CIS Abroad Blog

Key Takeaways from CIS Abroad’s First Sabbatical!

Thank you colleagues for reaching out to me and wanting to know more about taking a sabbatical and how you can make it work for your job. I promise you can, (I mean, our European colleagues do it every August, amiright???? 

I can write that honestly, the first few days back in the office were NOT overwhelming. I half expected to walk back in on the first day and have all my delicious, relaxing sabbatical juice drain away. Not true. But why? How? How? 

Read on for the answers to the questions that I set out to answer, some quick “by the numbers” report outs, and top tips for taking one yourself. 

Reminder: the purpose of the CIS Abroad sabbatical is to rebalance our ikigai, our “reason for being,” our reason for staying in this fabulous and all-consuming field of international education. 

Here are my answers to the questions I posed in my previous blog post that I wanted to ask myself to balance my ikigai: 

Why do I do this work? 

  • I remembered that I do this work for the same reasons I joined the Peace Corps. Because cultural understanding and cross-cultural experiences can lead to cultural competence, which leads to peace-building as we realize that we are here, as humans, desiring much of the same outcomes. No big eureka here, but my daily fatigue was not an indication of a lack of commitment to the work; just that I needed a break. Like a toddler who just needs a nap or a snack to get back to being herself. I was actually experiencing signs of burnout, and I didn’t know it. Perhaps because I always have so much energy. Perhaps because I love this work. I am not proud to say this. I feel like I am more self-aware than this, but it’s true. 

What have I learned over the past few years? What is calling to me? 

  • Too many virtual meetings make my head hurt. There is research that points to virtual meetings actually underloading the brain, meaning, we don’t get all the information we are used to getting in face-to-face meetings. It told me why I find virtual meetings, especially those where key decisions are made, very taxing. I know virtual is here to stay, but I want to think about when and where we use them, and use them sparingly. Hard for an extrovert! I think I need more in-person time. 
  • I love presenting, writing, speaking, and using my “Performance and Achieving” leadership skills to advance my company. I want to do more of this.

How do I want to show up for my family, friends, and colleagues?

  • I Asked the question of each member of my executive team upon my return “what can I do to show up as a better leader for CIS or manager for you and how?” #kindcandor
  • I did a course on Generosity through Headspace. I want to be more generous with my thoughts and talents.
  • I love having fun and using humor as a way to connect with each other. I want to bring humor, joy, and levity more into the work we do as a counter balance to the contentious world that exists right now. 

By the numbers:

  • 1 focus: balancing/remembering my ikigai, my “reason for being” an international educator
  • 1 “superpower” workshop delivered for my “Queenagers” women’s group
  • 1 Global Leadership League Certificate program planned out for managers
  • 1 podcast idea generated
  • 2 days in the mountains
  • 2 days at a yoga & meditation center
  • 3 podcast series listened to:
    • Gimlet Academy: Podcasting
    • Podcasting Step by Step
    • Wiser than me with Julia Louis-Dreyfys
  • 4 books read: 
    • Gravitas: The 8 Strengths That Redefine Confidence, Lisa Sun
    • Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore
    • Humor, Seriously: Why Humor is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life, by Jennifer Aaker & Naomi Bagdonas
    • The Whole Puppy by Suzanne Goodwin
  • 5 days on the ocean
  • 22 days off of work (April 1st - April 30th)
  • 600+ straight days of meditation continued; gratitude journal re-started!
  • Many moments of spontaneous delight, including: a dance party, bike rides, watching Dune II with my 29 year old son in Brooklyn, watching The Omen with my 26 year old son in Boston, seeing Hamilton on Broadway with my 80 year old mom, visiting the Plimoth - Patuxet Museum with my 80 year old pa; visiting a bird sanctuary with my sister. 
Kris and John White Mountains
Kris feeding birds
Seven Arches, Arecibo, PR
San Juan Coast

A few photos from my sabbatical.

Top tips:

  1. Plan your sabbatical ahead of time. The success of my time away was due to having a good plan for while I was out. Because we have had lots of parental leaves over the past few years, I was able to use that plan template as a basic structure. 
  2. Take time away when it is a time of year when your job function does not have critical KPIs happening or key decisions need to be made. For me, April is perfect (though NAFSA feels much closer than it did when I just left the Forum in late March!).
  3. Create expectations in your team that match what you need to not be stressed out. Example: I set an expectation to NOT cc me on email threads with groups of people so that I would not be overwhelmed by threads that were “inform only.” 
  4. Create a detailed out of office message with a “who to go to for what.” Contact any key people ahead of time and give them a heads up.
  5. Take what you need. I had a standing Friday morning meeting with my COO to ensure that he had the opportunity to bring up anything that could not move forward w/o a response from me and/or was so weighty/emotional that we needed to talk it through. This was critical for me to trust that everything was okay, that “no news is good news.” 

Happy to share more. You know where to find me. 

Refreshed and ready to roll,