Message to students
If you have any problem with anybody, I really want students to talk to me. I know what it is like to have difficulty when you are so far away from your home. I want to make sure that students are having a good experience. I always say to students, please talk to me. I want students to feel comfortable coming to me and saying, “I have a problem and need help”. That is why I am here.
Tell us about your career
I went to college in Massachusetts and studied French because I wanted to study abroad. My minor is International Marketing, but when I came back from studying abroad, I knew that I wanted to work in education. I want to help people who want to have a study abroad experience, like I had.
Therefore, I got a job at Northeastern Universityl in Boston. I ran dorms there for two years and went to graduate school. There, I studied intercultural relations with a focus on international education. I also ran dorms while I got a master’s degree. I worked my way through graduate school
After that, I worked in New York City for three years at two different schools. One is called Alcohol and Drug Education. It was for a government-funded grant, so it was a really difficult job. I did a lot of statistics, and talked to a lot of parents whose children were drinking on campus.
Afterward, I came back to Massachusetts to live closer to family. And I started working at Mass Art, at facilities and comfort services in their dorm for a year. I did all maintenance, and all budget stuff.
When I was doing that, I wanted to be different. I wanted to leave higher education. I worked at the YWCA in Cambridge, which is really cool. The company looked at the community needs and tried to meet those needs. In Cambridge, there is a big need of housing for poor women, or women who have mental issues. I ran their housing and worked with 108 women.
One day I found the job at Showa, and it sounded really interesting. That’s because it is housing and resident life. Which I have so much experience of, and it was international study, which was my education. It was really rare to find a position which matches your education and passion.
Therefore I applied. In Showa, every day’s schedule is different. Two days a week, I stay until 9 pm so that I can see students and RAs. I’m in charge of RAs now. I also have many meetings about many things. Every day is different and that is why I like working here.
About studying abroad
I went to France to study abroad when I was 19 years old. My host family was horrible and awful. I couldn’t receive any support from school.
In addition, the school I went to was an international school, and all of my friends were American. Sound familiar? And all I did was speak English. But I came away from that experience learning so much French. When I got back to America, I had forgotten English.
Also, after I experienced the French culture, I got a totally different perspective than the person who studies French but doesn’t study abroad. I was able to think about things in a completely different way that before. That is the good point of studying abroad.
Relationship with students
I love doing things with students. I love going to grocery shops with students, One night I taught students how to cut up a pineapple and bake a cake. Sometimes there are students who want to talk every night, and I’m very happy about that.
For me, the number one priority is students. Therefore I don’t mind if students talk to me when I am busy. To be honest, I think that is what makes Showa special. Everyone who works here cares about the students as a top priority. Sometimes in American colleges, that is not the case. This is one reason that I love working here.
Do you remember when you dealt with the first student who was crying?
Yes I remember vividly. Before I started working in Showa, I worked for people who had drug or mental problems. Therefore an “emergency” meant knife fights or guns for me. “Emergency” was a word that scared me. When I started working in Showa and a student came in and said “emergency,” I got up from my desk and ran out to my hallway. But the student just said, “My cell phone doesn’t work.” I experienced a cultural difference.
How do you handle it when students cry?
Sometimes I hear the whole story and sometimes student just want to cry. It will release emotion and make them healthy. So I just listen. Because if you are stressed or upset, you just want to feel that someone is listening to you. Then you feel more able to manage.
Advice about studying abroad here in Showa Boston
Don’t worry so much. I see a lot of students come here and worry about everything. Am I getting a good grade, am I studying enough, and am I doing the right thing? Stop worrying. If you let go of your worry, you would feel a little bit more free. Even if you are not studying a vocabulary book. You are out of the community and seeing and listening to English. And that is sometimes more beneficial than the textbook. Enjoy your time here.
Do you have a recommendation for us what to do in the last week?
See the ocean. If you can go to a Boston harbor cruise, do that. Be on the ocean. You live on the Pacific, so make sure to see the Atlantic as well. Spend as much time as you can doing things that you love. Also, visit the place you love at least one more time. You can take your homework off campus. Sit in Boston Common and do your homework. That is what American students do.
We heard about the mentor system from a guest speaker. What is that?
A mentor is like a good professional support system. It’s a person who you can call and say, “Hey, I’m having this problem. How I can solve it? What would you do if you were me?” It’s people who help make connections for you ㏌the field or personal life. I have had great mentors from all the places where I worked before, and it was so important. Sometimes we need to talk to someone about what is happening at work. You need someone outside of that who can give you some advice. Also, it is important to collect mentors. Don’t burn your bridges after you move on to new things. Keep connections that you can go back to.
After the interview
Xin: As a wing leader, I think I spent more time with Heather compared to other students. Surprisingly, we do not know much about Heather, much less than we thought. Therefore, it surprised me when she talked about her abroad experience in France. Her terrible host family experience actually connected her to her current work.
After listening to her stories, I feel like I should have asked her earlier, and known more about her… Many students think that they do not get enough English practice in Boston. To those students, please do knock on Heather’s door and talk to her! She will always be there when you need her.