|7 Oct 2020|
Our Alumni Liaison Officer, Fabiana Papastefani tracked down one of our very special faculty alumni, Andy Mennick. Even though he had opted out of FB in China due to connectivity issues, we caught up with all the adventures he’s been having since leaving our community in 2014.
When Andy shared about the intensity of his last year or so, we had to know more! From moving to Seoul in July, finding out he'd need to get a new job in October, and starting a US job search in Korea; to moving back to Hawaii in December, getting Covid-19 and ultimately starting a new job as Director of College Counseling at a new school, he’s happy with where he’s finally landed! World Magazine asked him about what he’s been up to recently:
WM: What made you decide to repatriate back to the United States after so long overseas?
AM: My most recent overseas stint lasted a bit over sixteen years. Coming back to the US is a bit of a story. While I was working at the International School of Beijing, the Chinese government changed the rules for working visas - particularly lowering the age at which a foreigner could get a work permit in China. Even though I had a few years to go, I decided it was probably best to start looking for a new job earlier than later.
The job search that followed wasn’t the most-pleasant one I’ve had. Many countries have lowered the age at which foreigners can get a work permit, and I found that I could apply for less than a quarter of the available college counseling jobs that year. I accepted a position at a very good school in Seoul, and thought I was set. In the spring, however, it appeared that the new HR staff had run into a learning curve and getting my work permit was in jeopardy. As a back-up, I reopened my job search and included the US - and was surprised to see how much interest there was from schools.
At the end of the school year, it looked like my visa issues in South Korea were sorted out, so I started the 2019-20 school year in Seoul - only to find out that my visa may not last the year. It was a difficult decision, but I decided it would be best to leave the school at the end of first semester so I could still find a job. I decided to look only in the US, and started my job search in October. By the end of the semester I had a number of interviews but no job yet, so I went home to Hawai’i.
Once back, I made several trips to the US mainland for finalist interviews, catching a case of Covid-19 during my travels. During my quarantine, I received an offer from my first-choice school, so three days after I was out of quarantine I flew from Kona to Boston - and straight into two more weeks of quarantine. I started work in mid-April, and love where I am working. I initially thought the transition to working in the US was going to be difficult, but it’s been quite positive.
WM: What was it like to have Covid-19?
AM: I was extremely fortunate to have a mild case. The main symptoms were weakness, confusion, and a 24-hour fever cycle (fine until noon, and then high temperature and feeling very sick for the rest of the day) that lasted about ten days. I didn’t mind being stuck inside, because I didn’t feel well most of the time, and have an amazing view of the ocean from my home.
WM: Where are you currently working?
AM: I am now the Director of College Counseling at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts. It’s one of the oldest day/boarding schools in the US, but is an atypical one. The school purposely accepts and supports a wider range of learners than most East Coast prep schools, and is very successful at being inclusive in so many ways. The down-to-earth nature of the school along with its history of success with students attracted me the most.
Q: You shared with me that you didn’t have a chance to physically go into your new job.
What was it like to start a new job at a distance?
AM: It’s been very peculiar to start a new job entirely with Zoom meetings! At the same time, my colleagues have been terrific, and we’ve all pulled together to make things work. One advantage is that I need to do a lot of data analysis to get started with my work here, and not having many interruptions has made that process go faster. I realize there’s a lot I don’t know about how things work at the school, and I’m finding out by doing - which isn’t a bad way to learn at all. What’s perhaps been the strangest element is that my household goods haven’t arrived yet, and I’ve got a bit of IKEA and rented furniture in an apartment that echoes quite a bit! Fortunately, the movers are coming soon, so things will seem at least a bit more-normal.
Q: What did take away from your time at AISB and Romania?
AM: I particularly enjoyed the campus culture at AISB. Jane Wells and I used to say that AISB was “A school of formal academic expectations and informal relationships,” and I think that characterizes AISB at its best. I worked with so many incredible students, and enjoyed being given the chance to develop a program to better serve them. Likewise, I was fortunate to work with some profoundly-talented colleges. Cathy Ottaviano was the best counseling colleague I ever had (and her husband Dave the best school head from whom I’ve ever worked), and my ongoing professional conversations with Melody Wong and Raluca Paraschivescu did a great deal to help me improve my practice.
I greatly enjoyed the day-to-day life in Bucharest, and made sure that I always lived within walking distance of the Romanian Athenaeum, which kind of became my second home in Romania. It was also rewarding and moving to do the college counseling service projects I undertook with the English teachers/counselors at the Romanian national school in Suceava. I feel badly that the link with them has been broken, as they were tremendously inspiring educators and kids.
Q: Favorite memory of AISB and/or Romania?
AM: My favorite AISB memory? Easy: The Sunday App-O-Rama sessions with the seniors during application season and the Senior Parade before graduation. Oh, and the ongoing sessions of me and Madame Paraschivescu making fun of each other to entertain students. For Romania? The Bruckner performances from the Enescu Philharmonic, great meals with friends at La Cantine du Nicolai, and walks in the parks.
READ THE ENTIRE WORLD MAGAZINE WINTER 2020 EDITION ON ISSUU:
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