from another country, and to this day, I still stay in touch with my exchange student.

    6. What do you enjoy the most about your job? 

    I believe my job really allows me to have such engaging and creative conversations with our partners. I love getting to connect with so many different people from so many different types of institutions. While it can be a bit overwhelming at times, the fact that we do not have regional representatives on our University Relations team and that we cover everywhere across the country gives me the opportunity to meet with people outside of the region that I would never likely cross paths with.

    Someone once told me that they believe working in university relations actually allows you to have more of an impact on our students because you get to be the one to work to understand an institution’s needs and challenges and work with them to support them in providing these experiences to their students. This has resonated with me a lot lately as I have continued to understand our partnerships and learn what their students’ interests are as they explore their study abroad options. On a systemic level, I hope that I can have an influence on the opportunities that are available to students and in supporting our partners to make these opportunities feasible for their students. I love when this leads to conversations about how we can collaborate with our partners to create new programs or new courses, and this area of program development that is a new part of my role is something I am really looking forward to continuing to dive a bit deeper into as we learn what the ever-changing needs and interests of our students are.

    What I love about my job is what I love about the field of international education: the connections, the community, and the opportunities to continue to learn and grow from our networks and the various professional development offerings we have available to us as we try to ensure we are truly serving our students.

    7. What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

    For me, while I do see travel as a benefit, it can also be quite draining when you are on the road for several weeks at a time. Coming back from the pandemic, I’ve struggled with continuing to maintain my sense of routine and balance. When I’m traveling, it’s even more difficult to keep up with some aspects of my routine that are easier to do when I am in the comfort of my own home. There are times of the year when I might be driving to Vermont, flying to Colorado, and then going right to California during the same week- or spending a whole week on the road for a conference. There are about two months straight where the travel can be intense, and for me, it is a challenge to maintain healthy habits and find times for myself when traveling- especially since I like to also try to take advantage of being in a new place and wanting to explore.

    Another challenging aspect of my job is also something that drew me to BU Study Abroad in the first place, which is BU’s unique structure and identity in being both a provider and a higher education institution. This dual identity drew me to BU because I love feeling like part of the BU community on campus, but I also get to work with other colleges and universities to welcome their students to our programs. In many ways, I have both colleagues and teammates at BU and also at these other partner institutions, and I love the opportunities that BU’s structure provides and the reach we get to have with our programming. At times, however, there can be competing priorities dealing with these different audiences, and, of course, working for a higher education institution has its layers of bureaucracy that you typically don’t have to navigate when working at a provider, so it can sometimes be difficult working as a “provider” in a higher education setting and needing to work through the bureaucratic channels when implementing new changes.

    That all being said, I do believe that it is when we are challenged that we will grow the most. That’s why I think it’s important to see opportunity in our challenges and why it feels like many of the aspects I love about my role and organization are ones I struggle with at times.

    8. Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth?

    Yes, and I think the value and importance of mentorship cannot be overstated! I am very lucky that I have some incredibly supportive mentors from various stages of my career; some who have seen me at some of the more difficult times and at the early stages, and some who I have connected with recently who are at similar points in their career and where we have been supporting one another as we continue to evaluate our professional goals.

    While I’m lucky to have a supportive manager who supports my career growth and helps me explore my personal interests, not everyone is always able to have these types of conversations with their direct supervisor. That’s why it’s so important to have others who don’t work directly with you act as mentors as well so you can get another perspective. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am in my career without the mentorship and support I have been given.

    9. Describe a moment in your career that you consider your greatest achievement.

    One thing that I’m really proud of is the work I did as one of the Boston Area Study Abroad Association (BASAA) Co-Chairs during my time in that volunteer role. The mission of BASAA is to provide a platform for international educators in the Boston and surrounding areas to engage in professional development, networking, and collaboration. I happened to take on this role during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused us to have to really think about our programming and how we could continue to support our community during a time that was really challenging for everyone in our field.

    We ended up deciding that we would find a way to transition to a virtual format for the first time. I have to say, I think it ended up being a huge success, and we actually had a larger reach and participation rate in our programming now that these opportunities were virtual and more accessible to colleagues from all over, not just the greater Boston area. One session I was most proud of that we offered as part of our 2021 Virtual Spring Conference (Where Do We Go from Here? Moving Study Abroad Forward Sustainably) was our keynote panel, where we actually had the opportunity to connect with program leaders around the world to learn more about how the pandemic was impacting them abroad. We were very conscious of the fact that, of course, in education abroad, many of us were furloughed, laid off, and/or unable to do our work. For the sites, without having students on the ground, we felt it was important to hear their perspectives and provide them an opportunity to connect as well. We had people Zooming in from Greece, South Korea, Uganda, Ireland, and Peru, and via Zoom, we were able to learn what their experiences were like all over the world while navigating similar challenges and opportunities in their locations. For those of us who work with colleagues internationally, of course, we find ways to connect every day- but what an incredible opportunity to bring in their perspectives in a conference setting and be able to offer this type of session to our community.

    While the shift was challenging, a big takeaway for me during this time was that we realized how much of a reach we could have with Zoom and creating a virtual space to be able to continue to foster a sense of community. In our tenure, we are proud to say we offered 16 unique sessions across four main virtual events, and that doesn’t include our makeshift virtual happy hours or monthly community discussions. While my time with BASAA was not at all what I thought it would be, I can honestly say that it was such an important part of my life, especially during the pandemic, where I felt a continued sense of purpose and connection to our community. The virtual space allowed us to connect easily, have a larger reach, and force us to be creative and intentional about our programming. I think this is something that anyone could organize within their networks across our field, which sparked a session that I co-presented at the Region XI Conference in Manchester, New Hampshire, last year about how to create and support your communities in the virtual space.

