Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Furthering Educational Diplomacy at International School Manila, Philippines

As an international education and educational diplomacy professional, Stephanie Tao, Certificate '13, currently serves as a high school counselor at the International School Manila in the Philippines.
How did you become interested in China and end up at the HNC?  

I moved to China after my undergraduate studies in anthropology because of inspiration from a course I took on urban ethnography. In this course, I read a study on the rapid urbanization of Beijing and what it was doing to the preservation of hutongs and the sociocultural communities that came with them. I wanted to see for myself how quickly urban Chinese cities were growing and the impact it had on sociocultural practices.  

When I applied to the HNC, I was living in Wuhan, China working at the China-Canada Student Exchange Center at Wuhan University. This was my initial exposure to the field of higher education, and it gave me insight to educational diplomacy created between two countries and/or international cities through institutional partnerships and student exchange. The HNC was my year of "participant observation" as I was able to experience a truly immersive program that brought together the benefits, rewarding challenges, and politics of US-China education.

How did your experience at the HNC prepare you for the position you have now? 

As an international high school counselor based in Manila, Philippines, I work with students and families that come from 90+ nationalities and backgrounds. A large part of my work is learning about the university admissions process in various countries around the world and walking our students through those admissions processes. Since we send our students to study all over the world after high school, it is important to keep up to date on the political, sociocultural, and economic landscape in those various countries to best support our students and families. My experience at the HNC shaped my continued interest in keeping an analytical eye on those landscapes.   

What was your journey after SAIS to the position you have now and what experiences have you gained overtime that contribute to your success in your position? 
After the HNC, I was offered a position as Assistant Director of International Admissions for East, Central, and Southeast Asia at Loyola University Chicago. At the time, they were looking to expand their recruitment of international students in the region, especially in China. I traveled extensively around the Asia Pacific region, sometimes visiting 15 cities and 110+ education institutions in 7 weeks. Marketing and budgeting were a part of my role. Soft skills were also essential in this position- adaptability: strong listening and communication skills, and the ability to identify students who would be strong applicants for our university. Now that I've jumped to the other side of the admissions table, living abroad as an international high school counselor, those soft skills are exponentially more important. I never have a routine day when I get to school. I work with people from a wide range of backgrounds, problem solve and negotiate, advocate for students, and deeply listen and empathize with individuals. Wearing different hats in my current role has become a rewarding challenge. 

Do you keep in contact with your HNC peers?

Yes I do! Every year (except for 2020 and 2021) since graduating, I've been lucky enough to catch up with at least one HNCer, no matter if it's in East Asia, the US, or Europe. If we know we're in the same location, and have time for a chance to meet, we gather. I keep in touch with people through social media and phone calls too. Our career counselor at the time, Robbie Shields, has kept in touch with our graduating class, and I am grateful for his advice and support even after our time at HNC.  

What is one piece of advice you have for current or future HNC students?
I didn't know that pursuing an opportunity in the field of international higher education could open doors that included extensive travel, diplomacy, and on-the-spot problem solvingall while feeding my interest in staying up to date with current events and learning about human culturebut it has! Be open to jobs outside the government or business sector, as they may have everything you're looking for, just veiled differently. If you're looking towards opportunities in education, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn if you have questions!

Interview conducted by Brandy Darling, HNC Certificate '20 + SAIS MA '21.