ISA team members from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and the U.S. came together in Gold Coast, Australia in mid-November for a semi-annual Resident Director Meeting. Every 2 to 3 years, ISA brings together Resident Directors in the region to discuss how to best support students through all aspects of their programs. Two topics that had extra emphasis this meeting were proactive support and academic support.
Proactive support through ISA Resident Directors is a cornerstone of all ISA programs. Resident Directors in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji (like other ISA sites) see students throughout their program, including at the Bridging Cultures Orientation Program, during weekend excursions, and on regular cultural activities. This gives the staff members insight into the participants and helps them identify problems proactively, rather than reacting to situations after they have become bigger issues. All ISA staff in the Pacific have been specially trained on mental health first aid. As mental health issues continue to rise, the staff are prepared to recognize students during these touch points who may be experiencing issues and direct them the support they need – even to the point of making appointments or identifying specific practitioners.
Academic Support is another key piece of the local staff’s role. Pacific team members provide an in-person “Planning for Academic Success” workshop in every ISA city. This workshop, which is mandatory and runs over an hour in length, helps students identify what it takes to be successful in each of their classes and map out their entire semester, ensuring that academics take priority.
Each meeting is a great opportunity for the team members to learn from one another and identify areas of improvement. It also allows individuals who work in various cities the chance to meet and bond with team members from other locations.
Dharma Bendersky, Director of Australian Operations, commented that “Connecting with our great team of staff to learn from one another and discuss ways we can continue to improve our programs and the student experience” was the highlight of the meetings.
MEET SOME ISA PACIFIC RESIDENT DIRECTORS
During the Resident Director Meetings in Gold Coast, we had the chance to ask our Resident Directors:
What do you find most rewarding about supporting ISA students?
Here’s what some of them had to say.
Director of Operations, New Zealand & Fiji
“Being a part of our student’s journey of discovery as they open their minds and hearts to experiencing and adapting to another culture. Sharing the values of our Maori culture and showing them the many beautiful parts of New Zealand are also highlights of working with and supporting ISA students.”
Resident Director, Gold Coast
“I love seeing how students grow and change as people during the course of our programs. I hate hearing people say, ‘People don’t change!’ – they do change, but only from having experiences like the ones we offer.”
Ignacio “Nacho” Rubio Perez
Resident Director, Sydney
“What I find the most rewarding about working with students is being able to make an impact on their study abroad experience whether it is through support or by providing insight on local culture and current affairs.”
Resident Director, Wellington
“I love to see the personal growth each student goes through, from building more confidence, a greater understanding of diversity, or a greater appreciation of their home life. So many students comment that they’re going back home a different and better person, and it’s wonderful to help foster that kind of change and understanding of one’s place in the world.”