Preparing for your next international road trip? Heading back to India this time, or squeezing in a trip to China before Lunar New Year begins on February 14?
Like many of you, I live my life on land and in air. On a monthly basis, I commute from Academic Assembly’s Australian base in New South Wales to the world to participate in international conferences, share our latest solutions with clients, and help build new partnerships with governments and institutions – all of which are focused on the development of a global alumni network. I thrive on connecting with others in different countries and have learned over the years that to work effectively on the road we must be mindful of international travel truisms.
I believe that having a successful global operation begins with a global mindset. Today, more alumni are transnational and we know they live or work in two or more countries on a regular basis. We recognize that tracking these alumni is an ongoing challenge but we believe this year’s international trips provide an opportunity to identify and engage with alumni in a different way. How do we build meaningful relationships with these alumni? How do we share that we’re interested in their experiences back in their home country or as ex-pats? Where do we begin?
Think global and act local.
As you prepare for your next international trip (ideally, at least one month before) resolve to do your homework and really prepare for a successful visit. Go beyond reading your briefing report and get into the mindset of the alumni you’ll soon meet by taking these steps:
Read the local headlines. Peruse the daily English-language newspaper to gauge the local sentiment about world affairs and, in particular, how the country views your country. Look up what your ambassador has recently posted and know who is representing the country back home. Having a pulse on politics and current events will prevent you from a faux pas over drinks or dinner.
Meet international students in advance of your trip. Host a small group of undergraduate and graduate students for lunch in your office and ask them to help prepare you for the next trip to their homeland. Share your schedule and ask their advice on navigating traffic, great places to eat, sites to see on your down day, and names of family members and friends who they feel their school or university leader should meet. The tacit knowledge is priceless and these alumni-in-training will remember how you invited them to help participate in the planning.
Be mindful of local and national holidays. In China, for example, you know to avoid traveling between February 14 and 21 this year but have you tracked Dragon Boat Festival and China’s National Day? Ramadan begins on May 16 this year. Know these dates and remember to schedule evening events and meals according to sundown.
Become a global personal shopper. Plan the shopping list in advance and know which gifts are appropriate for each country. Avoid clocks in China but stock up on embossed leather luggage tags and hand-dipped chocolates for welcomed reception gifts at alumni events. Ask your new international student advisors you hosted for lunch for their top picks.
Become multi-lingual. Commit to mastering several commonly used phrases. Download a podcast or record yourself and replay during your morning or evening commute. Nihao, Buenos Dias, Sawasdee…just do your best and a warm reply will be returned.
And, I realize you may be reading this on the way to the airport. That’s OK. Pull up those English dailies and practice a few greetings. Make your best effort. Hopefully, this will become routine as your global alumni engagement efforts take form. You’ll soon be in a position to partner with alumni and get to the real work of the day: advancing your institution’s internationalization strategy.