A global high school counselling career – Phillip Wenturine

Having travelled to 63 different countries, Phillip Wenturine is in a good position to advise students on where they could study abroad

Seeta Bhardwa's avatar

Seeta Bhardwa

THE Counsellor
13 Nov 2023
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Phillip Wenturine

Phillip’s own experiences of studying abroad began with an opportunity to study in China for a semester during his undergraduate degree in Florida. He had not travelled far from home for university: he had grown up on the Florida-Georgia border in the US. So his semester in China was his first taste of living in a country very different from his home. It was a formative experience: after his return, Phillip decided that he wanted a career that would allow him to live and work abroad.

After graduating, he briefly worked as a teacher in the US. He then moved to Lisbon to complete his master’s degree, which really cemented his desire to live abroad. After a successful application for a Fulbright Scholarship, Phillip was able to stay in Portugal. He worked in a school, in a role that was a mix between a teacher and an adviser.

The next stage in Phillip’s career led him to work in an American school in Vietnam as the head of college counselling. Following strict border closures in Vietnam during the Covid-19 pandemic, Phillip chose to leave the country. Not long afterwards, he made the move to work at an international school in Dubai, where border controls were less strict. Proving just how global Phillip’s career is, since we conducted this interview in February 2023 he has moved on to head the college counselling team at the Brewster’s Academy in Madrid.

While in Dubai, Phillip worked with students of more than 113 different nationalities. This meant that that university applications were so varied that he was required to continuously learn about new university systems, new documentation processes and general student life, across a wide range of destinations.

While the US, the UK and Canada will always be popular choices for study, in recent years Phillip has noticed more students gravitating towards other countries, including the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Denmark and Germany.

The biggest challenge for international students, Phillip says, seems to be knowing where to go to university and defining “what success looks like”. This means that students are now sending out more applications across a range of countries, rather than really concentrating on a specific country and sending out a smaller number of well-considered applications.

As the high school counsellor advising these students, Phillip has had to learn about a huge range of different education systems in order to ensure that he is advising his students to go to the institutions and countries that suit them best.

Phillip places a heavy emphasis on the importance of networking with other counsellors and universities, so as to be able to provide the best information for his students. He believes that university and country visits are a crucial way of getting to grips with each university system.

He aims to go on a university or country visit with a group of students each year; he has previously visited London, Bournemouth, Sussex, Boston and New York. These visits are a valuable opportunity for students to see not only what they want from a university, but also what they don’t want.

On a recent student trip to the UK, some students were less keen on the University of Oxford than they had originally thought. For many of them, the brand name and reputation of Oxford had been the most appealing factor. However, on visiting the university, they had realised that perhaps it wasn’t the right choice for them after all. This is why these visits can often be so helpful for students.

Phillip says he believes that building relationships with other high school counsellors is also helpful, whether through webinars, networking events or conferences where they can meet and share best practice.

“That’s the thing that’s so beautiful about this industry,” he says. “Everyone is so collaborative and connected, and we all just want to help our students.

“Any time a student has a question I don’t know the answer to, I can pick up the phone and call half of the people that I met at BMI [events] and they’ll happily answer for me, or even get on a Zoom call with the student, too.”

His role as a university counsellor is a “full circle” moment, he says. Having grown up in a small rural town in the US, with few options for studying abroad and little university guidance, he has travelled across the world and worked in a career that allows him to give students the advice and guidance that he lacked.

“I’m glad that, through my own research and digging, I found what led me to work abroad and my passion for travelling,” he says.

“But I shouldn’t have had to be in my mid-twenties before I figured that out. There should be someone who can map out what options exist much sooner, so that students can have that seamless transition.”