Meeting Dragons — Near and Far!
July 9, 2020
All of us in International Admissions very much look forward to the day when we are traveling the world to share the Drexel story again soon. For now, here is a story about my recent trip for the University in Pakistan.
This past February, I had the wonderful opportunity to represent Drexel University in Pakistan, as part of the EducationUSA spring tour, alongside colleagues from other U.S. institutions. EducationUSA is a U.S. State Department network of advising centers across the world, helping to guide international students who are seeking out educational opportunities in the U.S. It was my first time traveling to Pakistan, and I loved every minute of my time there! I've worked with many of our Pakistani students throughout the application process, but this was the first time I had the chance to learn more about Pakistani culture and I was certainly not disappointed. During this ten-day tour, I had a front-row seat to all that Pakistan has to offer — the motivated and inspiring students, the delicious mouth-watering food, the breathtaking cultural sites, and, of course, the incredible hospitality and kindness of the Pakistani students, parents, and community members that I met.
Traveling internationally for the University is such a valuable and important opportunity, because I'm able to bring a little slice of Philadelphia and Drexel to prospective students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit campus and learn more about us. I met with students from almost every province, from all different backgrounds: secondary school students trying to find their "right fit" school, students admitted to Drexel and eager to learn more about their new community, current university students looking to transfer to a different institution, and even working professionals looking to continue their graduate education in the U.S. I attended almost 30 different events in four different cities, meeting hundreds of students and their families.
Each time I land at a new airport in an unfamiliar country, I think about the future Drexel students who will travel through that same airport on their way to Philly, leaving the familiarity of their family and friends, and I'm reminded of just how valuable the Drexel support network is.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was during our admitted student receptions, when our newly admitted students got to meet with Drexel alumni. No matter where I travel in the world, there are always members of the Dragon community to connect with! I met with graduates of our MBA program from '82, newly minted Dragons from 2017–2019, as well as parents of current Drexel students. Another trip highlight is that I can now say that I've had my most unique school visit ever…they arranged for us to ride horses with the equestrian team, learn archery, and compete against the students in a tug-of-war competition (the students let us win…)!
In addition to bringing Drexel to students, another reason I find that in-person recruitment in other countries is so important is because it allows us to have a higher level of empathy and understanding for the challenges that our international students face when they first arrive in the U.S. That initial feeling of trepidation I get when I get off the plane in a new country is truly nothing compared to the experience of being an international student and arriving in the U.S. for the first time.
My initial hurdles, like withdrawing local currency from an ATM, finding a bottle of water, and learning key phrases in an unfamiliar language, all pale in comparison when I think about the life transitions our international students go through. In speaking with our international students, though, it's clear that those initial butterflies soon disappear once students arrive on campus for Welcome Week. The activities planned by Student Life and our student organizations, in addition to the resources offered by our Office of International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS), the Office of Counseling and Health Services, and the Center for Learning and Academic Success Services (CLASS) all help our international students in getting settled and acclimated to their new home. Each time I land at a new airport in an unfamiliar country, I think about the future Drexel students who will travel through that same airport on their way to Philly, leaving the familiarity of their family and friends, and I'm reminded of just how valuable the Drexel support network is.
My time in Pakistan was much too short to see all that the country has to offer, but we were lucky enough to squeeze in a little sight-seeing in between events. On the drive from Islamabad to Lahore, surrounded on both sides by bright yellow blooms from the flowering mustard plants, we stopped at the Katas Raj Temples. Built in the 7th century CE, the maze-like complex of temples and shrines felt worlds away from the bustle of the capital. After a week of non-stop travel, I certainly appreciated the moment of peace this roadside stop brought! Once we arrived in Lahore, we had a packed schedule, but our colleagues at EducationUSA still found time for us to visit the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort, both of which date back to the Mughal Empire. Coming from Philadelphia, we're no stranger to historical landmarks (hello, Independence Hall!), but the majority of our oldest buildings are from the 18th century. Getting the chance to see such historical and iconic landmarks was truly a highlight of the trip!
My trip to Pakistan was an incredible opportunity to build relationships with school counselors, teachers, students, parents, and even alumni. With over 126 countries represented in our undergraduate class, I wish I could say that the international admissions team is able to travel to and build relationships in each of these countries; in reality, we're only able to travel to about a quarter of those countries every year! However, in the recent weeks it's become clear that virtual visit opportunities can help us bridge this visit gap, substantially.
While it's not an exact replacement for meeting with the Admissions team in the Main building, doing some "armchair university visits" has been made easier, with schools rolling out expanded virtual visit options. So, no matter where you're coming from, and how near or far you are from campus...we want to connect with you! I encourage you to reach out to your admissions counselor to see if they will be traveling to your part of the world this coming fall.
We hope to see you out there...and, in the meantime, Go Dragons!
Jeannie D'Agostino is the Director of International Admissions at Drexel University. Jeannie is passionate about bringing people together through travel and educational opportunities!