GLOBAL CONNECTIONS #9:Where are you now? – Qian Yee (Jenny) Fam


Podcast Transcript: Global Connections #9 Where are you now? – Qian Yee “Jenny” Fam

Jenny bio

Xiao Yun  0:02  

Hi Jenny is really nice to have you here on our Global Connection podcast.

Jenny Fam  0:07  

Hello everyone my name is Jenny or you can call me Qian Yee.

Xiao Yun  0:10  

It’s really nice to be able to see you again. I remember when we first met was actually when I was an international student at University of Nebraska Lincoln and you’re the team leader that oriented me to life in United States and life in Nebraska, and today I have the opportunity to interview and have you share a little about yourself and where you are currently.


Jenny Fam  0:31  

I’m really happy to hear that I made a little difference during your life in Nebraska, that was my turning point that made me come into higher education which I will share a little bit more later. I’m currently working at International Schools Partnership. It’s a UK based company. I’m currently in the regional office in the Southeast Asia region as their Career and University guidance counselor so we do a lot of career services, support, and for, not just for to students, but also to staff because we have about seven schools around the region, giving them the right tools and resources and stuff like that. 


Xiao Yun  1:06  

Well, that’s really cool that you not just support students you support staff as well, Jenny, can you tell us a little about what were some of the factors that made you decide to go back to your home country, Malaysia,?


Jenny Fam  1:17  

Yes. So I’ve always wanted to go back to Malaysia, because obviously this is my home, I always wanted to bring my knowledge back and help students who are struggling looking for the right pathway back in home because I know, higher ed in Malaysia, we do have the support but it’s not as robust as the United States. So wanted to bring my experience, my knowledge and stuff like that back here to support students because I think there’s lots of room to for improvements, but there are elements are essential for students like career advising, They’re there, and academic advising, but a lot of times we’re not following like theories and like all those development theories that we learned so like how can I can use those form and then share it with my colleagues and stuff like that. Those are really exciting for me. So I’m really excited that I’m back here, right now, 


Xiao Yun  2:03  

Thinking a little about being a global student affairs professional and I think that you experience working in United States as a student affairs professional before transitioning back home. I know that you did share a little about you, at University of Nebraska Lincoln working with students and maybe that was the reason why you went into student affiars, but what made you decide to pursue a higher education administration program?


Jenny Fam  2:27  

It’s a very long story but I love sharing it, obviously I came from a science background, since high school so like from high school to college. In Malaysia we don’t really have a lot of like exploration of careers and pathways and stuff like that so it’s, I was really struggling with it because I was not sure what I wanted to be, because we’re so focused on like academics and just doing study and completing practice questions and stuff like that so I was like, not really sure what I want to do so I just picked something that I was good at like science. So I did engineering and then I did bio-chemical biochemistry and stuff like that and I was like, these are not really my thing, and then the moment when I came through this opportunity at Lincoln to be an orientation leader, I was like, this is my thing so I went for it and then it got, I got the opportunity to be one of it. Yhroughout the whole summer during my orientation time was really life changing because I was helping all these students, with all these smaller things like campus tours with, there’s not just the students but also with families, helping them and course enrollments, getting to know them, helping them to get to know campuses. All these little things that all these smaller changes that I made in our life, motivates me and gave me a sense of fulfillment. So that’s why I was like, I really want to do this, I want to continue help students and support them and always I can. And so I will say talk talking to my supervisor and say like, what is something I can do like I want to be you. And then she’s like, do you know about student affairs or higher education and I was like, I do not know this is a, this is an area of major I can do. I talked to her more find out I talked to more other staff on campus and then they were like recommending, all these different institutions, introducting me to like people connecting me with other networks and I’ll say, Oh, this is something I really want to do so I applied for it and then I go for it and that’s why I’m in student affairs. 


Xiao Yun  4:20  

You know, I don’t think it’s a long story it is really just interesting to see how everyone wants to go into Student Affairs because of one experience that they have on campus and it’s just really unique to each and every one because they have professionals who supported them along the way and helping them discover their passion in supporting students so that is just really nice to hear from your perspective. And what made you say yes to pursuing a degree in that. Can you share a little about how has student support or your role changed during COVID-19 when you were still in the United States, and now in Malaysia.