    10. How has COVID19 Impacted your work life?

    The COVID-19 pandemic impacted all of us in international education in many ways, and I think it’s important to recognize that we are still recovering and processing a lot of what we went through over the past three years. The pandemic impacted my work life quite literally, where I was furloughed for two months during the Summer of 2020. In the grand scheme of things, and compared to other colleagues, I do feel fortunate to still have my job, but it was a stressful time filled with a lot of unknowns. In many ways, I think we are still learning and unlearning as a result of the pandemic, going back to the basics and back to projects and ideas that we are only just now getting to after all this time. We’re still adjusting to being “back,”, especially for those of us who have returned to a mostly in-person work schedule.

    I think that having worked through the pandemic and the transitionary period of trying to return to the way things were, I have come to appreciate the benefits of working from home. And having had the chance to pause allowed me to also recognize I need to learn when to intentionally take pauses at work.

    11. If you are working from home, has that adjustment been difficult or enjoyable?

    I think I might be one of the only ones I know (besides some of my co-workers) that is going into the office most days a week, not that I am complaining. I do actually like working in the office, although I often times find myself being a tad more productive working from home, not getting distracted by all of the social interactions. I think there are pros and cons to working from home, and certainly, everyone’s work style is different. When I was working completely remotely during the pandemic, I did find the adjustment difficult as I missed the in-person connections and collegial aspect of our work. But I did also find it easier to set a routine and more of a work-life balance.

    12. What is the best advice you can give to other global educators right now?

    Right now, in many ways, I think we are still recovering from everything we experienced during the last three years. There was a lot of pressure to “get back to pre-COVID numbers” and go right back into the swing of things with our work, but so much has changed, and we are still adjusting. Our students have differing needs and require additional support, and as global educators, so do we. It’s important to remember that we are still building ourselves back, and that takes time. We’ve put a lot of pressure on ourselves, and we do need to celebrate our comeback and that we are sending students abroad again!

    While many of us are experiencing burnout at times, for me, it’s really important to remember my “why” and why I love the work we do. A lot of those reasons have to do with the people I get to work with and the opportunities that working in this field presents. We are still recovering a bit, but I also think it is a really exciting time for there to be some real change. The pandemic forced us to think critically about our work and continues to highlight some of the issues we need to focus on. I’m excited to see what shifts might take place, whether that’s in regard to our programming and the opportunities we create for our students or the ways in which we advise and prepare our students for these experiences. As we continue to build ourselves back up, there are more opportunities than ever before, and it’s important we continue to pause, reflect, and not be scared to ask questions.

    One statistic from the NAFSA Region XI Conference last year (that I helped plan as part of my role as Conference Chair Designate) which has continued to stick with me is this: 51% of conference attendees were attending their first regional conference. We have so many newcomers in the field right now, and for those of you who are new to the field, don’t be scared to reach out and connect with others in your network. For those of us who have been in the field for a bit longer, my advice would be that it’s important for us to help those entering this field understand the importance of our work and get them excited. Connections and community are so, so important for what we do- and my community, colleagues, mentors, and students are what motivates me to stay involved with this work and all that we do in international education. 

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 09 Jun 2023 4:25 PM | Anonymous


    The League is proud to share our very first LimeLight interview featuring a male colleague in International Education. We recently caught up with Bob Specking of Via, and learned more about his journey in education abroad and the path he traveled to end up where he is today.

    Bob is a first-generation college student who grew up in rural Missouri. As someone with an unlikely background to be where he is now, he loves that his current company, Via, approaches international education in a very inclusive way. Bob has a passion for getting international education on the radar of underrepresented student groups and feels strongly about making global experiences applicable and accessible for all.

    Read on to learn more about what attracted this self-described small-town Missouri boy to global travel.

    1. What is your current title, and where do you work?

    Vice President of Growth at Via TRM. I work remotely in St. Louis, MO.

    2. How did you learn about your current position? (Ex. Networking, Promotion, External Job Posting)

    I knew some Via folks from various conference tabling over the years and always kept tabs on Via as a potential fit for my next career chapter. Mid-pandemic, Via’s previous marketing director reached out with the opportunity. Always be networking!

    3. What sparked your interest in working in international education?

    My childhood neighbors were the coordinators for international high school students coming to the area. I remember playing basketball in my driveway at about 13 years old and exchange students from Brazil and Germany coming over to play with me. I began developing cross-cultural understanding at a young age through the lifelong friendships I developed with those students. Without them, my world would have remained so small, and I knew I somehow wanted to play a similar role for others in my life.

    4. What was your first job in international education?

    My first paid job in IE was as an ESL teacher in the Persian Gulf (Bahrain). After this experience, I knew I wanted to continue working in IE but not as a teacher. So, I pursued my Masters at Hult International Business School in Cambridge, MA. I then started working at EF (Education First) in Cambridge, helping U.S. colleges and universities to develop faculty-led programs abroad.

    (We also want to include that Bob shared he first met his wife at EF, and they reunited four years later and started dating; the rest, as they say, is history. It’s an education abroad love story!)

    5. Tell us about your first international experience, either traveling or working abroad.

    Honduras 2005: Service learning trip in high school. I had become interested and decent at Spanish early in high school, and my teacher presented the opportunity to work with Honduran local organizations to build housing for underprivileged communities. It opened my eyes to the inequities in our global society as well as those here in the States.

    6. What do you enjoy the most about your job?

    Like many in the field, I’d say the student impact is the most rewarding aspect. Via’s software empowers EA administrators and providers to engage more students in global opportunities and nurture their journeys from an early stage. I needed such support to realize my own dreams, so playing a role in that for all walks of students is very motivating.

    7. What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

    As a (mature) start-up, the most challenging aspect is often quite fulfilling. We’re an all-hands-on-deck team, so I’m always wearing multiple hats and balancing various projects across functional areas. In a unique business space where we’re the “mighty mouse”, innovation is key and drives my team and I every day.

