GoAbroad Interview

Jessica Jones - U.S. Student Advisor & Undergrad Team Lead

Jessica Jones - U.S. Student Advisor & Undergrad Team Lead

Jessica’s love of study abroad started whilst completing her undergraduate degree at Cornell College and continued when she completed her masters in English at the University of York in the UK. After studying in the UK and Russia, a lifelong love of travel and learning was born. When Jessica isn’t advising her students or planning her next trip she can be found in the kitchen baking up a storm or rock climbing with friends.

Warwick Castle

Visiting Warwick Castle

You’ve been everything from a chef, wine clerk, and food stylist to a writer, editor, and tutor. What attracted you to your position at Across the Pond (ATP)? 

When I decided to leave the culinary industry and pursue an entirely different career I looked to my second biggest passion, which was study abroad. Nothing made an impact on me like studying in the UK and Russia when I was completing my bachelors, and I relished the idea of assisting students wanting to make the same journey.

I used Across the Pond when I applied to my masters courses in the UK and was impressed with the level of service and the fact that it was free, a rare thing these days! When they had a job opening listed I immediately applied, knowing I would love to work for a unique company like ATP.

What makes Across the Pond’s services so valuable to aspiring international students?

It can be very overwhelming when you first start researching courses and universities in another country, even when you speak the same language. The biggest impact ATP made on me was having my advisor give their first-hand experience and input about the entire process, and knowing they had gone through everything before. I could ask questions and receive honest answers about what to expect, all from a free service who really wanted nothing more than to make sure I was being matched up with the right uni and right experience.

Campus of the University of Southern Vermont

Representing Across the Pond at the University of Southern Vermont

What advice do you give students preparing for study abroad in the UK?

Be polite, be patient, and be flexible. Making the transition from the U.S. to the UK is different for everyone, but you need to understand that even if the customs are similar and the language is the same, you need to find those differences and embrace them. It can be frustrating to adjust behavior based on a new location, but adopting local customs is one of the best ways to show respect for a new culture, even if it feels somewhat similar to your own!

What are some typical characteristics you see among students you work with?

An appreciation for art, culture, an adventure. Whether it’s a student who has loved Shakespeare their whole life or someone who has always dreamed of pursuing archaeological digs at Stonehenge, there is usually a spark in each student driving them to explore the innate culture and history of the UK.

What makes an international student successful in the UK’s learning environment?

The international student environment in the UK is a particularly diverse and vibrant one, so you should be ready to learn from and experience all sorts of cultures, not just the British. You will not only be learning academically about your course or subject of choice, you will be learning loads from your fellow international students.

What is the most frequently asked question you receive from students and what is your typical response?

Typically we get asked about potential scholarships more than anything. Funding is always at the top of the list of concerns or questions, which is always a tricky discussion. UK universities on the whole do not offer the same amount of scholarships U.S. universities do, but there is always the flipside that the degrees are shorter and thus you are saving money in the long run by finishing a year or two earlier than you would in the U.S. 

University of Exeter archaeology department staff members

Getting our hands dirty (but not our feet) with the University of Exeter’s Archaeology department

If you had to compare the study abroad experience to a particular food or dish, what would you liken it to and why?

Thai green curry, extra hot. The spices and flavors used in Thai cooking are very diverse and can be found in cuisines all over the world. When you eat green curry it starts off very sweet and mild, but the heat builds and builds and then you are in it and experiencing the full flavor! When I studied abroad I always felt like I was at first surrounding myself with people I knew and cultures I was familiar with, but then eventually branched out and flourished most when I really got outside my comfort zone. That’s when things got really fun and I felt like I was experiencing the full “flavor profile” of study abroad.

What is the most challenging part of advising undergraduate students?

The UK undergraduate system really wants students to have a clear idea of their career and what subject they want to study at age 17 or 18. I know when I was 17 I thought I knew what I wanted to do (law school!), but changed my mind within two months of starting my bachelors (I ended up with a bachelor's in English literature and Russian language!). It takes a lot of time and patience to work with undergraduate students to find what their passions are and a degree that could help them pursue that passion, but not necessarily box them into a career they may want to change.

Trying on the Lord Mayor of York robes at the York City Council

Trying on the Lord Mayor of York’s robes during a visit to the York City Council in 2013

You’ve been with Across the Pond less than a year, what has been the most surprising thing you have discovered about the organization?

We all come from a very wide range of academic backgrounds, which allows us to glean all sorts of different experience and knowledge from each other. We work for ATP because we all have a deep passion for study abroad and the UK, in addition to our own academic subjects.

What is the most exciting part about working for Across the Pond?

Working with students every day! I love chatting with students in high school who are just as excited as I was to get out and explore the world as a student. Getting to be a part of that process and their experience makes it all worthwhile.