CIS University Counsellor Tours: Expanding horizons while building community
By Michelle Duschang, Director of International University Counseling at Hisar School in Istanbul, Turkey

Even after 28 years either on the university or school side of the admissions counseling desk, participating in the CIS University Counselor Tour last month I was astounded, yet again, by the supportive, collaborative and genuinely enthusiastic community of people I work with every day. At times our community that spans the globe seems so small. However, this experience reminded me how diverse and vast our network really reaches and how much we learn from one another.

Planning a robust, interesting and balanced CIS tour of universities is no easy feat. Serving as one of five volunteers on the CIS Guidance Committee, a sub-committee of the CIS Regional Service Committees, we begin brainstorming about each year’s tour over a year in advance. We rely on and appreciate the generosity of our university colleagues who support us by generously providing housing and meals along the way. This helps us to keep the tour as affordable as possible.

This year I had the pleasure of assisting my colleague Tim Munnerlyn from the American School of Warsaw in leading the ‘Right Across America’ Tour. With ties in North Carolina, Tim was a natural to build a week-long tour of CIS member universities that started at Washington University in St. Louis and ended 15 universities, seven states, and more than 1500 miles later at NC State in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.

Participating in a tour that is planned by someone in our field and in conjunction with our international admissions colleagues at CIS member universities means that participants are assured a well thought through itinerary and informative, valuable programs at each university. In addition to providing important details about international student recruitment initiatives, scholarship opportunities for the populations we serve and up to date statistics, universities go out of their way to plan memorable experiences.

"It is important to see the university campus and surroundings and have a better understanding of the culture of the college. Students from overseas are often unable to visit due to the distance"

Participant on the CIS Counsellor Tour 2018

This year we discovered a new interdisciplinary program, Beyond Boundaries, at Washington University in St. Louis designed for students who want to be creative problem solvers; enjoyed a candid discussion about competitive admissions at Vanderbilt; were impressed by the remarks on community engagement by Connie LeDoux Book, President of Elon University, and learned about the internship and research benefits of attending one of the three universities in the Research Triangle, UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University, NC State.

We were lucky to be hosted by Sewanee: The University of the South on their 13,000-acre campus, often voted one of the most beautiful university campuses in the US. At Davidson, it was difficult to decide which was more impressive, being able to touch an Auguste Rodin sculpture in their Van/Every Smith Gallery or taking a selfie with the Steph Curry dedication in the Belk Arena.

Beyond the presentations by our admissions colleagues, student-led panels, campus tours, and faculty discussions there is another valuable advantage to participating in a CIS University Counselor Tour- that is the spontaneous sharing of information and experiences with other tour participants. Each tour group takes on its own personality, develops its own identity.

This year I was initially struck by the number of countries, 21, represented in our group of 30 counselors.

"Visiting each university was invaluable. I now feel I have the insight needed to make the very best recommendations to my students regarding what school may be a match for them."

Participant on the CIS Counsellor Tour 2018

By the end of the week what I was most impressed by about our group was the instant comradery and friendship that developed. A wide array of personalities clicked together like the fine tuning of a clock and we were an instant family.

Photographers, avid note takers, thoughtful questioners, everyone contributed their many talents and skills to ensuring our time together was productive and fun. Countless bus hours and our ‘down time’ was spent discussing university guidance platforms, English language testing, balancing work responsibilities, and experiencing southern culture and hospitality.

This year’s CIS University Counselor Tour was one of my most memorable professional development experiences in a long time. It renewed my energy for the upcoming school year, motivating me to continue to grow and engage more in my global community of fellow CIS colleagues. It inspired me to dive head first into planning for the 2019 CIS University Counselor Tour: Canada, Eh! Moose tracks from Montreal, Quebec to London, Ontario.

"It is a great way to visit and learn about a varirty of institutions in an organized efficient manner, making contacts with admissions as well as sharing of information amongst counselors from different countries"

Participant on the CIS Counsellor Tour 2018

Michelle Duschang is Director of International University Counseling at Hisar School in Istanbul, Turkey. Before moving to this position six years ago she was Associate Director of Admissions at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia for three years and previously led the international admissions team at Boston University. Michelle currently serves on the CIS Committee for Europe, the Middle East and Africa as well as the CIS Guidance and CIS Forum Planning Committees.