    8. What has working in international education taught you about yourself and your own culture?

    As a white cis male from the Midwest, my experience in IE has given me empathy as the “other.” This perspective informs my worldview, of course, but it also contributes to my professional competencies and my focus on leading with love.

    9. Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth?

    I’ve had many, and they’re a big reason I am where I am today. Currently, my CEO, Dave Saben, has been a wonderful mentor, coach, and ally that I feel privileged to learn from. He has helped me realize my potential in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. As well my mentor at EF was Jeff Penedo. He took me from feeling “junior” to feeling like I could lead and believe in myself.

    10. Describe a moment in your career that you consider your greatest achievement.

    Not necessarily one moment, but in my years with EF developing short-term, faculty-led programs abroad, I had the opportunity to join faculty leaders and their groups each year. It’s hard to overstate how rewarding it was to see the real-time experience and growth for so many students that had never left the US. Those moments really filled my cup and galvanized my drive to excel in this field.

    11. What type of things are you doing to balance your mental health and lack of social engagement?

    I’ve been working remotely since 2016. As a sales professional, most days are spent on Zoom, so I wouldn’t say I feel too isolated. This setting has allowed me to go about my days on my own terms and ensure I always create space for my family, friends, and two cats. But yes, so many hours in one room can make an energetic extrovert a little stir-crazy, so I regularly run outside, break up the days with chores, and turn other spaces into my “office” as often as possible.

    12. What is the best advice you can give to other global educators right now?

    Be bold with your career ambitions. Ask for what you want, even if you don’t think you’ll get it. Throw imposter syndrome out the window and trust yourself. Never stop living curiously. Those in our field possess competencies that go far beyond one’s current role. The IE community is tight, interwoven, and supportive, which felt especially true over the last few years. And get out of your own way- something I definitely had to learn. And lastly, don’t let others define your potential.

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 04 Aug 2022 9:07 PM | Anonymous


    What I Bring to the Table

    Margherita Pasquini sits down with us to discuss her career journey, how she came to be involved in climate change activism, and the gendered struggles that come with motherhood when you are a working woman.

    “In Italian, there’s a saying,” Margherita Pasquini notes, as she discusses her own personal journey connecting her career in higher international education with climate change activism, “‘The newly converted are the most active fighters.’” As someone who did not originally connect study abroad with climate change, Pasquini openly considers herself one of these newly converted.

    “I had some denial about this [issue],” she admits and -- upon attending a session led by CANIE -- says that “I felt so behind… I felt the urge of doing something… getting more committed.” Since having this realization, Pasquini has maintained her position in higher international education while becoming more actively involved in CANIE’s mission to increase climate change education and get people involved.

    “What I bring to the table is my enthusiasm,” she says, “I know what it feels like to be completely unaware of the topic, and I want to make other people feel how I did.” In having a conversation with Pasquini, this enthusiasm is infectious. She is candid, honest, and unafraid to connect with people, which makes her an asset to our fight against climate change. She says her goal is to get more people involved in CANIE, perhaps more big names. Pasquini does not seem phased by the grandiose nature of this fight and continues to focus on inspiring people and forming human connections in order to expand awareness of CANIE’s name and mission.

    Pasquini brings this enthusiasm to all aspects of her life. She has held a position as the Study Abroad Coordinator at her alma mater, La Universita Cattolica, where she has worked for the past 13 years and also works as the Regional Event Manager for Europe for the FPP. She continues to inspire students and launches European undergraduate recruitment events for high schoolers. Anyone, adult or child, can benefit from listening to Pasquini speak and getting to share the energy she exudes; although, to put her focus into inspiring high school students to live their life to the fullest seems like time well-spent on her part.

    “I was helping people decide on their destinations and programs even before I got hired,” she says, smiling, “Traveling is a part of life. It’s part of how we experience this world.” In her own experience, Pasquini has expressed finding a sense of herself and family through

    traveling, especially when she went to Mexico. “That is the place where my heart is, outside of my country.”

    Hearing the certainty and passion in her voice is enough to convince any student who is doubting studying abroad to take the leap and experience it to the fullest. “I understood when I was [working in international education] that it was my thing.” She recognizes the importance of bringing this experience to students and has begun thinking that “many people in higher education want to go back to traveling as we used to do before. Traveling for business has always had a pleasurable component that, I believe, can’t be denied, but we [professionals] need to be more responsible and less selfish, even if it hurts because the people doing this job LOVE traveling. [We need to] think that if there’s a limited amount of C02 to be used for traveling on this planet, then it should be used by students who will benefit the most from international experiences.”

    Pasquini is a devoted mother of two and candidly expresses how difficult it has been for parents to work at home during COVID for the past two years. “I don’t know if I do it right, honestly,” she says, “sometimes I struggle a lot.” Upon further discussion, Pasquini notes that when COVID hit, many of household responsibilities were placed on women, especially mothers. She states that over 90% of the people who lost their jobs during the pandemic were women, and much of that is to do with the sexist ideologies that makeup professional environments and continue to affect female employees today.

    “It’s like a vicious cycle,” she observes, “When you hire a woman, there’s an assumption that at some point, she will have to take time off. So you give her less responsibilities. This ends up in her having a smaller salary. If there is something I want for my kids, it is gender equality.”

    This gender barrier in the workplace has existed long before COVID and, as Pasquini notes, can deeply impact her own perception of motherhood. “I will never quit my job for my kids… for my own mental health and affirmations,” she says, “I feel there is such a different standard for moms versus dads… Whatever you do is never enough. Being a very committed professional with two kids, I sometimes feel like I struggle with accepting that.”

