The benefits of in-person education were on full display this summer.
For the first time since 2019, students in the College of Education’s international school counseling and educational leadership programs attended the global program’s Summer Institute in person. From June 23 through July 13, 18 students from 17 countries converged on Lehigh’s Bethlehem campus to continue their coursework in person after several years of online-only courses.
The immersive experience provided students with opportunities to interact with each other and with faculty experts while exploring and practicing course content in areas such as diversity and multicultural perspectives, counseling skills, decision-making and management. Many of the courses focused on the challenges specific to international counselors.
“While many of our students grew up in the United States, most of them have spent their whole careers working in international schools,” according to Julia Aughenbaugh, global program manager. “They are often working with students who have lived in multiple countries and are navigating mixed cultures. These counselors must learn how to communicate and support this unique community of learners.”
According to Jessica Sanders, a third- and fourth-grade teacher at the Quality Schools International School of Pápa, Hungary, the international focus is crucial.
“Lehigh is the only university I found that focuses on counseling in international schools,” she said. “To have those considerations woven into the curriculum and assignments is imperative to making it relevant to international school professionals. Things like school and class sizes, community expectations and national laws affect a how a counselor should build their program in their host country.”
The Summer Institute exemplifies the College of Education’s commitment to global reach and impact, Aughenbaugh added.
“We prioritize global issues and focus on bringing leaders from around the world together,” she said. “It was wonderful to host students from across the globe at Lehigh University to learn and bring back new skills to the communities where they work.”
“The Summer Institute is intensive, but the work is so rewarding and applicable,” said Jessica Hale, a secondary science teacher at the QSI School of Kosovo in Pristina, Kosovo, who will become a semi-counselor this coming school year. “I am excited to be able to immediately begin using the tools and strategies I’ve learned this summer.”
Although the students traveled from countries as varied as Nigeria, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Brazil, Thailand, Ghana, South Korea and Cameroon, international school educators are part of a tight-knit network, according to Aughenbaugh.
“Some have worked together or at least know colleagues at various schools,” she said. “While the professional network is strong, I don’t think the students expected to connect with one another as much as they did while they were here. I think they came away with a feeling that this is a cohort of peers that they can trust. Whenever there is a personal or professional challenge, they can rely on each other for support and understanding.”
According to Sanders, having in-person classes made a huge difference.
“Many of us have been in online classes together, but in person, conversations were more natural, and building trust was easier,” she said. “We benefited from the kinds of conversations you can only have in person and because of that, I have faith that good school counselors are sprinkled throughout the world.”
Andrew Pamperin, an International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme mathematics teacher at Lincoln Community School in Accra, Ghana, agreed.
“From the beginning, we were vulnerable with each other and connected in meaningful ways because we were in person,” they said. “The cohort feels more like close friends and professional allies rather than just fellow graduate students.”
“From coffee breaks to happy hours to study sessions, the support and encouragement that we gave each other was something that everyone should experience from a graduate program,” added Hale.
The students were selected for this program because they have extensive experience in education outside of the United States and a strong interest in continuing their career abroad, according to Aughenbaugh. Some of them have plans to return to the United States at some point and want the option of obtaining state certification.
“I chose Lehigh specifically for the international aspect of the counseling program,” Hale said. “This program caters to and understands working internationally, but it also can lead to U.S. certification while still abroad, which is very rare.”
For Aughenbaugh, her first experience with the Summer Institute was a success and she has seen firsthand the benefit of hybrid programming.
“Some students want everything to be online until they get a quality in-person experience,” she said. “Even though there are challenges with traveling and leaving their families, many of this year’s group expressed how grateful they were to be here in person.”
Looking ahead to next year, Aughenbaugh will be planning more in-person programming as the Summer Institute anticipates a return to Greece next summer.
To learn more about the COE's Global Program Offerings, please visit ed.lehigh.edu/global
Story written by Carla Kologie