The power of regional learning
Katryna Snow
By Katryna Snow, Associate Director of Higher Education Services

School guidance counsellors and university admissions officers share a common goal of working with and advising students through the university application and enrollment process. With thousands of university options worldwide and a rapidly changing landscape in international higher education, it is important that those working with students are up-to-date on the latest trends, challenges, and developments. There are numerous resources and professional development events available that focus on admission and guidance on a global level (including the CIS Global Forum), but there is also great value in a more focused approach to information sharing and networking. 

For many years, CIS has created regional opportunities for those working in international admission and guidance to come together and learn from each other. Regional institutes facilitate digging into issues that are relevant in a local context. Adeline Munoh from Enko Bonanjo International School in Cameroon recently attended the CIS-AISA Institute on International Admission and Guidance in Africa, and said that as a new university counsellor she had “several challenges that needed answers. These challenges ranged from identifying universities that fit our students’ academic need in and out of Africa, scholarship opportunities, and networking with universities and other international counsellors.

Shwetangna Chakrabarty, Careers Counsellor at Dar es Salaam International Academy in Tanzania, attended both the inaugural CIS-AISA Regional Institute in 2017 and the second version of the programme this year. She notes that participation “opened up a world of opportunities for our school. In my conversation with the participants, I heard the same questions and concerns being raised over and over. This made me think that regional conferences bring together professionals who can learn so much from each other by just being present at these events.”

Multiple sessions are offered throughout the institute, and participants are encouraged to submit session proposals to become part of the programme. Shwetangna Chakrabarty chaired an institute session entitled “Career Guidance Counselling in the African Context: Challenges and Opportunities for Schools and Universities.” She notes that presenting was “a very enriching experience, as this conference had successfully brought together professionals to learn from each other, share best practices, and appreciate the life-changing initiatives conceptualised by schools in Africa.” Other sessions offered during the programme included topics such as how universities can best engage with students from Africa, ideas for making university education more accessible for African students, an overview of different African school credentials and national examinations, and the diverse facets of counselling (work experience, service learning, induction, etc.). Adeline notes, “I was really amazed during this institute because everybody was willing to share. It was so beautiful to see that counsellors from the region had wonderful solutions to some challenges we face as counsellors in Africa.

The networks that are built at a regional institute persist long after the event has concluded. Melissa Gibson, Regional Director for Africa and Middle East international student recruitment at the University of Southampton in the UK, found value in connecting with both guidance counselling colleagues and university peers. She noted, “The CIS-AISA Institute was a great collaborative success - a wonderful opportunity to network not only with school counsellors from across Africa, but also university colleagues from other study destinations with whom we rarely cross paths in our regular travel. The variety of conversations I had have meant I have since revised my initial plans for collaborations in the coming academic year.

Carolyn O’Keefe, International Student Recruitment Officer at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, echoes this sentiment and says the institute “introduced me to new advisors, high schools, and colleagues working in region and alerted me to new recruitment opportunities within Africa. Physically being present on the continent not only allows you to network with counsellors, meet students and parents, but it also reinforces your institutional brand and credibility.” From a school counsellor perspective, Adeline Munoh says that “thanks to the conference, we have created a network of African counsellors where we share vital information with each other and ask questions to achieve academic success for our students.

The CIS regional institutes offer an intimate and focused environment for admissions and guidance professionals to connect and share. Carolyn O’Keefe remarks that the institutes are “appropriate for new or experienced international education professionals—they are a great addition to one’s professional development plan. From session content to international education attendees, you are immediately immersed in a regional dialogue.” The locations of these events often means that school counsellors from the region who may not be able to travel to a global event are able to attend, providing greater access for those who work in advising students on university options. Melissa Gibson says “I hope that this sharing of knowledge within and across regional institutes becomes common place to help us all to better support the ones that matter most – the students.

Are you interested in learning more about CIS Institutes? If you are interested in engaging in discussion on international student admission and guidance in these regions, we hope to see you there!