    Pasquini has felt this pressure to prove herself as a working woman throughout her entire career. “I wanted to show that I didn’t even need maternity leave,” she says, “I worked from the delivery room.” Hopefully, we can reach a point where women who choose to become mothers do not feel this tremendous weight set on them. If women and men were held accountable in the same way for parenthood and career paths, perhaps this sense of guilt that torments so many of us would subside. Pasquini comments on this sense of guilt by saying that “We give birth to a child and a sense of guilt at the same time.”

    At the risk of jeopardizing my journalistic integrity, I would like to share a part of myself that Pasquini made me feel comfortable enough to share with her. I was raised by a strong, working mother who brought me into her office when I was only four days old. Although I am sure that she faced the same struggles that Pasquini and so many women before her have faced, I saw nothing but an accomplished role model who did not ever leave me questioning whether my gender would be a factor in my life. I never doubted that I would achieve whatever I needed to achieve, and that was because of women like my mom and Pasquini, who push past the barriers that society sets down in front of them to pave the way for a better future for the next generation.

    Upon hearing my brief story about my experience growing up with a working mother, Pasquini was moved to tears. She, like so many, has the weight of society bearing down on her and telling her what is and is not emulative of a good mother or a good employee. To sit down and speak so candidly with someone as strong and accomplished as Margherita Pasquini is nothing short of exhilarating. “I put mom on my CV now,” she mentions, smiling. Her enthusiasm, honesty, personability, and fierce work ethic are only some of the things that Pasquini brings to the table, both personally and professionally.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Sabrina Vitale

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 07 Jul 2022 9:30 AM | Anonymous


    How Can We Do Better?

    Bee Gan discusses her current position at Sheffield Hallam University as well as her current projects and the passion she holds for climate change activism and carbon literacy.

    “How do you do better?” Bee Gan asks as she discusses the steps she is taking to increase carbon literacy among the students at Sheffield Hallam University. “How can I motivate young people to do more?” These are the questions that Bee chooses to live her life by and build her career through. 

    Driven by her passion to inspire people and in turn create a ripple of change, Bee holds the position of Head of Global Academic Development at Sheffield Hallam University after working there for almost 17 years. She is piloting Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL), a program she founded in an attempt to raise awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities and to work on climate action projects where students can apply [carbon literacy] in their own sector.

    Students in this program are being asked to analyze data and advise on potential action/actions the University could take (or is currently undertaking) to meet its Climate Action Strategy target of net zero carbon by 2030. Allowing students the creative and academic liberty to establish their own solutions and suggestions surrounding climate action in their university is a refreshing tactic. Giving the power to the students is perhaps one of the most effective and empowering ways to encourage healthy learning and creative solutions.

    “At the moment we do it as an extracurricular,” Bee explains, “Only a small percentage of young people are willing to go the extra mile. I don’t know how to reach or inspire them?” She is actively searching for solutions to this struggle such as interdisciplinary learning. “I am kind of a champion that multidisciplinary work is so important for students. I see this as a golden opportunity.”

    Through all of these steps to encourage inspiration in the minds of her students surrounding carbon literacy, Bee is also an active voice in international education which has pushed her to search for more solutions surrounding internationalization and its relationship to climate change. “You can’t stop people from traveling,” she says, “People are what make the places I visit interesting… That human contact is not going to be replaced. Yes, we are creating a lot of carbon but there are actions we can take to reduce it in the future.”

    This passion for reducing our carbon footprint partnered with her own love for travel is what makes Bee such an inspiring person to talk to. Surrounding her role in the Climate Literacy Project, she suggests that companies as well as her own establishment “need to look at the technology that you want to develop.” She believes that a bigger push for green technology while continuing to grow their economy can heavily benefit these institutions and help balance the harm caused by traveling. She encourages staff to use COIL and thinks there is more that we can do to better internationalization at home, for example, a push for bettering online education and support.

    “COVID-19 has been positive in making us take this action,” she explains, “Even though we talk about digitizing, it's a very slow process. But COVID came and we had no choice and our IT support is getting better…” Being able to see the environmental advantages of technology improvement through a pandemic is proof of the ability Bee has to search for creative solutions rather than cower at a challenge.

    More than that, Bee takes her love of problem solving and helping people find solutions and applies it to areas of her life separate from work. She currently volunteers for an organization called GoodGym that helps people get fit by doing good. The community group runs, walks and cycles to help local community organizations and isolated older people by doing practical tasks. Before COVID-19, Bee regularly ran to see an isolated older person for a chat and ran home. GoodGym calls the older people they visit coaches because they help motivate them to run and they share their wisdom. It’s amazing what you can learn from your coach. “Being part of an engaging community gives me a sense of belonging, doing good deeds, helping your local community makes us happier and healthier,” she says.

    Bee brings that responsibility to all areas of her life. She faces challenges every day from a global perspective, choosing to remain focused on finding solutions. She also tackles her job from a different perspective than some of her predecessors and coworkers.  Because of who I am and my background, it gave me a different perspective working here because I see things slightly differently than other people because of where I am from,” she explains.

    Being a woman of color in the international education field, she believes that “Thinking differently is allowing me to progress because I’m doing something slightly different that makes people stop and think ‘Oh, We’ve never done it this way…That’s why I think diversity is very important because if you train all your staff the same, then you continue to do the same thing. As Matthew Syed said, "Diversity, in a real sense, is the hidden engine of humanity."

    Disruption is perhaps the single most accurate word to describe Bee Gan and her achievements. She somehow simultaneously focuses on the power she holds as an individual while focusing on the bigger picture at all times.

