GoAbroad Interview

Michelle Decker - U.S. Student Advisor

Michelle Decker - U.S. Student Advisor

Michelle earned her bachelor’s degree in creative writing at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Looking to fulfill a lifelong dream of moving to the UK, she started to look into graduate school options overseas. However, not quite knowing where to start, she stumbled upon Across the Pond. Mere weeks later, she was starting her journey in gaining her master of letters from the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow. She now works as a graduate student advisor for Across the Pond.

Visitor at a Scottish Castle

Those pesky Scottish castles!

Tell us about your background experience in international education and how you found out about the job opening at Across the Pond.

I actually used Across the Pond when I started looking into graduate programs. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to afford to study in the U.S., and I was dead set on going overseas for my masters. However, I had no idea where to even start; there were so many options concerning schools and programs, I was just at a loss. So, using my trusty friend Google, I found Across the Pond and was put in contact with an advisor. A few weeks later, my applications were in and I was on my way to Scotland!

I actually ended up blogging for Across the Pond during my studies, and near the end of my program they reached out with a notice that they were hiring. One thing lead to another and here I am! 

What does an average day of work look like for you?  

I always start the day by sorting through my emails and addressing any urgent matters right away.  I usually send out my registrations to new students first, and then move on to any other student emails. Once I have taken care of my students, I move on to other tasks. I’ve been working with marketing a lot more and like to use the afternoon for any editing or copywriting. I also leave late afternoon open for any calls, as this is usually when students like to schedule chats.

The end of the day is used for any inputting or organizational tasks, I like to use these to wind down. I also will update my to-do list for the next couple days before signing off!

Friends roasting marshmallows in England

The team hard at work while visiting Exeter!

What is the best part about advising students on international study options in the UK?

I love seeing the enthusiasm of students who want to study overseas and helping them achieve their dream; countless students have actually used variations of the phrasing “it is my dream to study overseas in England or in the UK”. It’s such an awesome feeling to actually be part of that process.

What kind of support can students expect to receive once they select their program?

We not only help students in selecting the right program and university for their needs, but we actually fill out the applications for them; of course, they review and submit the actual application once they are ready. We also help with funding and scholarship information, visa applications, and pre departure advice. We help the students throughout the entire process and act as a direct contact between the student and the universities. As we have all studied in the UK, we know what it is like to be in their shoes and can help with any questions or concerns they have!

Girls at Sheffields Paternoster

Brittni and I aren’t fans of Sheffield’s Paternoster

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

Honestly, the most frequently asked question I get is about funding. Schooling is expensive, especially in the U.S., and students want help with any kind of aid they can find. The great thing is that a majority of the master’s programs in the UK are only one year long, so they aren’t going to be paying thousands and thousands of dollars for a multiple year program. Not only that, but U.S. federal loans do transfer over to all of our partner universities!  

What has been your greatest learning experience in your role?

I think this has definitely been learning how to deal with all the students coming from different circumstances. No student is the same and we, as advisors, have to be able to walk each one individually through the process; we have to be able to adjust to each situation and match each case, so that the students end up in the best course and at the university that is best for them.

What’s your most memorable moment with Across the Pond thus far?

Oh man, probably last February; I had a week where I was in the city almost every day meeting with university representatives. Although it was a little hectic going in and out of Manhattan every day in the middle of winter (I live in a part of Brooklyn where it takes about an hour and a half, two hours to get into the city proper via public transport), at the end of the week I was invited to a reception for LUIP (London Universities International Partnership) representatives. Boris Johnson was actually the keynote speaker at this reception! So after a busy week getting to know our university contacts better, I ended it off with listening to a speech by the Mayor of London, himself!

Petting a highland coo

Up close and personal with my favorite animal - a highland coo!

What makes working for Across the Pond fulfilling?

Whenever I receive an email or a thank you note from a student telling me that they could not be more thankful for Across the Pond, this just really makes my day. The Thank Yous are the best part of the job, it tells me that everything is worth it. It shows that the students really do appreciate all the work we do, and that they are just so excited to start their new life overseas!