Jenny Fam  4:59  

Yes, for sure. When I graduated, I went to Northeastern to be one of the International coordinators for the study abroad program for the NU program, obviously because of COVID who have to stay in the United States so we did it in Boston. But that was a really exciting experience and very, very different, I would say. Other than everything moved online including like staff training, which was initially, supposedly being in Boston. We did all online before we go there, like meeting with students, orientations and a lot of like teachings and seminars all moved online, but Northeastern did some of the teachings in person as well, especially because they wanted to make sure that students had the opportunity to meet each other. So to have the chance to make connections and stuff like that. But we did try our best to like you know connect with students because one of the things that we hear most during COVID times is that students were having difficulties making connections, especially because my students were first semester freshmen, so they came from high school, they missed their graduation, they miss all these fund orientation elements and stuff like that. And they definitely had a lot of expectations coming in because of COVID we do not have the toys so we had to move everything online, so it was much more challenging for them to create a bond online because you know when, when you’re on the screen, and you don’t really know that person, so it’s more challenging and especially if it’s in person, everyone has to have a mask on, and we have a very strict COVID social distancing rules. Everyone has to be six feet apart, so like you’re in the huge, huge, huge room, but there’s only 25 of you and all of you have one six feet table back to yourself. So it’s kind of like awkward sometimes, so like students were like a lot of students came to us and be like, I can’t make friends I’m to stress I feel very alone so that’s, that’s, that’s the role that we had, you know like to create programs. So we do a lot of outdoor programs as fast as we can following protocols obviously so it’s smaller groups, smaller batches so we have to do a lot of a lot of programs, repeatedly, to help them you know make those connections and we think about other ways you know like a lot of wellness programs that we’re doing because we want to make sure that, because during the winter, the weather is definitely colder in Boston, so we were like, if we do it indoor what are some of the programs that we can do to help them. Yeah, so we did focus a lot on wellness programs we did focus a lot of like, you know, making connections and stuff like that. Also because I was a live-in staff so obviously our roles change a little bit because we have to police the social distancing rule so sometimes we feel like we’re like COVID Police and then students will be like, Oh, they’re just like, there to catch us and stuff like that so it’s kind of difficult to make connections with some of the students sometimes because they don’t see us as a resources, they see us as a police. Those are some of the challenges and some of the changes during COVID times in the States. Back here in Malaysia, because we’re in the regional office so we are not student facing as often, and we do a lot of work from home for now because in the beginning schools were still online and then they just start going back to school in March and April so we just started going to school and visiting schools, but, you know, there are students are still catching up with a lot of things so we’re trying to move into their schedule slowly because high school students and primary school students. They have a tighter schedule compared to like college students that is more flexible. So yeah, those are some of the differences for now. 


Xiao Yun  8:32  

I do have a follow up question so you did mention about, students were finding it hard to make connections during COVID time and having those social distancing and everyone having masks, in terms of yourself as a professional, what were some of the challenges for you to get yourself oriented to this new position.


Jenny Fam  8:51  

 Yes. So for the for the Boston with Northeastern one, we did a three weeks orientation, all online, I really have to give them a kudos to all the staff over there, they did a really really great job making that three weeks really meaningful. They had a really robust schedule all planned out, even though you know changes keep coming through. But we were all very resilient about all these changes and flexible. So they do a lot of sessions, and they make sure that each day they will ask follow up questions like for feedback for say like how did this day go, if we need to make changes, what are some of the changes you want to see or what are some of the elements you want to see more often during training, so they then they would just make changes accordingly and when we ask for more team time because we were separated into four teams and even that we would just still continue being in four different teams when we were in Boston. So we asked for more team time because it’s really important for us to get bonded before we, you know, work together and stuff like that so each day at the end of each day they added like a team time and then they also have like a happy Friday, virtual Friday kind of thing you know, just to make sure that we feel comfortable with all the staff over there and all the full time staff over there, also came to the training to make sure that they did all those icebreaker activities with us together. Just so we know that they are there for us they are they’re always there to support us when, when we need and stuff like that and they’re really open to feedback and I’m really happy to see that because they really support the staff, they really put us in the center and they are also very student centered at the same time. So those are some of the things that I would say they did really good.


Xiao Yun  10:32  

 Yeah it just sounded that you had an amazing experience working over there and the professional staff were also able to help you be successful in that role. How have you transition from your student affairs job that works with college students to your current job in Malaysia working with younger folx?


Jenny Fam  10:49  

 So my current role, it’s a muscle My, my, my title it’s called Career and University guidance counselor, but because we work in a regional office so we just say regional guidance counselor, so it’s easier, you know. But basically, it’s very similar to career advisors in colleges and universities like institutions, but the student age group that I work with, it’s definitely younger age, like you said, we, we do support students from ranging from age 14 to 18, and the good thing about working with international schools from some of the schools have pre-universities foundation courses so like A-levels, and the other one is called NCUK foundation year. We support students in this age group right because they’re younger, we do a lot more of exploring pathways, not so much on like the internship part, or like work placement. So we do a lot of exploring pathway because they’re still looking for their interest, they’re still figuring out their personality to see what careers, and subjects are best fit for them right, helping them to understand like what courses are looking like what are some of the lectures in universities like, what are some of the elements that you need to know when it comes to studying abroad. Like what countries have these rules or like work placements after you graduate and all these different things. So those are the things that we help them explore, because all these different factors will affect your decision making when it comes to choosing the next journey, right, so obviously helping them with networking as well because we want to make sure that they know some of the people working in those industries to come as a guest speakers and stuff like that for career talks, and then we obviously do one on ones with them so because they’re a younger group children sometimes parents will be in those meetings.