    “Climate change is everyone's agenda,“ Bee notes, “If we put everyone together, they could find more creative solutions.” Bee does not look at a problem and see a barrier… She sees an opportunity. Turning problems into a challenge rather than an ending is one of the bravest things someone can do, especially when faced with a problem as great as Climate Change. Much of the rhetoric surrounding climate change and the fate of our Earth is demoralizing... People see a problem so big and seem to lose faith in the power held by an individual. Sitting down with Bee Gan for even less than five minutes allows anyone to see the ripples that one person’s passion and hopefulness can have no matter the size of the issue they are tackling.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Sabrina Vitale

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 02 Jun 2022 3:30 PM | Anonymous


    One Woman, Countless Hats

    Jenny Wilkinson sits down with us to discuss her professional experience as the Director of Student Recruitment and Business Development at London Metropolitan University. She explains the steps she has taken to accomplish her achievements and her perspectives on music, upcoming projects, and being a woman in business.

    As Jenny Wilkinson reminisces about her time interviewing women Vice Chancellors for her MBA dissertation, she mentions how grateful she was “just being able to sit with these amazing women… I was a bit starstruck just listening to their stories”. She does not realize that being given the opportunity to sit down with her can render anyone else just as starstruck.

    Wilkinson, who has been working at London Metropolitan University for three years -- and assumed three separate positions in that time -- has been a voice for international education and climate change activism since her time in college.

    Hat 1: Music as a Driver for Social Change

    She completed her undergraduate degree in music with a specialism in voice and this continues to play a large role in her life. As a first-generation university student, Wilkinson’s driver was using music as a tool for social justice, which she now does at London Metropolitan Brass (no connection to the university).

    “I want a community music organization that’s free for anyone,” she says, “[where] we teach for free, we give free instruments, we play together for the joy of it, and nobody ever gets kicked out because they’re not good enough.”

    In the past eight years, Wilkinson and her team have educated over 200 players, most of whom are adults seeking community. “Loneliness is a huge thing in big cities,” Wilkinson notes, “[people’s] individual stories really have the biggest impact”.

    London Metropolitan Brass  has provided this education for countless individuals… From recent college graduates to retirees, anyone who wants to become a part of this community, regardless of musical experience is encouraged to. “You can’t just be around the same kinds of people all the time,” Wilkinson notes.

    The passion she holds for social impact and community engagement directly translates to Wilkinson’s additional professional career at London Metropolitan University where she currently holds the title as the Director of Student Recruitment and Business Development. Her professional involvement in international education also dates back to her time as a university student.

    Hat 2: Study Abroad and London Metropolitan University

    As an undergraduate “I wandered into a building just to get warm and happened on a study abroad fair,” Wilkinson explains, “I’d never been on a plane before… I just took a leap”. She went on to study abroad at McGill in Montreal, Canada which she says “sparked my love for travel”.

    Upon graduation, Wilkinson thought back on what brought her joy in college, and other than her degree in music, she thought of her time abroad. This led to her first job in the International Office at King’s College London, followed by her time at Queen Mary working as a study abroad officer then at the University of Roehampton. She continues to seize opportunities that present themselves to her due to her hard work and incentive and now looks after a much wider portfolio at London Met.

    She strives to provide international opportunities for non-traditional students. “It’s not just for 19-year-old white girls; which, let’s face it, is what a large amount of traditional study abroad is,” she states. 92% of students at London Metropolitan have at least one underrepresentation marker and Wilkinson pushes to ensure that these students will be given access to the same study abroad opportunities as she was.

    Currently, “Our institution is probably the most socially diverse in the UK so we are working with institutions like HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in the US on developing various partnerships both for research exchange and for student projects to try and kind of have this bilateral knowledge exchange and understand how do we replicate that success for our students with underrepresented backgrounds on our campus?” Wilkinson is playing an active role in this project and silently seems to indicate that work like this is representative of what London Met stands for as an institution.

    She describes London Met as a unique and special place to be and believes that adjusting to any more traditional institution would be very difficult after working there. “The people that you meet… everyone is so passionate about their agenda. You can’t work at London Met if you don’t want to change the world basically.” She further describes the institution as “driven by passion to make change for our students.”

    Hat 3: Gendered Leadership and MBA Dissertation

    Wilkinson brings these values of passion and thirst for change into her MBA dissertation which she has been working on over the past year and just finished this past September. After having to shift her topic when the pandemic hit, she decided to conduct her dissertation on the experiences of women Vice Chancellors and Deputy Vice Chancellors during the pandemic and how they had approached leadership during the crisis.

    Through her work, she examines the ideas of gendered leadership and questions whether or not the women she interviewed identified with those concepts. She describes these interviews with immense pride and gratitude noting how fortunate she was to be able to interview these accomplished women in business. 

    This dissertation topic directly overlaps into Wilkinson’s career as, she too, is a successful woman in a predominantly male-dominated industry. “I think I’ve probably worked harder because I’ve felt like I have to prove myself every single day,” she says “I’m here because I’ve worked really hard.”

    “It’s given me more drive, and it’s made me work harder and now I’m at the point that … I don’t really care as much what other people think,” she states, “But, certainly, ten years ago, even five years ago, I really struggled with that.” Wilkinson’s achievements and position in her career speak for themselves and, arguably, the exposure she has to the inequalities that accompany being a woman in business allow her to push even harder for change. This translates in her constant push for activism throughout her career.

    Hat 4: Climate Change and PhD

    Upon finding passion in international education, Wilkinson began to recognize that she is culpable for traveling so frequently which, in itself, contributes to climate change. She immediately began to think about how to fix this issue and quickly realized that there is not much data surrounding climate change and its relationship to travel. “No one has the data to help make informed decisions in higher education,” she states.

    This revelation encouraged Wilkinson to study for her PhD and she now says that there is much more being published on the subject since a year ago when she started. She wants to create a framework that universities can use to demonstrate social and educational impact of travel, allowing students to continue engaging in international learning opportunities whilst balancing their responsibilities around climate action. There are too many international programs that willfully fail to take into account sustainability and too many sustainability programs that willfully fail to take into account internationalization.

