Brenda Hendrickson can hardly remember the day she became an area representative \u2014 after all, it was nearly a decade ago. She recalls seeing an advertisement on Craigslist, and can vaguely remember the job description: to help connect foreign exchange students with American host families, and all that entails. Though the specific details about the beginning of her journey with ISE are fuzzy, one memory remains clear: her certainty that this was the opportunity she was looking for. \u201cTo be honest, I didn\u2019t have a moment of hesitation,\u201d says Brenda who, at the time, was an educator working with students on the autism spectrum. She felt that her experience with this unique population put her at a distinct advantage in working with young people. \u00a0 She laughs, \u201cI figured, since I was already working with a challenging group of kids, this would probably be a lot easier!\u201d Fast forward to eight years later, and Brenda is now a full-time Regional Advisor, overseeing host families and other area reps in the greater northwest region. Despite the new level of responsibility, Brenda still does triple-duty as an area representative and a host parent \u2014 to date, she\u2019s hosted 19 students. So what is being an area representative really like? Is it all it\u2019s cracked up to be? What are the challenges new area representatives should expect, and what kinds of qualities make the \u201cperfect\u201d area rep? We caught up with Brenda to get the answers from someone who truly knows! The trick for getting first-time host families to make the leap? Find common ground. Brenda is the first to admit that being an area representative comes with its challenges \u2014 namely, the challenge of finding families ready and willing to open their hearts and homes to a foreign exchange student. \u201cFor better or worse, we live in a \u2018me, me, me\u2019 society, and sometimes have a hard time looking at the bigger picture,\u201d she says. \u201cFinding the families that are willing to open their home to a student can be difficult \u2014 but once you , it\u2019s incredibly rewarding!\u201d Brenda\u2019s strategy for helping families see the rewards amidst the challenges of hosting a student is simple: find common ground. \u201cI find out first what drives host families to begin with. Are they family-oriented? Are they sports fans? I try to find common ground with them and help them see in helping a student experience American culture through their eyes. Only then do we talk about the global aspect of things, and how helps bring global awareness to their schools, their communities and even their family.\u201d Related:\u00a0Ways to Recruit Exchange Student Host Families The challenges of being an area representative pale in comparison to the rewards. If you ask Brenda what the most rewarding part of her job is, she struggles to settle on a single perk \u2014 \u201cthere are just so many!\u201d she laughs. But for Brenda, an unabashed people-person with a knack for connecting with others, becoming an area representative provides extraordinary opportunities to connect with people far outside of your social circle. \u201cI have been able to develop relationships that I never thought I would,\u201d she muses. \u201cThe networking is such a great challenge and an even greater opportunity!\u201d Among the many rewards of being an area representative for ISE, Brenda remembers one particular experience that stands out. It all happened after placing a young German exchange student with a host family in her hometown of Davenport, Washington. \u201cHe had Googled Davenport and saw how small it was, and expressed some concern about being in such a small town because he came from such a large city in Germany,\u201d she explains. \u201cBut quickly after arriving, he became such an integral part of the school and the community as a whole. He was the starting kicker on the football team, he played basketball\u2026 he even joined the track team and went to the state championship!\u201d Even years later, this student continues to travel back to Davenport to visit his former host family (he\u2019s been back twice since his time living in the US). His host family even made a trip all the way to Germany to finally see his hometown as well! \u201cSeeing those relationships between host families and their students that you helped build\u2026 that is very rewarding,\u201d she says with a smile. The travel perks don\u2019t hurt, either. Area representatives aren\u2019t only rewarded in extraordinary connections among their students and host families \u2014 for reps that successfully place a certain number of students each year, they have an international trip to look forward to. Dubbed the \u2018Celebration of Success\u2019 trip, this annual all-expenses-paid excursion visits destinations in far-flung locations like Europe and South America. While Brenda stops short of saying this is the best benefit of being an area rep, she will admit that the yearly trip is the cherry on top of the cake. \u201cThe travel opportunities with this company have been astounding,\u201d she says. \u201cFrankly, I would never have been able to travel to the places I have, had it not been for my role with ISE.\u201d So far, Brenda has traveled to Spain, Germany, and Ireland with ISE, with new destinations slated for the near future! Related:\u00a0The 4 Best Perks of Being an ISE Area Representative The recipe for a great Area Representative: self-motivated, open-minded, and consistent. Even Brenda admits that not everyone is cut out to be an area representative \u2014 but the essential qualities for an area rep come down to three simple things: motivation, open-mindedness, and consistency. On self-motivation: \u201cYou have to be self-motivated because, well\u2026 you\u2019re working from home! It\u2019s easy to get distracted and even easier to say \u2018oh, I\u2019ll get to that tomorrow\u2019. In order to be successful , you have to be the type of person that can buckle down and do the work even when someone isn\u2019t there to hold you accountable.\u201d On open-mindedness: \u201cTo be a successful area rep, you need to be open-minded because there are so many differing beliefs, religions, and personalities . It is important to be tolerant and understanding when dealing with people from so many different backgrounds.\u201d On consistency: \u201cBeing consistent is not only advantageous for student behavior, but it also helps your host families as well! If you\u2019re consistent with your host families, they\u2019re more likely to trust you and more likely to host for you again. For me, consistency translates to keeping the line of communication open with a regular check-in email or message.\u201d Brenda stresses that the job requires representatives to wear many hats within a day \u2014 leaping from business development and networking one minute, to digital marketing and social media management the next \u2014 but is quick to remark just how rewarding this can be for the right kind of person. \u201cFor me personally, being able to wear so many hats and do so many different things at once is what helps me stay focused,\u201d she says. \u201cIt has been such a wonderful opportunity year after year!\u201d We invite you to read more about what it is like to work with us. If you have specific questions about the area representative role, check out our Area Representative FAQ page.. Still on the fence? Complete our Area Representative interest form and one of our regional managers will get in touch with you to answer your questions and to help you get started. In addition to working in the student exchange industry, we like to encourage everyone to explore the option of becoming a volunteer host family to host an exchange student.