we need to start writing these things down...

You never know what will come your way during a regular day in the world of working in international education...below is a running list of "those moments" that will go down in history:

To the attention of:

(Before we went online with our application and acceptance procedures)

When students receive their acceptance packet for some of our study abroad programs, they are asked to return the important forms enclosed to:

Attention: "The Program you will be attending", 118 College Dr #10047, Hattiesburg MS 39406.

For example, "The British Studies Program", or "Vietnam Studies", etc.

...We received a packet addressed to: "The Program you will be attending"

Please provide copy of passport:

Students are required to provide a copy of their passport for our records. In case their passport is lost/stolen during their time abroad, we have a copy we can then fax them for official record purposes, to assist with the process of acquiring a new one from the embassy in their foreign country of study. ...One year, from one student, we received a complete passport book - blank pages and all - cut to scale, and stapled together. An exact replica of this student's passport!

(FYI, when you are asked for a copy of your passport, it's just the photo-page that is required)


(again, before we went online with our processes)

Applying for one of our programs is really not that difficult. You see, you complete the application found online, and mail it to our office with the required deposit. Once accepted, we mail you an acceptance packet full of program information, financial information, and most importantly: medical and health disclosure forms. There is also an International Student Identity Card application students are required to complete (which awards students various discounts and worst-case-scenario insurance while abroad).

Generally we have to call and remind students when we're missing a few items here and there, whether it's a copy of their passport, their final payment, or a photo for their ISIC card. And generally students are so excited to turn everything in, we rarely have to call about an entire packet of paperwork. Either the student calls to let us know they think it got lost in the mail, or they've already called to say they're cancelling altogether, before we even have a chance to inquire about missing documents.

Well, recently one student - we'll call her "Sassafras" - was not returning our phone calls. So, as you can imagine, we became concerned when it came down to two days before her program departure and has still received nothing from Sassafras. Finally, Sassafras answered the phone (on a Wednesday before a Saturday departure, our office closes at 5 on Friday) and the conversation went a little something like this:

"Yeah, I got the packet...no, I haven't opened it yet...yeah, that's right, I got it a long time ago...no one told me I had to open it...well I have just been really busy lately with school and work, so I don't have time to fool with paperwork...I have to turn it in by Friday or I can't go? Fine..."

In case you're wondering, Sassafras did come in Friday, after 4:30. And she did make it on the plane.

Deciphering needed:

"if u know dr <>'s phone number here can u email it to me please if i do not get in contact with him and my uncle pays 200 i will have a balance owing to me of 200 how do i need to request it allow my uncle to pay the 200 i will try and get my money back from dr <> if not i will request it when i return home"

Is there any specific reason I need this?

After finding an "International Holidays" calendar on their desk, an employee asks, "is there any specific reason I would need this?" It was a condensed list of major holidays for major countries, most of which our international students come from. I don't know, maybe? We are an International Office...

"Are you asking to borrow clothes?"

At an orientation before departing for a weekend trip, all important reminders, information, departure schedule, etc. had been addressed and then opened the floor for questions. A hand shot up,

"My clothes are still in the dryer."


Coordinator: "Okay, um, do you have a question?"

Student stares blankly

Coordinator: "Are these clothes you are hoping to take with you when we depart in the morning?"

Student: "Yeah"

At this point the group was not scheduled to depart for another 7 hours

Coordinator: "Aaaand, are you worried they won't be dry?"

Student: "Yeah"

The student did not give the coordinator anything to work with....just stared questioningly, as did everyone else in the room.

Coordinator: "So you need to figure out what you will do if your clothes aren't dry by the time we leave."

More questioning blank staring from said student

Coordinator: "I'm sorry, are you asking to borrow clothes?"


Coordinator: "Does anyone have anything they can loan ___; in case the dryer doesn't finish her clothes? Other than that, ___; you have to figure this out, I'm sure you will, it will be fine, and we're going to have a great weekend!"

Planning ahead is imperative to your success...

Two days before you embark on an international trip, no matter where you are leaving from/traveling to - do you generally have your itinerary mapped out? At least for the first leg of your trip? At least for the departure??

Thursday night during an Abbey Program Paris week, departure for Bayeux set for Saturday morning, coordinator received a text around 11:30pm: "my flight leaves at 8:30 from beauvais where do i leave from and how to i get there?"

Really? 8:30 in the "am" or "pm"? That will make a difference. And what do you mean, "where do you leave from and how do you get there?" Where are you starting from? What are you asking? Are you asking the coordinator to plan your trip? Did you really not look in to this at all? Do you known that Beauvais airport is a 1.25 hour bus ride from Paris-centre? Do you really want to have this discussion via TEXT MESSAGE??

Please, do not mistake your study abroad coordinator for your personal travel agent.

"Being a sarcastic-bit$h will not make them any smarter, Jessica - WWBD"

Oh how I have learned so much in such a short period of time when it comes to working with people! There are some questions that just unnerve me. Why? I'm not sure, because I'm relatively a very understanding and patient person. But maybe it wouldn't be as bad if people would please, please think about what they are about to ask before they open their mouth?

Don't roll your eyes, I know that I too have asked plenty of absurd and obvious-to-answer questions in my life, I am certainly not claiming innocence here. But sometimes I wonder if people even try asking themselves first. Just try. And then try answering, before you ask. Sometimes it's merely a matter of listening first. When you listen closely, your informational questions are usually answered before the Q&A session opens. If you just try, chances are you can figure it out on your own which, will save you many sarcastic responses and ridicule.

Why do these questions irritate me so? Perhaps because lately there have been so many of them posed within a condensed time frame, and I haven't had enough time to laugh and move on before the next one is asked. So, I turn to sarcasm.

Sweet sarcasm said with a smile is just one of the many services I offer, and I have so many people to thank for helping me work so hard to improve my timing!

  • Example A: during a pre-Paris-week orientation: "are there any questions?"

"Yes, the dryer shrunk my sheets, I can't fit them on the mattress."

Oh there are so many things to say in response! I'm sorry, do you have a question? You mean to tell me that the dryers that have been drying the same sheets for years before your arrival suddenly dried your fitted-sheet? Did you try stretching it? Again, do you have a question?

  • Example B: When to travel with your passport: ALWAYS!

"Do I need to bring my passport with me during the travel break?"

There was no room for sarcasm here. Very important question and point to make: YES YES YES YES YES!

  • Example C: After dropping students off at an airport in the UK...
"Hey, Jessica, we made it to the airport, and when we went to check in they told us our flight isn't until tomorrow...what should we do?"


The above has been a collection of events over the past three years. I hope to produce Part II after a few more. "WWBD" stands for What Would Buddha Do. Sometimes I like to think Buddha (and a few of our other historical spiritual leaders) would have used intense sarcasm in response to the above scenarios...but my dad tells me he would not.


  1. This is from your Dad but I can't figure out how to make it from me without being anonymous, but this is your father speaking. In your last statement, do you mean that I (Dad) think that Buddha would not be sarcastic, or that I would not be sarcastic? Because you know that sharp intense sarcasm is a genetic trait. You inherited it from me as I did from your grandmother. You can fight against it, but it is always there ready to raise its head at stupidity. Just remember what the Buddha said "If you smile and are kind to some one who is incompetent, they will smile back at you. If you yell and treat them poorly, they will still be incompetent, and you will have made an enemy." Goose fra baaaaaaa.......

  2. Nice...good news from the American Public Education System: They're getting worse: /