In the Study Abroad office, Jones is one of the advisers helping students and faculty navigate study abroad and international projects during the global pandemic.
1 year in the Study Abroad Office
Study Abroad adviser for Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa
How have your responsibilities changed since the COVID-19 pandemic happened?
Since COVID-19 was initially an “overseas problem,” our office felt the effects of the pandemic earlier than most. In January, our team worked with our Spring 2020 study abroad students to navigate border closures, program cancellations and to help students make sense of their experience abroad after abruptly returning home. The flexibility that comes with working from home also lets us work on a variety of other projects, such as process reviews, data collection, marketing projects and diversity and inclusion initiatives.
In what ways have you been able to assist students and faculty with study abroad?
We’ve been hosting student advising appointments over Zoom. Without in-person contact, our online presence and digital communication have become extremely important and we’ve made a lot of progress, working on telephone advising, Zoom info sessions, videos, online FAQ pages for our students and brochure revamps. We’re coming up with creative ways for students to have international experiences despite COVID-19, such as helping pilot Connecting Carolina Classrooms with the World. The Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador recently partnered with UNC Global to offer virtual courses for students, like medical Spanish and “Climate Change and Society.” For our faculty, we’ve been staying in touch as much as we can, and we’ve been working on new ways to promote our faculty-led study abroad programs through info sessions and videos.
How did you set up your workspace at home, and did you bring anything home from your office?
I just moved into an unfurnished apartment in February. I’ve got a pretty bare-bones setup — my personal laptop, a desk chair and the kitchen counter. I’m missing my dual-monitor setup at the office. I brought home my Rubik’s cube to give me something to fiddle with during long Zoom meetings.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced when transitioning to remote work?
Navigating through online-only communication has been tricky. However, Microsoft Teams has been a game-changer for staying in touch. I do miss dropping by my colleagues’ offices to ask a quick question. Also, Zoom fatigue is real — my eyes need a break.
How is your department maintaining a sense of community?
UNC Global is hosting regular Zoom events led by our coworkers — everything from happy hours to yoga, salsa dancing and singing lessons. The book club that our diversity and inclusion working group started has been particularly exciting to me. It’s a weekly discussion on diversity topics related to systemic racism, white fragility and racial inequity in higher education. I hosted a session on Black Lives Matter in Japan yesterday, and we had an interesting discussion last week on diversity competence within faculty-led study abroad programs.
How are you continuing to support Carolina’s mission?
We’ve been lucky that the University has always considered students having a global experience to be a central part of Carolina’s mission. Our workdays might have changed, but our mission hasn’t: guiding and supporting our students throughout their study abroad journey.
What do you like most about your work?
I’m so lucky to show up to work every day to a positive, passionate and talented group of co-workers. My favorite thing about my role is that new perspectives and creative ideas are always welcome. Having graduated from the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, I’ve been passionate about photography and videography and I’m using those skills to produce videos and create online materials.
By Kyra Miles, The Well