    “I love being given a problem and sitting down and figuring out how to solve it,” Wilkinson admits. Her passion for problem solving coupled with her drive to bring international education to a wider audience as well as her voice in modern-day activism is precisely what makes Wilkinson such a unique and inspiring person to sit down with.

    With completing her PhD in the not-too-distant future, Jenny Wilkinson does not cease to render any interviewer or peer speechless. Her ability to surround herself with other accomplished individuals allows her genuine humility to shine through as she describes her own endeavors and achievements. 

    Along with her infectious optimism and the passion that shines through in her voice, it is almost impossible not to assign new meaning to one’s own life after a conversation with Wilkinson. She wears countless hats, from creating attainable music education to the public, to bringing her passion for international education to countless students, to completing a PhD, to actively contributing to climate change activism. I encourage anyone reading to lean on Wilkinson as an example and try on a hat that they might not usually. She is proof that you do not have to be any one thing. Why put that limit on yourself?

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Sabrina Vitale

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 02 May 2022 1:00 PM | Anonymous


    One Woman’s Journey Through Culture, Language, and Travel

    Mina Emam sits down with us to discuss her professional experience as an International Student Counselor in Tehran, Iran as well as her own perspectives on travel and the current state of our world.

    Mina Emam’s smile is audible as she expresses what a dream it would be for her to travel to Ireland and experience its culture and the sights it has to offer. Her passion for travel shines through as she reflects on her career in international education over the past 12 years. Although travel has been almost impossible recently, Emam maintains an infectious and refreshing outlook of hope.

    Despite the impact of challenges that recent events such as COVID-19, the Trump Administration, and Brexit have had on the students she oversees at Mava International Study, Emam seems hopeful that life and travel can return to what it was. “During these years, we’ve faced many challenges and many issues,” she says, “but, we continue.”

    She is hardly one to back down in the face of a challenge. Being a woman in the international education field alone has had its advantages and disadvantages. “I believe my gender was effective in my career path as people trust me more than if I was a man and they rely on me and they feel comfortable with me,” she explains -- noting the benefits that her gender may have had on her career, “But the other perspective is if I was a man, I would earn more and I could be more successful financially.”

    Regardless of gender norms, Emam continues to be a successful and powerful voice that instigates hope through her position at Mava International Study. As an International Student Counselor, she has forged connections with students who have studied globally throughout the past 12 years and made individual bonds so strong that she is still in contact with many of them today.

    “The things I do for students changes their lives and their career paths,” she notes, “I see how I can be effective in other people’s lives.” She further mentions that the students themselves have worked hard to stay in contact with her over the years and that many of them have told her directly how much her work has shifted their lives.

    What sets Emam apart from many international educators is the passion with which she herself discusses travel and cultural and linguistic immersion. The excitement that she exudes when discussing her own travels and experiences moves beyond treating this career as a simple job and shifts into sharing something deeply meaningful to her with the students and people that surround her.

    Emam grew up and is currently based in Tehran, Iran and speaks about her country with tremendous pride and enthusiasm. “If you don’t visit Iran and its nature and people and cultures, I believe you are missing a big experience in your life,” she says, “ we have so much beauty here… It is a beautiful country and the people are very kind in every city.”

    Traveling within Iran recently, Emam expresses that, “when visiting different people and different cultures, it is so amazing and new for [her], even being Iranian.”

    Having grown up in Iran, Emam speaks Persian fluently, has been speaking English since she was a child, and has also studied German. Her interest in other cultures and experience in multiple languages makes her unique and deeply perceptive.

    Emam has held this international education position for over a decade now and has faced countless challenges and obstacles. Her response to these challenges is that “I am hopeful for the future.” A refreshing and effortless response to the hardships that continue to impact her career and life every single day. Emam continues to push forward and bring life-changing experiences to an entire new generation. 

    Simply and elegantly put, “it is a great experience to know people.” Mina Emam seems to approach her career based on personal connections, fresh perspectives, and passion. Which is why, when met with the opportunity to discuss another potential travel endeavor to Ireland, Emam’s voice shifts and the excitement she exudes resembles what I can only imagine are the same reactions from the students she mentors every day.

    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Sabrina Vitale

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 15 Nov 2021 1:00 PM | Anonymous


    Dr. Monika Setia is working as Regional Officer – Hyderabad with the United States - India Education Foundation (USIEF) – the Fulbright Commission in India - where she manages two U.S. State Department programs - Fulbright and EducationUSA. She has a work experience of more than 15 years in the education industry. After finishing her Ph.D. degree from The Pennsylvania State University in United States, Monika completed her postdoctoral fellowship from the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore and then worked as an Assistant Professor with Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) for five years. Monika has published her research in international journals, worked with both state and national ministries of health in India and international agencies on various projects, and offered multiple training programs for students and professionals.

    Monika has strong passion for educational exchanges and career development of individuals. She believes that exposure to high quality education, research, and professional systems along with right mentoring and guidance on choice of suitable education and career pathways are essential for personal, academic, career, and leadership development of individuals. Having pursued her Ph.D. degree from the United States and having studied and worked in the Indian education system, she is interested in utilizing her experience and skills to promote educational and scholarly exchange between India and the United States.

    Monika Setia has worked as the Regional Office at USIEF - the United States-India Educational Foundation (also the Fulbright Commission in India) for nearly four years. Her role includes managing two U. S. Department of State programs - Fulbright and EducationUSA. Monika is responsible for promoting study and academic exchanges across India and the United States through these two programs. She does this from the USIEF regional office based at the U.S. Consulate General in Hyderabad.

    USIEF is essentially a bilateral organization that promotes and manages programs strengthening linkages between Indian and American institutions and this is done through different programs supported by both Indian and American governments. There is an inherent element of U.S. and Indian diplomacy and furthering the relationships between the two countries in Monika’s work. Through her work, Monika contributes to the promotion of joint research, collaboration, student and faculty exchange between India and the United States, and also student admissions to U.S. institutions. A component of the Fulbright program also involves facilitating higher education administrators from each country to visit and experience the higher education system institutions of the other country and sharing knowledge and best practices from their own country. 

