The last 12 months have been somewhat of an adventure for British International School, Phuket’s new School Counsellor, Mrs Amber Godfrey.
As countries closed their borders around the world back in March 2020, Amber and her young family decided to leave Burkina Faso, and the international school she had been working, to return home to the United States. After a period of online working in her home state of New York – the epicentre of the pandemic – Amber and her family packed up again, this time bound for Thailand.
Many of Amber’s belongings are still in a shipping container somewhere between Africa and the US, but she is here with us, playing a pivotal role in helping our students navigate their own lives during these unprecedented times.
Can you tell us a bit about your school counselling career to date?
I graduated with my Masters of Science in Education (School Counselling) from Hunter College in May 2017. As part of my degree programme, I completed a one-year internship at the School of the Future in New York City, where I worked as a Middle and High School Counsellor. From August 2017 to June 2020 I served as the Whole School Social-Emotional Counsellor at the International School of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. Prior to pursuing School Counselling, I enjoyed a career as an actor, working primarily in the Theatre for Young Audiences genre across Canada.
What is your role as BISP’s School Counsellor?
My role as School Counsellor is to provide a safe space for students to work through some of their more complicated emotions that might be getting in the way of their personal and academic goals. I also serve as an advocate for student voices. Together, we work to strengthen those voices, learn healthy communication skills, maintain positive relationships and gain an understanding of our own boundaries and those of others.
What do you believe to be some of your biggest personal strengths in fulfilling this role?
Perhaps due to my early exposure to the field of diplomacy (my father is a career diplomat), I am naturally able to see many sides to a situation, which helps me offer helpful perspective when someone is feeling stuck or overwhelmed. My ability to listen intentionally and accurately allows me to reflect back strengths that I see in every student and teach them how to see those strengths in themselves. Having grown up as a Third Culture Kid myself, I also understand the highs and lows of being an international school student and how many of our current struggles stem from issues around attachment and unresolved grief.
From your experience, what are some of the significant challenges facing young people today?
Anxiety and depression in young people are commonplace these days, and in fact on the rise globally. I think that a lot of that stems from a lack of trust in institutions, an unhealthy relationship with comparison to others and an acute sense of isolation, particularly of late. Of course, there are myriad ways to stay connected to others, but if these connections are not safely and genuinely founded the result can be heightened feelings of loneliness.
Is there any advice or guidance you would offer our community given the circumstances in the world right now?
Talk to each other. One of the most difficult things about feeling badly is feeling badly alone. It takes a lot of strength and bravery to acknowledge there is a problem and reach out for help. Once you do, however, you will most likely feel the load lighten and know that you do not need to struggle alone. If talking to people is difficult for you, try expressing your feelings through creative means by drawing, writing, dancing, or any other medium you are interested in. And let me know how it goes!