When Vancouver Island University's director of international admissions woke up on Monday morning, her life was about to be a lot different.
Jane Kelly, who held that position for the past 14 years and worked in domestic admissions for 13 years before that, retired Sept. 27 and she knows there's a lot about the job she's going to miss.
"You know it sounds odd but there's something comforting about coming in to the office on a howling, windy, rainy day and have all these people to talk to all around the world about the university programs," Kelly said. "I've enjoyed a lot of interactions with students from a lot of different countries, a great deal of it by email, but also here in person and that's what makes this job so interesting."
Of course, dealing with students around the globe is not without its challenges.
"When you're dealing with people for whom English is not their first language you learn to pull a bit of a Heming way with your emails," Kelly said. "Short sentences and you avoid idioms like 'cut to the chase' or 'the bottom line' because those just add to the confusion."
As well, evaluating students' credentials and learning about different educational systems is not always easy.
"Sometimes there's quite a bit of detective work involved trying to figure out exactly how their courses relate to ours, what level they are and whether institutes are properly accredited. It's not always easy, but it is interesting," Kelly said, adding that people in university posts like hers across the country often share information about foreign programs to help each other evaluate student work.
"Ideally you find that a student applying here has the right credentials for the program they want, but occasionally some of them have been duped by the diploma mills and when you say you can't accept their credentials, they're very upset because they may have spent thousands of dollars to get those credentials."
But, she says, almost all the applicants are honest and simply trying to get advanced education and credentials that will help them for the rest of their lives.
"They're so appreciative for anything you do to help them," she said. "They bring me gifts and they will say 'you have saved my life' or 'I don't know what I would have done without your help' and I try to explain that I'm really just doing my job.
"But I do understand how big this is for them. Imagine you're an 18-year-old in Beijing and you've made the decision to study in another country in another language. The logistics alone are crazy," Kelly said.
"When I think of the number of people who do this, I think it's just a huge accomplishment for them. I really recognize their achievement to actually do this."
Kelly has travelled a lot in the job, recruiting students to VIU from Turkey, Morocco, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and many other countries.
It's not always an easy sell, she said.
"Canada is still not on everyone's radar when it comes to studying abroad. There are a lot of people who still believe that all of Canada is extremely cold all year and some think if they come here they will have to study in French," said Kelly.
"It's tough to dispel the Frozen North myth, but all the time we get more inquiries from more countries and it's amazing how word spreads as students come here and go home and tell others about Nanaimo."
One advantage to the job for Kelly has been the opportunity to have foreign students stay at her home, giving her and her children great insights into other cultures and ways of life. Now that she's retired, she's hoping to revisit some of the countries where she did recruiting trips, but now with more time to really explore the cultures.
"This job has given my and my family the chance to step outside the insular North American mindset that everything here is the best, to see what other cultures have to offer. I'm glad I was doing this while my kids were still at home so they had the chance to meet some of these great students from different countries and both my kids have ended up with a real love of travel."
She admits she will miss the busy pace of the job.
"I do love to keep busy and, honestly, there has not been one day gone by, even when I'm not at work, that I don't spend some time thinking about or doing something pertaining to the job.
I would hate to have time on my hands."
But, she said, others she know who have retired say they find more than enough in any given day to fill the hours with interesting things to do and she has a lot planned to keep her occupied in the months and years ahead.
"Just for now, I have a lot of household projects inside and out that need doing," she said. "I'll enjoy being able to be spontaneous and just go meet a friend who calls and head off on, say, a tour of the Blue Grouse Vineyard," Kelly said.
"I'm going to download a lot of books onto my new iPad mini, take a dance class, plan a trip, maybe to Europe. Also I have always wanted to perfect pie crust, so I think I'll bake a pie a day until I get there."
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