Kim Priebe is the director of the Study Abroad Office, a unit within the Office of Global Engagement. The Study Abroad Office is a team comprised of 14 full-time professional staff and several graduate and undergraduate students who are passionate about helping NC State students have access to study abroad.
The office is responsible for all international, credit-bearing student programs. They manage approximately 100 exchange partnerships (which includes sending NC State students abroad and receiving international exchange students) and administer around 70 group programs in collaboration with academic departments and colleges. The office engages in student outreach initiatives with campus partners, including diversity and inclusion panels, reentry programming (such as integrating study abroad into one’s job search and career), scholarship support, and much more. In addition to facilitating international academic programs, the office is charged with overseeing risk management and crisis response for all student international travel.
What made you choose this field of work as a career?
I come from a family of educators, so working in higher education was a natural fit for me. Soon after I graduated from college I moved to North Carolina and immediately took a position at UNC. Over the next few years, I explored various functional areas of higher education working in different areas on campus. While contemplating my next move, my mother asked me to identify what had been the most impactful experiences during college and suggested that I pursue that. I quickly zeroed in on my study abroad semester in Sevilla, Spain and decided to pursue working in the UNC study abroad office. It was an immediate fit – advising students on which programs would meet their personal and academic interests, helping them to prepare to go abroad and reflect on their experiences upon return – and I haven’t looked back.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed expanding the scope of my work to include collaborating with faculty on short-term group programs and risk management and emergency response. But there are two events that I love more than anything each year: our Study Abroad Fair and our incoming exchange orientations. They both allow me to connect with our students, hear their stories, see how study abroad has impacted their lives or how excited they are to study at NC State, and those events fuel me for months.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is no such thing as a typical day in my job. Except for the onslaught of emails. I spend a lot of time listening to people’s ideas and issues they may be encountering in their work, offering feedback and advice, and guiding the direction of the office. I work to keep us focused on our strategic priorities and balance the interests in pursuing new ideas and initiatives (which I fully support) while ensuring we remain on course. I also continue to manage a portfolio of faculty-led, group programs (currently those in the College of Veterinary Medicine) because I believe it’s important to maintain a pulse on our programs since the majority of NC State students are studying abroad on NC State group programs. As part of this work, I respond to student inquiries about the application process, as well as support the faculty who run the programs. My role as the director also requires me to represent the office in various committees, ensuring that the campus remains informed about activities within our office. I love the fact that no day is the same.
On any given day I may field a call from General Counsel or a department head about a policy, a parent about a concern about their student, or from University Police about an emergency call that has come in from overseas. In fact, recently, as I was preparing to leave for the day I had to drop everything and respond to an international security issue impacting our students abroad and spent two hours working on it before leaving the office. There’s rarely a dull moment in international education!
I am often consulted by a colleague in the field who is seeking advice on how we might handle a given scenario. (Yes, NC State Study Abroad is seen as a model of best practices in the state! I love sharing our practices with others, and consulting with my colleagues to continue to learn from them, as well.) I also volunteer on a few boards for regional and national professional organizations, so I often find myself engaged in those activities, but often after hours since there are already not enough hours in the day. It’s rewarding to give back to my chosen profession, as well as elevate NC State’s name in the field of international education at the same time.
How would you describe your job to someone who is interested in your field of work?
Working in international higher education can be extremely rewarding. I love my job, but it’s important to know that the pace of our work – working in higher ed, in general really – can be exhausting. But the work we do in education abroad facilitates transformational change among students who study abroad, and who wouldn’t love that?
Learn more about the Study Abroad Office.