Internship in Kuwait Solidifies Interest in International Student Affairs Work
Tess Constant transferred to the University of Arkansas to pursue a bachelor's degree in hospitality management. But, after she started working with the Office of International Students and Scholars, she knew she wanted a master's degree that would provide opportunities for her to work with international students.
She found her home in the higher education master's degree program in the College of Education and Health Professions and, from the program, learned of an eight-week internship at the American University of Kuwait. She was the first student from the U of A chosen for the program, and it was her first time to visit the Middle East.
Constant, who is from Overland Park, Kansas, works as a graduate assistant for housing. She develops on-campus international programming within Holcombe Hall including the monthly Global Series.
Constant returned from Kuwait in late July. American University of Kuwait is a private liberal arts university in the city of Salmiya. It is modeled on the American higher education system and first opened in 2004.
Her internship with the student affairs division there was divided into placements that included 30 hours a week with the university's Counseling Center. She researched preventive and early intervention counseling for at-risk students as well as crisis management systems in the Middle East and North Africa region. The center staff want to create a position centered on reaching students before they reach a crisis.
"I'm so thankful for supervisors who welcomed me in and gave me engaging projects as well as the space and support to develop them," Constant said.
With little background in counseling, Constant was at first apprehensive about her placement.
"Once I joined the team, I was invited to join trainings and sit downs with the counselors to learn more about what they do and how they navigate cultural differences. Seeking counseling and therapy services holds a stigma around the world, but it is intensified here in this region."
Her secondary placement of 10 hours a week was with the dean of Academic Support Services. She helped develop curriculum and lead group sessions for a pilot program that supports students that are on academic dismissal.
Time with Academic Support Services allowed Constant to work directly with students struggling academically.
"I learned so much in designing curriculum this summer and I ended up incorporating many of the teaching techniques I experienced in my program at the University of Arkansas," Constant said. "I made the students move around and work in different groups. One week they worked through scenarios with each other and created a mock schedule to practice time management. I saw them go from a quiet group that didn't know each other to chatting before class and open to sharing academic struggles and successes with one another. Watching them grow and connect reinforces my desire to go into Student Affairs."
As an undergraduate, Constant participated in a volunteer mentorship program through the Office of International Students and Scholars called Cross Cultural Mentors. Through welcoming new international students to the U of A during orientation, she came to make many friends she was able to meet with this summer on weekend travels around the region.
"Never would I have imagined I'd be exploring Cairo with my CCM partner from Saudi Arabia or meeting up with my past roommate and one of my former residents in Jordan," she said. "It's amazing what involvement in co-curricular activities can lead to."
After graduation in May, Constant hopes to land a position that allows her to encourage international dialogue among domestic and international students on campus as well as the greater community.
"This reinforced my desire to work with international students but also to look overseas for jobs," she said. "International experience is so valuable. Any opportunity to get to know someone from different countries is important. Globalization is the way of the future. I wish everyone would take a moment to introduce themselves to someone who doesn't look like them in their classes."
Heidi S. Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
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