When most admissions officers make a presentation in another city, they simply fly there, rent a car, and head for their destination. But this fall, Director of Transfer and International Admissions Elisabeth O'Connell had to convince taxi drivers in Greece to drive her places, decipher maps written in Thai and apply for permission from the government to speak in Singapore. O'Connell, along with colleagues Ambrose Davis and Jodi Robinson, traveled to over 20 different countries this fall to recruit students for the University. The University has the largest population of international students in the Ivy League -- they account for 9.6 percent of the total number of students. In many respects, O'Connell's day is similar to that of other admissions officers. She visits several schools to make presentations and runs evening programs where parents and students hear about the University. In addition to prospective students, there are alumni, parents of current students, and students who are studying abroad who attend the evening information sessions in other countries. O'Connell said she is often their only connection with the University -- she provides them with a support network. O'Connell has worked for admissions since she was an undergraduate in 1979, the same year the international admissions office opened. And she has a strong personal interest in international recruiting because she came to the University from Sweden in 1977. Unlike regular admissions officers, international recruiters must constantly monitor political and economic conditions around the world. For instance, O'Connell canceled her trip to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates because of the current crisis in the Persian Gulf. She also encounters unique cultural, economic, political and linguistic barriers in each country. For example, in the Phillipines, she said, it is very important to keep receipts when she exchanges currency because the peso is constantly changing. Taxi drivers in Greece can decide that they do not want to drive someone to their destination in mid-trip, and force the passenger to scramble for another cab, O'Connell said. In Hong Kong, O'Connell said, there are few traditional taxis. Instead she travelled in "tuk-tuks," which she said look like three-wheel taxis without doors. And the government in Singapore will not let her speak in public without a stamp stating that she has "permission to perform" on her passaport. O'Connell's passport shows the wear and tear of many trips. She said there is a special extention attached to it which carries the overflow of stamps. Alejandra Torres, a College sophomore, said Davis visited her school in Bogota, Columbia. She said yesterday that the visit made a difference in her decision to attend the University. She said Davis made a presentation, showed a film, and put the students at the school in touch with local alumni. About half of the students from her private bilingual high school, which is 20 percent American and 80 percent Columbian, attend school in the United States, Torres said. Brown University was the only other Ivy League school that sent a representative to her school. "We do know the reputation of Penn, but it is a great help to have someone come and talk about it," Torres said.Comments powered by Disqus
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