So those are the differences that when you work in a college, parents are most likely not involved, but working with younger students parents want to be there because they are still under 18. So, parents will be there in some of the meetings and sometimes School Principals will be there as well, depending on the school size, some of those smaller schools, principal will be there some of the bigger schools, maybe just the head of schools for that form. Most importantly, one have a very different role that lead to as well as to help parents understand the world of work. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of those like you know, people tend to push their children to those were typical jobs, so a lot of times it’s helping them to understand like what are some of these jobs look like and what are some of the trends moving forward and educating them and to understand like doesn’t, doesn’t mean that if they’re not in these typical jobs that they are not successful. There are many other success stories out there as well. So showing them those examples are really important for my role.


Xiao Yun  13:28  

yeah that’s just really interesting to see and from my personal experience, I’m a first generation student, and my parents didn’t have any context about attending universities, how it works and it will be so nice when I was going through that phase that I get to speak to someone who can give them kind of the framework of how attending universities or studying abroad looks like because I had to do a lot of the exploration myself. You know a lot of questions so it is really unique to hear from your role, you’re not just working with students, you are also educating and putting on programming or informational sessions for parents.  Do you think that when you were meeting with students that parents were in the session is there a difference in messaging when you are speaking to students?


Jenny Fam  14:14  

Obviously we’re trying to be student centered, so obviously we put the students thoughts first, and we always making sure that we remind parents like this is your child’s decisions. We hope that you will listen through and that if you have any opinions do share, but we hope that you know, let your students let your children make the decisions themselves, because this is their future. This is our pathways and stuff like that, but definitely you are spot on. We do have to be really careful about our wording sometimes because we have to understand, like, where the parents are coming from as well, like, what are their level of knowledge of the world of work outside. What is the trend, like do they know about the trends out there, depending on the conversation, there’s no one fixed style I would say really depends on the student itself like some of the students are quieter, like the parents will do all the talking. And then a lot of times, sometimes the students, they already know what they want and parents are just very supportive so you get a very broad, dynamic, and, you know, really depends, there’s no one style.


Xiao Yun  15:14  

Yeah and I think that it kind of just relates back to how higher ed works as well you’re serving different student population and you kind of need to adjust and be flexible when you’re providing those individualized support and similarities that you’ve noticed. 


Jenny Fam  15:31  

Similarities, obviously student centered support. We always put students first, even though they’re a younger age group you always wanted to make sure that they get the tools. They learn all these information because these are going to be their future and like moving forward. So obviously we’re not trying to spoon feed them so a lot of times it’s us trying to give them the tools and resources telling them that these are the places that you can look for information. These are the places that you can look for connections and stuff like that so we also did like LinkedIn sessions, just to walk them through like how do you create a LinkedIn account how to create a successful LinkedIn account, like you have to have a professional picture like it doesn’t have to be like suits and ties and stuff like that but you need to look professional for an interview enough. And then a lot of times like how you can build your profile based on your interests and stuff like that, how to make yourself stand out. So, one of the things we always share with students during those LinkedIn sections, is that you know, a lot of times during LinkedIn on your profile, you know like the about in summary section like a lot of you do leave out so those are like highlights that we say, you have to put those out because it’s the first thing like, you know, recruiters going to see like, whoever’s going to see, don’t have those time they’re just going to look at your summary so you want to make sure that you stand out. You don’t put too much information about like your things that you put down in your education and stuff like that and skills but do make a little bit more personality to it, because I don’t know if you know this but you know, in Asia countries, students tend to you know, not want to show too much of your personality because you’re a little bit afraid to be judged and stuff like that, making sure that they have that mentality you know like mindset, helping them understand that, you know, it’s okay to show personality in an appropriate way and stuff like that, just to you know make yourself stand out. And those things. So those are definitely some of those similarities we are still very student centered. We are trying to help them achieve those future readiness, obviously their younger age group, so we have to take into consideration is like, which stage of Student Development they’re in like are they ready for that, you know all those self actualization and stuff like that but yeah, some of the some of the differences go is definitely age group, like I said and and student affairs in Malaysia is not as robust like I said in the beginning as well. So, obviously because we’re a much smaller amount of times that campuses here in Malaysia are much smaller so everything is in a much smaller scale, And obviously because we’re in a city like campuses are not as huge as ball so we don’t really have those like on campus experiences as much. What else, like, the interesting thing about higher ed in Malaysia is as well as we do have a lot of foreign universities having their campus branch over here so for example like Monash like Australia and China, they have their universities here in Malaysia, so obviously we have a very good mix of different races in our offices as well. Malaysians there’s also people from the UK, or sometimes for U.S. and Philippines and all these different things, so it’s very interesting.


