Guest blog by Kelly Pulford, Assistant Director of Admissions, Transfer and International Admissions.
Real Live International Recruitment!
In a full 8 days, not counting the first day lost to the time change, I had the privilege of:
- sharing the Augustana experience with students from the Fulbright Office in Amsterdam
- talking up the benefits of a liberal arts education with local students (and one of the other speakers was an Augustana alum from the Netherlands!)
- meeting up with a Dutch friend I haven’t seen in 20 years
- connecting with a colleague from the Sweden America Foundation
- participating in a two-day SACO Fair in Stockholm where I saw hundreds of students interested in studying in the US
- enjoying dinner with almost 15 Swedish alumni and friends, including two students who begin studying at Augustana next fall!
And that’s not even recounting the life-altering meals I experienced on my trip. There is a great buzz surrounding Augustana College overseas. I left Europe feeling really proud to be a part of the Augustana story.
Day One: Finding my bearings…
So the Dutch are very friendly- and thank goodness because in my first day I tackled getting around town. I had to ask a number of people for help with directions and train stops. I purchased my train ticket and made my way to Central Station to see the city. I ended up on the wrong train and couldn’t get my phone to work, and somehow managed to blow up
my hairdryer that morning in the hotel- but by the end of the day, I started to feel like I knew what I was doing.
I met up with a high school friend, Caroline, Whom I have not seen for nearly 20 years. Thanks to Facebook we have managed to stay in touch. She helped me with my Dutch so I could properly greet and welcome the students I would meet the following day. I used our example of a friendship passing the test of time in my talk with prospective students. The value Augustana College places on building meaningful relationships is one of the things that sets us apart from other schools. It was wonderful to see my good friend after so many years had passed!
Day Two: Dank je wel voor jullie tÿd (Thank you for your time!)
After a breakfast of fresh fruit and baked bread with cheese and coffee (I love European breakfasts!), I set out to explore the city before I made my way to the Fulbright Office for my first meeting with students. I am very grateful to both Fabienne van den Bor and Erik van den Berg at the Amsterdam Fulbright Center for being kind enough to give me the opportunity to speak with, not one, but two groups of students and their families. The first group of students is considering studying in the US for a year through the Fulbright Center. This was a lively discussion with topics ranging from academic programs, to student life on campus, to outcomes. The questions were sincere and conversation heartfelt. One of the students is already planning to apply! Hooray!
Later that evening the Center was holding a “College Night” of sorts. This would give students who are just beginning to think about studying in the US helpful information to guide their search. A student panel was lined up with students representing experiences ranging from large state universities to smaller liberal arts colleges. It just so happened one of the students on the panel was an Augie graduate! How about that? While I was able to share the benefits of attending a smaller, liberal arts school, Pasqual was able to support all of my claims with his experience here! Huzzah! The room was packed with families- and again it was an engaging conversation (mostly in Dutch- but Pasqual’s girlfriend, who is also an Augie grad from Joliet and currently attending school in Amsterdam was interpreting for me! Thanks, Jen!) This was such an exciting day- I felt sad to be leaving Amsterdam. But I was gearing up for my visit to Stockholm.
Day Three: Swedish Snow
It snowed from the moment I arrived in Stockholm until the evening before I left. Beautiful, blowing, freezing, arctic, I didn’t pack the right shoes for this weather snow. I had to hurry to a meeting with Anna Rosvall-Stuart at the Sweden America Foundation right away after I landed and so I paid way too much, it turns out, to take a cab. I have to express my sincere gratitude to Anna and her lovely assistant, Michelle, for helping me get a train pass and learn how to get around the city without falling prey to the taxi system! These wonderful ladies basically sat down with me and helped me create a plan of attack for my stay in Stockholm. When they were done with me I no longer looked like a tourist! In fact, two gentlemen from Canada asked me for directions! Me! How cool is that?