    It seems like quite an important diplomatic role involving India and the United States and we were interested in finding out what a typical day looks like for Monika. 

    She is very much involved in strategic planning for both the Fulbright and EducationUSA programs. On a daily basis, she is also intensely involved in the student advising process through EducationUSA, speaking to students who want to pursue their higher education in the United States. On the Fulbright program, she works with both Indian and American scholars on their exchange process between India and the USA and promotes bilateral relationships between the two countries. Besides the long-term strategic management of both programs and the day to day advising, Monika also manages the administration involved in office, staff, budgeting, etc. 

    Normal office hours are 8:30 am when the consulate opens, but due to COVID she was working from home till very recently. We asked when the working day typically finishes, and she laughs. 

    "Honestly there's no end to the day – on most days, because we work closely with U.S. institutions, we are hosting sessions late into the evening." 

    We are curious to find out how Covid has changed her work, apart from having to work from home. 

    She tells us how USIEF expanded its reach during Covid to students located in many small towns and cities that USIEF was not able to reach previously. Going online gave them a wider audience, it gave them access to regions they were not able to reach before. So, she is now connecting with students and scholars who she would never have had a chance to speak with earlier. 

    "USIEF explored options to provide more opportunities to increase the number of students and scholars in more regions across India."

    Of course, when the pandemic first hit, like everywhere, there was a scramble to reach U.S. Fulbright students and scholars in India and likewise to monitor the situation for Indian students based in the United States. She thinks back to March 2020, trying to make sure U.S. students and scholars in India were safe, were given the options and support to get back to their country, and just at a very basic level, to ensure everyone was doing well. It was a very busy time, she felt there was a great responsibility to ensure students and scholars’ safety and it was quite challenging emotionally, something that people will all relate to when we look back to 2020. Of course, Fulbright has been unable to bring U.S. scholars to India since then, and there was a lot of work involved in adapting to the pandemic situation and this continued for months and months, but essentially, the main goal at that time was to ensure people’s safety and well-being. Monika shares how as part of her work on global higher education, the first need is to ensure the safety and well-being of exchange grantees. 

    Her role seems to be multi-faceted, requiring various skills and expertise, and we were curious as to what she loves most about these different tasks. 

    Monika loves interacting with students and scholars, guiding/mentoring them, taking care of their needs - sometimes psychological, sometimes operational, depending on what stage of their study or exchange process they are at or where they are located.  

    We reflect on how this is the basis for her work. Although she is dealing at a high level with U.S. and Indian institutions and the State Department to further public diplomacy between the two countries, it all comes down to facilitating processes to ensure that both U.S. and Indian students/scholars experience the other country and culture at its best! 

    On a parting note, we ask her to look into her crystal ball and think about what the future might hold for U.S. and Indian collaborations in higher education.

    Monika foresees change in future, with likely more internationalization happening across the educational institutions - more overseas branch campuses coming to India, more joint programs between institutions in India and abroad, and many more opportunities for academic collaborations. 

    We have no doubt that at the centre of this change and advancing India-U.S. relations will be Monika Setia and her organization, and at the heart of her work, the students and scholars will always remain the most important elements!

    - Interview by Global Leadership League members and volunteers, Noreen Lucey and Venkata Madhuri Gunti

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 15 Jul 2021 4:30 PM | Anonymous


    1. What is your current title, and where do you work? I am an International Student Advisor at UC Berkeley in Berkeley, CA.
    2. How did you learn about your current position? (Ex. Networking, Promotion, External Job Posting) I learned about my current job through an external job posting, but I also knew of an alumnus of my graduate program who already worked in the office, and we were able to connect to discuss the position. I have since moved up to a higher-level advising role.
    3. What sparked your interest in working in international education?My study abroad experience at 18 definitely triggered my interest in the field, but during my undergraduate studies, I also tutored students (many of whom were international students), and I knew that whatever I ended up doing, I wanted to help students.
    4. What was your first job in international education? My first international education job was as a Student Services Specialist at TALK English School in Boston. At the time, I did not have a graduate degree, and I didn’t have any luck finding jobs in universities. I found it easier to break into the field in ESL schools, but I still spent about 3 - 4 months job hunting before I found my job. I was also completing the Global Pro Institute at the time. I loved the job and working with ESL students; it was so rewarding to see them arrive at our school sometimes speaking little to no English and then start to gain confidence with the language and let their personalities emerge more.
    5. Tell us about your first international experience, either traveling or working abroad. My first experience abroad was a one-month educational program with Go Abbey Road in Italy, Greece, and France with about 30 other high schoolers from all over the world. It was my first time away from the United States, my family, and my comfort zone, and it was amazing, hard, educational, and eye-opening. It motivated me to go to college when I returned to the U.S. and seek out more study abroad opportunities in the future.
    6. Describe a typical day/week at the office at your current job. Right now, a typical week at my job involves lots of advising emails, Zoom advising shifts, processing student requests and new documents, and meetings. My work is also cyclical, so at certain times of the year, I review financial aid applications, or recruit and train our orientation leaders, or manage our work authorization workshops. UC Berkeley is a huge university with thousands of international students, and my office has been extremely busy since the start of the pandemic; and we have been managing a higher volume of advising, emails, and paperwork than usual.
    7. What do you enjoy the most about your job? The thing I love the most about my job is the students. I love being able to help them, alleviate their stress and anxiety, and watch them grow.
    8. What is the most challenging aspect of your job? Typically, I would say the most challenging thing about my job is having the bandwidth and time to do everything that we would like to do for our students. It has also been an adjustment working at such a large university with so many students, as my previous jobs were all in smaller offices serving much fewer students. During COVID times, I would also add that the current administration and rapidly changing immigration policies have been extremely challenging.
    9. What has working in international education taught you about yourself and your own culture? Working in international education has taught me just how important flexibility and open-mindedness are and that there is not always a “right” or “wrong” answer.
    10. Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth? I don’t have one specific career mentor, but I have had many professors and supervisors over the years who have helped me with my career growth, whether that meant directing me to apply to the Fulbright program or convincing me to stay in graduate school or guiding me towards professional development opportunities.
    11. Describe a moment in your career that you consider your greatest achievement. One of my greatest achievements and learning experiences was teaching English in Germany with the Fulbright program. It was a very tough year, and there were many times that I wanted to quit and go home, but I learned so much about perseverance, myself, and what I wanted both personally and professionally. After that year, I was really motivated to pursue the career path that I was interested in and make some big changes to my life.
    12. How has COVID19 Impacted your work life? I am currently working from home for the foreseeable future.
    13. If you are working from home, has that adjustment been difficult or enjoyable? Working from home has been both difficult and enjoyable. I do enjoy being home more and having more time and flexibility, but I miss the social aspect of work. It also has been difficult to find ways to create a separation between “work” and “home” when my workspace is now my bedroom.
    14. What type of things are you doing to balance your mental health and lack of social engagement? I have started meditating this past year, and that has been a wonderful way to keep me balanced. I have also been trying to keep in touch with my long-distance friends more through phone calls and Zoom.
    15. What is the best advice you can give to other global educators right now as we move into the new year? The best advice I can give to global educators right now is to lean on each other! It is a very difficult time to work in this field, but being open and supporting each other can help to alleviate that. Staying in touch with my work colleagues and graduate school friends has been immensely helpful to me during this time.

