Moving around and changing locations, whether tasked to take on a new role or for personal growth and development, has become the norm for Ayanna Brady, Client Director, IDP Connect, US. By doing so she has learnt to appreciate the beauty of new places, has found the motivation to explore cities and is aware of taking the time to get the look and feel of her surroundings. Ayanna means “beautiful flower” in Ghanian, and her name inspires her outlook.
"I was born in California, we moved when I was 3 years old and continued moving several more times throughout my childhood. I used to think I was missing out by moving around so much, but I have come to not only cherish the exposure but welcome the opportunities to explore new surroundings. It’s an innate part of me to appreciate the atmosphere and learn from others. My first memory of an international trip was as a little girl visiting Mexico with my parents. From there traveling in addition to moving began to open up how I viewed the world. My first "independent" trip was a school excursion to Spain - Flamenco dancing, the beautiful architecture, and my love of Paella all stemmed from taking in the sights and beauty of a country, new to me at fourteen. I went on to attend university in Virginia, and upstate New York. My studies and passion for language arts led to my first job teaching English in Japan. As an adult, I’m still changing cities but with intention and a commitment to the work I lead at IDP.
When I was teaching English in Japan, I often connected students and friends with colleges and university recommendation in the US - at the time I didn’t even know this was a job. It was a way for me to share my experiences with others and build connectivity. When I arrived, I didn’t speak the language as well as I would have liked - I was proficient but am always seeking ways to improve. I remember how unfamiliar I was with many of the customs, the culture, and at times I felt homesick. So, I learnt how to catch public transport, how to speak and read Japanese better. In our industry, I am often asked how students are able to make friends in a new place. I recommend creating your community. From my experience, it's helpful to get involved in the local community centre; take the opportunity to learn from others and to teach them about where you are from.
I find the IDP community one where people are genuinely interested in investing in you. We all want our students and college and university partners to succeed. We act as mentors and trainers and we know the way of helping people, so that it makes it easier to navigate, and to find a place to help you thrive.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to tell and share student stories. It opened my eyes to what I could do and how this could help sharing strategies. It also made me realize how much stories make up who we are, and that people want to be part of their community. Because of these conversations, I’m continuing to support our clients in curating these student experiences that form their campuses diverse communities and how to share these stories across the right channels. I’ve seen beautiful campuses and cities; each with its own special qualities.
It's especially rewarding when students remember me, or their IDP Counsellor, even after years. It’s exciting when we run into each other and they remember the help, and support they were given. It just shows how life falls together and it’s a great feeling to see my community thriving. Every now and again, I am reminded of my early start being introduced to a career path that aligned with my eagerness to learn and passion for embracing rich, diverse culture and come across a graduated student that now works in international education. I am encouraged that our industry continues to grow and evolve.
I especially enjoy building partnerships with our colleges and universities. I am able to offer advice with our research data and introduce them to digital tools and our expert network which connects them with students.
It’s the same with my colleagues. I just returned from a visit to Toronto for a weeklong meeting with my team. Toronto is a great city! I spent several years there and remember it fondly. It was exciting to get to go back and visit with friends and workmates, my Toronto community, for the first time since COVID and visit all the places I remember. It was equally exciting to see the growth at IDP, after helping to set up the IDP office there, and seeing it move from an office within an office to thriving in its own space. I loved seeing my colleagues face to face and meeting some new team members too.
My recommendation is to take the opportunity to appreciate your surroundings and to immerse yourself in the place where you live. You will find beauty, new friends, and exciting cultures. "
Thank you, Ayanna, for inspiring us to stop and appreciate the people and places we interact with. All the best with your travels and conversations!