SIEF post-travel interview

What was the purpose of your trip and why did you choose your destination?

In 2019, Times Higher Education named the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Chinese University of Hong Kong as three of the world’s most internationalized universities. For this reason, I wanted to visit these universities to learn about their communications strategies as related to internationalization, globalization and international student experience initiatives.

How did the SIEF award provide professional development related to your role at Waterloo?

As the Communications Officer, Internationalization at the Student Success Office (SSO), I support the international and study abroad programs and services. This opportunity stretched my understanding of internationalization communications and the nuances of the international student experience and global learning experiences. SIEF has also allowed me to hone my public speaking and presentation skills; a goal I’ve been working towards over the past three years.

What surprised you most about your experience in Hong Kong, both professionally and personally?

Professionally, I found the way each university prioritizes the student's voice and incorporates it into their communications to be inspiring. It has encouraged me to ask myself: when is the last time I involved students in my current projects?

Also, I was surprised that every project seems to have a kickoff and wrap-up event. There is an element of celebration and a touch of whimsy in the programming and communications strategies that I learned about. I’m now considering ideas for adding a dash of fun to our projects.

What was the greatest lesson you learned through your experience?

On a professional level, I was astounded by the generosity of the higher education community. The colleagues I met with, in Hong Kong were incredibly giving of their time and talents. They were more than willing to share what they are currently doing, but also their future plans for improvement. They embodied the global attitude that we’re truly better together.

Beyond making memorable connections with colleagues and learning about interesting new programs and tactics, this trip tested my resiliency in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. My arrival in Hong Kong coincided with the escalation of protests across the city and the closure of the universities. In the process of reorganizing my itinerary multiple times while assessing the safety of the situation, I learned that I’m far more resilient and flexible than I would have believed before this experience.  

What do you want other people to know about the SIEF award?

It’s valuable to research the approaches that other universities are taking. However, I found that having the opportunity to speak with the contacts in-person about their work offered even more opportunities to grow and generate new ideas. My experience through SIEF gave me the nudge to try new communications tactics and pitch new programs at the SSO.