Valerie Monaco is Barnard’s director of International Student Services. She works with Access Barnard to shape programming and provide support to students new to Barnard, new to New York City, and — often — new to the U.S.
Monaco joined the College at the end of August, which means she’s also navigating some new terrain. In her years of experience working with international students, Monaco has become well acquainted with the challenges and rewards of guiding international students through their undergraduate experiences.
“The best feeling is witnessing the personal or professional growth of a student as it happens. It’s one thing to see a student adjust and comfortably get settled at school, but to watch them go on to be successful beyond school is so rewarding,” said Monaco. “Meeting a student who’s unsure about navigating the pressures of studying and living in New York and then watching them grow and evolve personally and professionally is truly fulfilling.”
Providing this kind of transformative support takes focus, commitment, and stamina. Here’s a look at a typical day in the life of Valerie Monaco, right on time to celebrate International Students Day (November 17), as well as Barnard’s International Students Week.
5:45 a.m.: Time to wake up! I wake up early to get ready and then to get my 4-year-old daughter, Aurora, up and ready for preschool.
7:23 a.m.: I live in White Plains in Westchester, so my commute takes an hour and 20 minutes. I ride the Metro North and the 1 train to work each day.
8:45 a.m.: That’s when it’s time for my second cup of coffee and catching up with International Student Services staff member Carmen Nieves. Then comes reading emails and prepping for upcoming meetings or student programs.
12:30 p.m.: Lunch! Sometimes, lunch includes multitasking during meetings. Once in a while, I will pick up lunch off campus. Then I start office hours for students with questions about work authorizations, traveling, or getting settled as an international student, which can range from opening a bank account to obtaining a state ID card.
International students are not given a handbook of everything they need to know or how to follow all of the rules and laws of being an international student in the U.S., so a big part of my role is helping them understand those rules and how they apply them to their everyday lives. They often have many questions about working in the U.S., which can be tricky based on their [immigration] status.
2 p.m.: Usually, I have meetings with Access Barnard staff members or student programs and workshops.
5 p.m.: I begin the long commute home.
9 p.m.: I prepare for the next day, including packing family lunches! I like to unwind from my day with tea, collaging, and journaling before I sleep.