Day Four: Jansson´s Temptation
Thursday and Friday were both dedicated to the SACO Fair. If you have ever attended a NAFSA conference, it would give you a sense of the scale of this fair. HUGE displays, music, choreography, and marketing for absolutely anything that would appeal to a college-age student. I had the pleasure of being a part of a booth representing 10 very different American schools supported by Education USA and the US Embassy in Stockholm. On my left was Temple University Japan campus. On my right: Berklee College of Music in Boston. The conversations I had with everyone in the booth were extraordinary, but limited as the volume of students lined up to speak with us was unlike anything I have ever seen in the US. Granted, I learned this was one of only two established fairs that take place in Stockholm so students take advantage of this experience. Like the US, many of the students are bussed in from their schools. I ran out of materials the first day! I was really struck by the conversations I had with students at my booth. Swedish students knew where Illinois was on the map because they are HUGE supporters of President Obama! It was a long day, and my voice was tired from non-stop talking, but I left the fair feeling extremely pleased with how productive it was.
One note about food in Stockholm- WOW! Salty, but delicious! I wanted to try the traditional herring baked with potatoes: Jansson’s Temptation. At this rate, I may not fit into my seat on the way home on the plane.
Day Five: Some Enchanted Evening
I wrapped up the fair. The second day was not as productive as the first but still extremely busy! I was really excited about my plans for Friday evening. I would be dining with alumni, colleagues from the Sweden America Foundation, and two new students selected to attend Augustana College in the fall of 2013 through the Foundation. As I sat at the table that night, I looked around at all of my guests and found it remarkable there were so many different stories to share within this group. There was one common thread in this evening: Augustana College. The food was tremendous, the conversation spirited and joyous, (I could hardly quiet the group to offer a toast!) and the sense of fellowship was truly magical.
One of our guests, Maj Augustsson, had this to say: “It was such a great pleasure for me to spend an evening with so many talented, happy young people who are so full of energy, plans and hope for the future. There still exist such happy evenings as last Friday and I thank you heartily for it.”
One of our incoming students, Alexandra Sjölin Falk offered this: “I just wanted to say thank you for the dinner last Friday at Prinsen. It was lovely to meet you and get a chance to hear more about you and Augustana College. And thank you for the gifts. I have already started to wear the shirt you gave me!”
It was an honor to be in the company of this group. I will not soon forget this wonderful night!
Here are some images of our evening…
Day Six: Goonies!!!
Saturday was the first opportunity in Stockholm to do some sightseeing. Everyone I came in contact with in Sweden asked me if I had been to the Vasa Museet (Vasa Museum) yet. It was a “must-do”. I had a coffee date with a colleague from the Sweden America Foundation in the afternoon and even she said that I HAD to go there. I am certainly glad I did. Walking into the open area of the main hall of the museum absolutely floored me. To be in the presence of a salvaged ship from 1628 in all its glory, took my breath away. The only frame of reference I had for what I was seeing was the movie Goonies and One-Eyed Willy’s ship- embarrassing as that might sound. Now, I will be one of those people telling anyone visiting Stockholm to make sure this museum is a stop on their journey. That, and Gamla Stan- the old part of town. Enchanting!
I shared my experience with colleague, Helena Törnkvist. Helena is a former contact for the Sweden America Foundation, but continues to support pursuing an education in the US—especially at Augustana College! I encouraged her to visit the campus when she visits the US next. This was our first meeting, but we covered a great deal of ground discussing everything from the Augustana College Farm to Fork program to holiday traditions. I am proud to say that we are now Facebook friends and I hope to welcome her to campus someday soon.
Day Seven: Home
It was hard to believe it was time to head back home! And really, there wasn’t much exciting to report about my return, which is probably a good thing. Three flights later, I was tired but very glad to be home to see my girls, who thankfully missed me, even though they had a great time with Grammy and Grampy!
I feel very honored to have been able to represent Augustana College overseas. Our legacy and image abroad is well-kept. I am grateful to everyone who made my trip possible and productive. I hope I have the opportunity to go again!