Xiao Yun  18:38  

Yeah, that’s just really nice to hear the diversity and you did say it’s a Southeast Asia regional office so definitely like you says there are a lot of professionals in the field, to supporting students and when you talk about preparing career readiness, it just gave me chills because you are preparing them at a younger age and like the things that you’ve talked about I remember attending LinkedIn sessions as an undergrad student and that was like my first introduction to LinkedIn and now you all are targeting younger students and started preparing them for the higher education system no matter in which country that they want to, it’s just really interesting and it’s really cool that you all starting it early.


Jenny Fam  19:23  

 Right, right, we’re trying to plan C earlier so we actually do start career elements earlier like age 10 ish, but they’re doing more like activities just to explore like, what is your interest, what is your personality, and then slowly we do curriculums build up when they’re like 14 and stuff like that we start to tell them like these are some of the interests that you, you mentioned earlier in the years, what are some of these interests can link, and associate to like some of the careers out there. So those are some of the interesting things because we’re slowly building it up, we’re not just starting at one age group, so it’s very interesting and and this regional office like as a career guidance counselor, it’s brand new actually so they just started this year. So it’s very interesting because we just are building all these curriculums and all these programs as well. So there’s still a lot of changes going on there’s still a lot of uncertainties, especially during COVID as well, but it’s still pretty exciting that we are already starting with all these interactions with the students and parents and teachers in those schools. Like I said we have seven schools so there’s a lot of different dynamics and yeah different schools so there’s definitely challenges and exciting things going on.


Xiao Yun  20:35  

I am curious to ask you student affairs professionals who are job searching and they might be interested in working abroad. What is your one piece of advice on job strategies?


Jenny Fam  20:45  

I remember when I was job searching outside of the US as well I did a lot of not just on higher ed Obviously, you have to know what schools are out there because a lot of times when you don’t search outside of US, they don’t really post in one location so you have to know like the school sometimes, then you go on to their websites. So it’s good to know like what region you want to go for and then look for the school that you’re interested in, and then search for it. If you have some connections, that’s definitely a plus as well because that’s how I connected with people from China, I interviewed with them as well. And then I also talked to people from Singapore and US having those connections definitely have passed so just make sure that you’re out there make sure you’re always checking like LinkedIn or stuff like that a lot of times they do post it on LinkedIn, more often than on higher ed jobs, because I feel like her job is sometimes more focused on the US side so if you’re looking for jobs outside, it’s definitely good to look for those different platforms.


Xiao Yun  21:41  

Yeah, those are really good tip.


Jenny Fam  21:42  

Yeah, LinkedIn was definitely a good place to start, I would highly highly recommend to you know start connecting with people as early as possible, not just when you’re starting to look for jobs, because you want to start building those connections before you like awkwardly jump into like hey do you have a job for me.


Xiao Yun  21:59  

It’s like kind of what you said planting the seed earlier.


Jenny Fam  22:02  

 It’s very similar in all stages, you know, this depends on how you plan to see. Mm hmm.


Xiao Yun  22:08  

What is one piece of advice that you would like to share to our audiences,


Jenny Fam  22:12  

Right, I would say go with the flow. I would say this is really important because, you know, when I start as in student affairs in higher ed, I was really adamant about joining international students support. Well when I found out you know like the diverse areas in student affairs, I wanted to try all these different areas and get experience from it because I know I’m not a person that who can stay stuck in one area, so I love to explore I love to, you know, get to know myself a little bit better as well like which feel is the best fit for me as well. So go with the flow, especially, I came from the COVID graduates during the quarter times as well so you know there’s hiring freezes going on. A lot of things that we can’t change and can’t control go with the flow and control only what you can control because your mindset, your reactions to anything that’s happening around you, those are things that you can’t control but like hiring freeze and COVID coming up. Those are nothing that I can, you know like make changes to it so go with the flow, making sure that you are thinking about what is important to you and start working on those because you know, building, building your skills through the in your achievements and stuff like that. Those are things that you can control so go with the flow, making sure that you think about what is important to you, and then start planning your seeds like we’ve been talking to throughout the podcast, I always tell people like everyone’s pays is different. Don’t compare yourself to someone else. The only person you should compare to is yourself, like you should be better than two years back and yesterday and stuff like that so don’t compare yourself go with the flow, you should be fine!


Xiao Yun  23:42  

Yeah, those are really good advices, though, like when you’re saying that I was like, Yes, I do agree with what you have to share. Thank you so much Jenny for joining us here today in our Global Connections podcast, it was really nice to be able to chat with you. 


Jenny Fam  23:56  

Thank you. Thank you for having me. Have a great one.


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