It is lunch time at Rollins College. The cafeteria is crowded and buzzing with the sound of casual chatter. But in an attached conference room, several people are working and discussing the lives of current and future international students.
In this room full of international high school counselors, Ed Bustos, Rollins Director of International Admission, greets the visitors with an excited smile. Although Bustos could be considered a short man, his presence is captivating. In his dark blue suit, he imbues professionalism. To commence the meeting, Bustos explains that the guests are not there for a presentation, but for an open conversation.
The counselors discuss Rollins and detail their experiences with exploring its personal class settings. From passionate history lectures to engaging in-class debates, the visitors casually share their first impressions of the institution. The conversation progresses until the topic of international students is addressed. For these students, how does the acceptance process work? What kind of support does Rollins offer? Bustos and his colleagues Steve Booker and Vanessa Garay answer each question thoroughly.
“We always fight for the internationals,” said Bustos as he answered one of the scholarship questions.
Sessions like these are one of the many facets of the Director of International Admission’s job. Bustos’ work, however, goes beyond meeting with high school counselors. During the months of August, September, October, and November, he spends his time traveling the world and recruiting new international students for the Rollins community.
The job seems glamorous to many:
“I want his job, I love his job, and I’m trying to get him fired,” said Alex Feliciano ’15, a student from Costa Rica recruited by Bustos. But Bustos guarantees traveling the world is not all fun and games.
“I’m on planes for very long distances sometimes. Hotels, taxis, high schools, and then back on a plane,” said Bustos. “Sometimes I haven’t been able to feel their culture because I don’t have time.”
Nonetheless, the constricted schedule does not affect his love for the job. Bustos, who has held this job since 2009, is the very first to perform this position at Rollins. Before the title of Director of International Admission was created, the international admission process was reviewed along with normal and transfer admissions. Bustos is a Rollins alum and his passion for the institution and for his position has not subsided since 2009.
“It excites me to walk into a high school I’ve never been before because I want to learn about those kids and just to educate them about Rollins,” said Bustos.
Bustos considers himself a global citizen. Born in New York and raised in both Colombia and the U.S., Bustos is passionate about Latin America and the world in general.
His job, however, goes beyond exploring the globe and bringing a diverse population to the campus. The months Bustos is in the country are busy with swarms of international students who yearn for his attention.
Bustos sees his relationship with current students as a crucial part of his role. He takes admissions applications home to work on after hours so that he can give each student the support they need during the day. His office reflects his welcoming personality. Most of the space is occupied by a round table where he meets daily with students.
“My schedule is from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. From 7 to 8:30 a.m. I’m pretty sure the students are not awake,” said Bustos. “I get a lot of work done during that hour and thirty minutes.”
From academic advice to homesickness, the Director of International Admission supports all of the students he brought into the college. The effort is not in vain; the students feel his passion for the job and appreciate the personal treatment.
“He comes to almost all of my shows. He has seen me act and that means a lot,” said Feliciano. “The little moments are the ones that count. It really means a lot to me when I look out in the audience and I see him.”
Feliciano vividly remembers when Bustos recruited her. In a presentation about Rollins in Feliciano’s high school in Costa Rica, Bustos pulled her aside and told her she would be a great addition to Rollins. Their interaction did not end with the recruitment. While recruiting in Costa Rica, Bustos joins Feliciano’s family to eat, and vice versa when Feliciano’s family is visiting Rollins.
Because of the nature of his job, Bustos gets attached to the students he recruits. His experience with traveling helps him relate to some of their problems.
“I feel their pain. I think sometimes the individuals on campus don’t realize how far away from home the students really are. But I know how far it is because I have to do it myself,” said Bustos.
This intimate relationship has its price:
“Every year it’s tough for me when I see the students graduate,” said Bustos. The class of 2015 will be an especially difficult class for the Director of International Admission. It was the first large international class recruited by Bustos. Since he started in the position, Bustos has been able to boost the international class from 4% of the college community in 2009 to 10% in 2014.
“This class will hit me a little hard,” he said.
Bustos feels the relationships he builds are deeper than that of staff and students. He feels the Rollins students are part of his family.
“I don’t have kids, but all my internationals are my kids,” said Bustos.
Bustos, who considers himself a family man despite being single, has a tight relationship with his parents and relatives. He also has a close relationship with one of his former international students.
“The student right there was a foster child. We didn’t go through the whole process, but I pretty much adopted him. He is like my kid,” said Bustos while pointing to a picture of an athletic student on the wall of his office.
Passionate about his job, Bustos would change little about his position. But being away from home is not an easy task for a family-oriented person like him. Thankfully, computers and phones make the distance feel smaller.
Satisfied with his irregular routine, Bustos said, “I wish the world was a little smaller. I miss home, but thank God for technology.”