Staff Spotlight: Bethany Kuwitzky
Lead Study Abroad Counselor
With two study abroad trips under her belt as a Texas Tech undergraduate student, Bethany Kuwitzky was a natural fit to be the Lead Study Abroad Counselor in the Office of International Affairs. Her experiences took her to eight countries and nurtured a continuing love for world travel and different cultures as well as a desire to share her passion with current students.
Tell us about yourself. What brought you to Texas Tech and the Office of International Affairs (OIA)?
Growing up I had many international influences, so I knew I wanted to study abroad the moment I got to college. As a Texas Tech undergraduate, I had the privilege to study abroad twice in eight collective countries (Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Iceland). I was a Geophysics major, so studying in a location with different geology than Texas was the right choice. When I returned from my study abroad experiences, I became the president of the Study Abroad student-led organization, Study Abroad Peer Advisors. I was president for three years then applied for a staff position at the OIA a month before I graduated, which was a natural professional progression that aligned with my goals.
What is your role at the OIA?
I have been at the OIA for seven years professionally, and nine years total. I started out as a Study Abroad Advisor and am now the Lead Study Abroad Counselor. As Lead Counselor, I oversee the advising process, manage the credit system for all study abroad students, advise for the United Kingdom and Spain, oversee our curriculum integration efforts, and manage the incoming exchange process. I am also on the Executive Board for Texas Tech Staff Senate.
One of my favorite things about my job is seeing the “ah-ha” moments that students have when they study abroad. When students recognize the magnitude of the experience and see how much they've learned, it truly reminds me why this is a dream job. When students come to me and say, “I don't think I can study abroad,” for a multitude of reasons, I love showing them that they can. There are many myths about study abroad and I love busting those myths and making students realize they can partake in the experience.
Talk about the advantages of studying abroad. Any challenges?
The list of advantages to study abroad is honestly endless. The outcomes really depend on each individual student and how much effort they put into learning. Students who actively seek out experiences or things that may make them uncomfortable (i.e., trying new foods, practicing the language, speaking to strangers, etc.) are the ones that grow the most. Studying abroad is about expanding perspectives and learning to appreciate the differences in each other's cultures. As long as a student puts in the effort to actively learn, the advantages will be endless. The challenges are also specific to each student identity and program type. Some programs require more independence. While that might be great for one student, it might be overwhelming for the next. There are also some programs that may be in a location that is not as well known as another, and again, while that might be the perfect fit for one student, it might not necessarily fit for another.
What is your favorite aspect about your job?
I love my job, but I also love my involvement on campus and off campus as well. I am a firm believer that volunteerism and engagement can strengthen mental health. Staff Senate is a fantastic way for Staff to get engaged on campus and make impactful decisions that will affect all staff and allows the more than 3,000 staff members to have a voice on campus. It is also a great way to meet other staff and connect with people who might be going through the same struggles as you. COVID has been unkind to TTU staff and being able to lean on fellow staff members has been immensely helpful. Staff Senate has also allowed me to get involved with Texas Tech Commencement. I had no idea how incredibly rewarding it is to volunteer at graduation when I first signed up. Seeing students get so excited that they have accomplished the massive goal of completing a degree is a joyous experience. I highly encourage all staff to partake in the experience at least once in their professional career. In the professional field of International Education, I am also a member of the NAFSA Academy. The Academy is a prestigious cohort of international education professionals from across the country whose goal is to learn the best ways to support their students. Personally, I love hanging out with my dog, Nellie, who is an English Cocker Spaniel. In my spare time I paint, bake, spend time with family and friends, and I have recently taken up kickboxing which has helped to lower stress. I already feel so much stronger!
What is the most interesting thing you have learned from working at the Office of International Affairs?
There have been many lessons I have learned while working at the OIA, but something I frequently reflect on over the years is how interconnected the world really is and how important globalization is. It does not matter what career or life you end up having, you will always interact, connect, and collaborate with people who have something different than you. Whether it is ethnicity, religion, language, diet, communication style, or hair color you will always be communicating with people who are different from you. Internationalization is connecting with people all over the world for the common good and working at the OIA continues to teach me that.
As you think about your accomplishments, what are you most proud of?
I've accomplished a lot during my time here, but one of my greatest accomplishments must be completing my Masters of Higher Education as a full time professional, on a full monetary ride, during a global pandemic. It was easily the hardest thing I've ever done but I wouldn't change a thing. It taught me a lot about how much I can handle and how to prioritize my mental health. Another major accomplishment was streamlining the academic credit process for future study abroad students. When I studied abroad there was not a defined process for study abroad credit approval, so it took almost a year for my credit from the University of Iceland to be posted to my degree. When I started at the OIA, I worked to establish a process so that students receive credit from their study abroad programs almost immediately after we receive a transcript.
I'm excited to be at the OIA, support our students, and continue my future in International Education.