As we continue our “Trust Me” blog series, it seemed appropriate to highlight International Students during International Education Week. Students around the world are an important part of Flywire. In fact, millions around the world consider us the Trusted Choice when it comes to global payments.
This month we are featuring FlyMate, Kelli Accardi, International Student Advocate and Senior Global Strategic Accounts, Team Lead. Kelli’s background touches all the bases – entrepreneur, international student advisor, international relationship manager, cultural program leader, and study abroad program representative – providing an invaluable perspective for schools and students alike. Tune in to the video below - and read on for the full transcript:
What education institutions did you work at prior to Flywire?
“My background is in international education and I’ve had the opportunity to work in a few different countries and educational organizations. It actually started when I attended the Danish Institute for Study Abroad while I was getting my undergraduate degree at Elon University. I went to work for the Danish Institute after I graduated. That led me to New Zealand and Auckland University of Technology as an International Relationship Manager. Eventually I moved back to Boston and worked at Kings, an English language school as International Student Advisor. My role there involved everything outside of academics – visa processing, orientation activities, mental health, social media, you name it.
When I’m speaking with Flywire clients about their roles and responsibilities, I can usually say ‘that’s what I used to do.’ And I think people are more apt to listen to what I have to say as a result.”
What were your roles? What did you specialize in?
“I did a lot of different things, but it always involved international students, e.g., student affairs, international recruitment and marketing, student community. I am really passionate about international students and making sure they have a positive experience. It doesn’t happen as easily as most people think.
When I studied abroad in Denmark, it was the first time I was around a community of international people. I felt really vulnerable. I felt naked because I didn’t have any idea what was going or what to expect. I was looking for people who could give me guidance.
At the same time, it was so exciting. I was really interested in learning about other people’s cultures. People helped me out and I really flourished as a result. From then on, I wanted to be the person who helped new international students make that leap and take advantage of all that excitement and opportunity.
It wasn’t all perfect, though. One day I was walking and my backpack got caught in a cyclist’s handlebars. I got slammed into the pavement and suffered a concussion. Fortunately, the people in my dorm rallied around and took care of me. It was that kind of thing. The international student community really took care of one another. It was a great experience.”
What were the major pain points in your job?
“When I was at Auckland University of Technology, I worked very closely with the Bursar’s office. At the time, I was managing international scholarship students. A PhD student showed up with her kids from Malaysia for the school year. Her scholarship sponsor was supposed to have sent a wire for tuition and expenses, but we couldn’t locate it. Every week she would come to me to check and see if the money had shown up. She would be crying. She had no money. Her kids couldn’t eat. She was in a strange country. It was an awful situation. I never felt so helpless.
Apparently, the sponsor had sent her money weeks before (using another service) but had not put her name on it. It was also in the wrong amount so the Bursar could not match it up. We had to get legal confirmation from the sponsor before it could be applied to her account.
I did not work in payments at the time, but it really helped me understand how much those financial transactions can impact the international student experience. If we had had Flywire, that PhD student would never have had any problem.
Now, when I talk to international student offices, I know that tuition payments are not part of their responsibility, but they absolutely want the international student to have a great experience. I can help them understand what a huge part the financial aspect plays in that.”
What led you to join Flywire?
“At the time, I was looking to grow my professional skills. I wanted to take one area of the international student experience and go deep on it and see how I could contribute to make it better. That’s what I believe Flywire is doing. We specialize in one aspect of the process that has a huge impact on the total experience.”
What industry knowledge did you gain in your previous roles that helps you at Flywire? How do you feel you’re personally helping clients solve pain points today?
“I think I’ve had an opportunity to see the international student experience from all different sides. For one, I’ve seen how international students can enrich the community at and around a school. Two, being an expat myself in two different countries, I know how complicated a cross-border financial transaction can be. You really have nobody to lean on and ask for help. Those experiences help me identify with international students. I was them. It fuels me to really try to solve their problems. My attitude is, ‘I’m going to figure this out for you because that’s what I would have wanted someone to do for me.’”
Do you have any advice for someone trying to make a career move similar to the one you made?
“First, reach out to someone who is in the role that you’re thinking about and learn about their personal story. It can provide a much clearer picture of the requirements, the learning curve, surprises, etc.
If you’ve done your homework, don’t be afraid to take a chance. I never thought I would work for a startup, but I’m so glad I did it. I also wasn’t sure if payment processing would float my boat, but the impact we have for students and schools is amazing. This is the longest I’ve ever stayed in a job or a country! It’s been such a great experience for me.”
By combining solution innovation and our proven global payment network with industry experience, Flywire is the Trusted Choice for millions of students, thousands of institutions and hundreds of education agents and partners worldwide. Check out our interactive maps to see how students and institutions experience the difference with Flywire.