From time to time I get asked this question. While there are a few positions out there with 9-month contracts, the rest of us work year-round. At my institution, nearly 75% of our student mobility takes place during the summer. Yes, my student advising load dwindles, but the summer months remain full. It's just a different kind of busy.
So then what goes on in a study abroad office during the summer?
One very important task I take on in the summer is reporting. I am the one who does this for our office. I happen to love doing it. I guess it's because I am an Excel nerd. Or maybe it is because Terra Dotta's TDS for Study Abroad software (formerly called StudioAbroad) makes it so but easier to pull and manipulate reports. The annual report gives me the chance to see the results of the hard work throughout the year and get our final enrollment number. I also like to see trends in destination, major, and duration of study. I also enjoy the graphic design part, because your data has to look pretty.
The other report I create is IIE Open Doors. Technically, this report is due in the spring, but I always ask for an extension into the end of May. The kind folks at IIE always grant it. I know this is makes me a bit of a slacker, but we have a 3-person office and our spring focus must be on getting our students ready to depart. Gotta have priorities! The data can wait.
If you haven't already, you really need to familiarize yourself with Open Doors. It's a treasure trove of data related to mobility. If you ever wondered, "How many students study abroad?" or "What are the top 10 study abroad destinations?", Open Doors has your answers.
We actually do a lot less program development than you'd think. But what we do work on, happens primarily in the summer. By "program development" I mean adding and subtracting programs from our approved list. Program development takes a number of forms. It could mean:
Program development also involves things like budgeting, getting quotes from program providers, or developing marketing materials.
I no longer have direct responsibility for the "dog and pony show" part of freshman orientation, but I do consult on the development of the presentation and the overall message we want to send out to new students. Each summer nearly 3,000 newly admitted freshman come to campus for a 2-day orientation program. They come in groups of 50, 4 times a day, over several weeks.
During this intense and action-packed campus visit, the students get 10 minutes in our office where we pitch study abroad to them. They are tired, overloaded with information, and (of course) trying to act cool in front of one another. Nevertheless, we try to get across the message that study abroad needs to be on their college bucket list. We have returned students give a little talk and show them a video to get them inspired.
With hundreds of students abroad in the summer, it means we might need to tend to emergencies that arise on programs. These could be any number of things, from transportation, to illness, to lost/stolen passports, or even disciplinary issues. Each time the phone rings or email dings we need to be ready to spring into action and support our students and faculty. We need to ensure the students get what they need and we properly document and communicate each incident. These calls happen around the year, but the summer months (particularly May) can be busy. And they don't just happen during office hours. We are there to support everyone 24/7.
I saved the best for last. If I am lucky, I do sometimes get to travel. This year I went to NAFSA in Boston. Last year I went to Melbourne and Lennox Head, Australia. It doesn't always work out the way I'd like, but since summer is a slower time of the year, it makes the most sense for any site visits to take place during the these months. For the same reason, I try to take most of my vacation time in the summer.
I'd love to hear about what other education abroad pros are doing this summer. Let's hear what you are up to! Leave me a message in the comments section to remind me what I missed.