News: Jemison Foster: A Unique Position in International Schools - Jun 20, 2024
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Thursday, June 20, 2024Candidate Stories

Jemison Foster: A Unique Position in International Schools

College Counselor Jemison Foster worked in international schools abroad for 15 years before returning to the U.S. during the pandemic. Since then, with the help of Search Associates (SEARCH), Jemison now works with the American International School of Lagos (AISL)—from his home in Fort Collins, Colorado! He explains,

There’s a drastic shortage of good college counselors out there and plenty of schools that need support. I genuinely don't know anyone else who does what I do. It's something I love, and it's something that brings genuine value to a school.

The unique nature of Jemison’s current position is an “incredibly convenient solution” for a dad needing to be with his young daughter, who lives in Colorado, as much as possible. Jemison says that international schools generally give counselors a much lower caseload while “public schools in the U.S. often ask counselors to oversee 200-300 seniors!” In schools abroad, counselors can give students the attention they need. His arrangement with AISL has been ideal:

It’s a wonderful community, great students, and a fun faculty. They asked that I visit the campus four times per year, and I'm more than happy to do so. Lagos is an incredible city, and the people of Nigeria are amazing.

Jemison’s path to becoming an educator began during his college years when he took a job as a sailing instructor at a summer camp. He resisted becoming a teacher for a long time before eventually realizing it was a natural fit. In graduate school, Jemison trained to teach high school English. He explains,

I enjoy the cerebral part of curriculum planning but also love interacting with teenagers and the responsibility that comes with being a role model. Now as a college counselor, I love helping kids bridge their high school experiences with their future in university. I am also a big fan of a gap year, so I always encourage students to find the path that is right for them.

After earning his M.A. Ed. Around 2004-2005, Jemison’s overseas adventure began, spurred by “a series of disappointing social and political circumstances,” he says. When a close friend teaching in New Zealand invited Jemison to join him, Jemison took a “wonderful job” at Auckland International College as an English teacher and college counselor.

During his third year in New Zealand, Jemison joined Search Associates (SEARCH) and landed a job at the Bangkok fair, at the “incredible” Bangkok Patana School. He stayed for “six wonderful years.” His next international appointment at the Western Academy of Beijing in China lasted for two, as he loved the school but not the city.

By 2014, Jemison decided he needed a break, and two years later, he bought a 40-foot sailing yacht to “spend the next two years sailing around the South Pacific…solo.”  That incredible adventure brought him a surprise that changed his life:

I was blessed with a baby daughter while living in French Polynesia. Because she's half Vietnamese, in 2018, I decided to sell my boat and return to Southeast Asia. That fall I began working for Saigon South International School in Vietnam. I was there for two years before the pandemic hit and threatened everything.

Jemison decided to move back to the U.S., which would help him to co-parent with his daughter’s mother. Though he has been surprised at how much he enjoys living in Fort Collins, Jemison admits he “works hard to maintain ties with the international community.” He describes the role of SEARCH in his journey:

In the beginning, Search Associates was pivotal in my move from New Zealand to Thailand. Because I was in Bangkok for six years, by the time I wanted to move on to another school, I had built enough of a network and positive reputation that I was able to get a job through word of mouth. That being said, my situation now is so unusual that SEARCH has again become a lynchpin in my job search. High school administrators respect Search Associates, and it is often their first port of call when looking for a college counselor. So, this has proven to be helpful in recent years.

If you are considering international school opportunities, Jemison says,

I have told other educators who are interested in international education to just get a start. It's unrealistic to expect an offer from a top tier international school for your first overseas job. Sometimes you have to take something that seems less than ideal so that you can build your resume. If you do a good job, karma will generally reward you.

Did You Know…?

Senior Associate Diana Kerry was an international educator and administrator for 25 years in various countries, including Iran, France, Thailand, and Indonesia.