Study Abroad Administrators and Stress

Work/life balance?

Ok, stop laughing.

Based on a recent survey that I conducted, more than 90% of study abroad administrators and graduate students planning to work in the field said that felt guilty that they were  not “doing enough” for their clientele (students, faculty, boss, peers) or family.

That makes me sad. It was disturbing to read this type of statistic.

Study abroad staff also shared that work/life balance was often a real challenge for them due to the cyclical nature of the work and the need to be available during emergencies.

From where I sit, much of the challenge also has to do with the rapid rise in study abroad participation coupled with the budget challenges that most universities are facing.  Staffing is down, student participation is up.

Should we be surprised?

I actually wasn’t. The comments in the survey very much mirrored those that I felt when I worked for a school.  I loved my job, but often felt that my concerns about staffing and cross-training fell on deaf ears.  Or I was told about budget challenges, despite what appeared to be tens of thousands of dollars annually being spent on campus programs with food. (Ok, I’ll admit…I’m being obnoxious here, but you get my point.  How many pizza parties does one school need after all?!)

I recently offered a workshop (online) about how we can deal with the stress and honor ourselves by making changes that encourage more work/life balance. It was apparent from the chat room that people really need to talk about this issue.  Makes me wonder how often the Employee Assistance Programs and counseling services are being utilized.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Should there be firm standards regarding staffing expectations based on the number of students that we serve – and if so, how can one be sure they’re being adhered to?  Please feel free to comment below.

And by the way, I might suggest that you forward this post to your boss. I’m serious! I’ve had readers do this in the past – it has has helped to create dialogue.  In one case, a study abroad employee at a northeast university was given an extra day off that week in recognition of her hard work, which her boss only began to understand after reading the post – I think it had to do with something I wrote about the additional work that the volcanic ash flight crisis created for our field a couple of summers ago!) 🙂