High School and University Counselor
American International School of Vienna (Austria)
How did you become a counselor at the American International School Vienna?
I accepted my job as a high school and university counselor at the American International School Vienna (AISV) while completing a Spanish-language immersion course in Nicaragua during the middle of what my husband, two boys, and I proudly call our “gap year.” Several months earlier and living in Dubai, we were having trouble deciding whether we wanted to move back to the US or pursue another international school placement. Seizing the moment, we put our belongings into storage in the US, bought a campervan along and a diesel truck, and spent the next school year exploring the US and Central America. Over the past twenty plus years, I have lived in four different continents and five different countries and ultimately the pull to live overseas proved too strong. In the midst of limited wifi access, homeschooling our boys, and hiking and climbing our way through some truly awesome landscapes, my husband and I happily signed new contracts, joined the AISV community in the fall of 2016, and are thrilled to be part of such a supportive, professional, and internationally-minded community.
Despite the incredibly varied landscapes, different levels of economic development, and diverse cultures where I have lived, I have loved every country and school where I have worked. There’s a unique bonding that happens when you live away from your own culture and family that connects you to other people who are in the same situation at a much deeper level. Over the years I have happily encouraged a few other eager souls to explore the option to work internationally with lots of success stories along the way. It’s a wonderful experience working as an international high school counselor and I encourage other counselors to consider the option no matter what stage they are in life, especially if they are interested in a looking for some adventure!
How does your job differ from your stateside colleagues?
The biggest difference I find working as a college counselor at an international school is the need to know the varying university requirements from country to country. AISV hosts students from more than 50 different nationalities with about one-third of these students ultimately attending university in North America, one-third in the United Kingdom, and the last third across Europe, with a handful attending universities throughout the larger world.
Over the course of their senior year, many of these seniors apply to multiple programs in one, two, and sometimes three different countries. What makes it even more interesting is that when students apply to university in the UK and Europe, students actually apply to a program within the university which will have its own requirements often in the form of specific scores in certain subjects earned in either the International Baccalaureate (IB) or Advanced Placement (AP) programs. To add another layer, some countries have general course requirements to be eligible to apply to the country and then specific requirements for certain programs. AISV offers the IB diploma in addition to the US HS Diploma, which opens the door for students to satisfy these varying requirements.
As a high school counselor, we begin these university conversations starting in the 8th grade. We specifically look at math and language sequencing with each student to make sure they will be able to map out a four-year plan where they will meet the requirements needed for the country where they want to apply.
What keeps you in the admission profession?
What I like most about my job is the consistent interaction I have with high school students throughout the school year. I am continually awed and impressed with how much a student can change within an academic year, not to mention the overall transition that occurs physically, mentally, and emotionally over the course of these four high school years. I love to tap into the wonderful energy and vibrancy these students embody and help make their high school experience a positive one.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I love the diversity of experiences I have every day at my job largely due to the many different responsibilities that fall under my position. There are the consistent, larger jobs that happen yearly, like coordinating student schedules and organizing AP exams, however, these jobs happen in between the other more personal responsibilities of a counselor including conversations and problem solving with students, teachers, administrators, and parents. I can honestly say that I have never had two days alike and this variety of daily experiences coincides nicely with the cyclical nature of the school year, bringing a healthy overall balance to my work life.
How has NACAC helped you as an admission professional?
NACAC was a valuable resource and tool when I took my first job as a college counselor in 1996. I was fortunate to attend my first NACAC conference not long afterward and the ability to collaborate with university admission officers at the NACAC National Conference provided an invaluable opportunity for continued collaboration, networking, and problem solving. Working primarily overseas in the latter half of my career I have had the pleasure of attending several International ACAC conferences which provide the same wonderful opportunities for collaboration. I am also thankful for the professional development opportunities available at the conferences as well as online through the NACAC website which have continued to be valuable tools for me over the years. While I have not been able to attend NACAC for a few years due to the distance, I have happily been approved to attend the conference in Salt Lake this fall and am continually appreciative for NACAC being able to bridge the gap between college counseling and university admission and for providing an opportunity to have an extended community all working towards the same goal.
When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
Living in Austria provides a tremendous amount of outdoor adventures for my family of four and Austrians are fantastic role models on how to make the most of any season. We try to live by the Austrian motto that “there is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing,” and spend as many weekends as possible exploring the country whether we’re skiing, climbing, hiking, or mountain biking. I also have a musical background and living in Vienna is a gateway to an endless number of styles and venues of music which I enjoy thoroughly.
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
While Maria Von Trapp is not a fictional character, I often find myself impersonating the Maria Von Trapp that we all know from the beloved musical The Sound of Music. I especially love the closeness and richness of their life as a family, which held them together through good times and bad. I am also thankful and appreciative that my boys, now 16 and 12, will willingly and happily join me in singing “The Hills are Alive” at the top of our lungs as we run through the grassy green fields of the Alps. The small joys in life are sometimes the largest in the heart.
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