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

  • 08 Jun 2021 3:30 PM | Anonymous


    International Coordinator, Strategic Partnerships and Networks

    Lund University, Sweden

    1. What is your current title, and where do you work? International Coordinator, North America at Lund University (Lund, Sweden)
    2. How did you learn about your current position? I networked my way to my first role at Lund University in 2016 and was promoted several times until I reached my current position.
    3. What sparked your interest in working in international education? Growing up as a minority in my hometown, I didn’t always understand why my different religion or the language I spoke at home made me the target for bullying or exclusion. I longed to be like everyone else and didn’t appreciate my uniqueness until much later in life. The intersection of my identity crisis, passion for learning/education, and interest in travel led me to a career in international education.
    4. What was your first job in international education? I created some opportunities for myself to work with international programs/students during grad school, but only through networking and lots of compromises, could obtain a paid position in international education.
    5. Tell us about your first international experience, either traveling or working abroad. I vividly remember traveling to England when I was five years old. The most exciting part was riding on a jumbo jet and seeing Buckingham Palace. After that point, I was fortunate enough to travel internationally a few more times before embarking on my first study abroad experience in college. To date, I have studied abroad twice as an undergrad, earned my master’s degree abroad, taught English abroad, and worked abroad in several countries.
    6. What do you enjoy the most about your job? I work as a project manager and love the process of bringing ideas to fruition. It’s exciting to work with different individuals and offices on campus and international stakeholders, like Embassies, partner universities, government agencies, etc. It is also fun to travel to different parts of the world to launch these projects and/or meet with partners to continue the management of such projects.
    7. What is the most challenging aspect of your job? I am originally from the USA and currently work in Sweden. Learning how to be a professional in the Swedish context and having to learn the language has been a challenge for me. It is a very humbling experience to have to make a good first impression in a foreign language which you’re still struggling to learn.
    8. Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth? I feel very fortunate to have had several people throughout my career who have been integral in my professional growth and development. I have always sought out at least one person at work whom I admire and try to learn as much from them as possible. I have also reached out to individuals I didn’t know but were “known” in our field. Each and every time, these individuals have generously shared their time with me and offered their wisdom. The individuals I have been able to learn from have forever changed me and my life. Without their guidance, I wouldn’t have ever had the courage to apply for a Ph.D., ask for that promotion, or take a leap of faith and move to another country without having secured a job prior to the move.
    9. Describe a moment in your career that you consider your greatest achievement. I feel like each day that I have worked abroad is my greatest “lesson learned” because I am continuously humbled by the realization that I have a very narrow understanding of how things work.
    10. How has COVID19 Impacted your work life? I started working from home in March and continued working from home until the end of the year (I am now on parental leave for 2021). COVID-19 made me realize how much of my job satisfaction had to do with where I worked and with who I worked. Having limited contact with colleagues and via a screen really changed things.
    11. If you are working from home, has that adjustment been difficult or enjoyable? I have tried to keep things interesting at home by experimenting with new things for lunch/snacks and using the time I used to spend commuting to and from work for other things.
    12. What type of things are you doing to balance your mental health and lack of social engagement? I have made an extra effort to reconnect with people I’ve lost touch with or don’t connect with as often as possible. It has also helped to make recurring video call dates with loved ones.
    13. What is the best advice you can give to other global educators right now as we move into the new year? Most people experience change as a stressful thing. They find it chaotic when the ordinary becomes unpredictable. But for me, I find change exciting. It’s an opportunity to take stock of what has been done and see how we can make it even better. So, my wish is for my fellow colleagues to use these uncertain times as an opportunity to take a step back, reevaluate what they’re doing and then make the changes needed to move forward in a more meaningful way.
    - Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Kanette Worlds

    The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.

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Our members come from different backgrounds, abilities, levels of experience, and parts of the world. Our goal is to embrace this diversity and encourage relationships across generations and experience levels for the benefit of all involved. 

The Global Leadership League was started by a group of women in the field of international education for the purposes of advancing women’s leadership skills, knowledge, and connections.


Our Mission

The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders.  Become a Member