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Their Roots: World Endeavors was founded by Tom Peden in 2002. As a college student, he had the opportunity to participate in a short-term service program abroad with his university concert band to Venezuela. He met new people, learned about a new culture, and was, in his words, "blown away" by the new experience.
This trip was the first of many international experiences, as it inspired him to travel around the world and see places that he had only previously imagined. In 2002, feeling unfulfilled with his job as an IT project manager, Peden began to reflect on the value of his first trip to Venezuela. He realized that he wanted to be able to provide this type of eye-opening experience for others. Tom looked at the field of international education and saw a real need for a more personalized and immersive experience that would allow people to go abroad, learn and practice a new language, and make genuine connections with people in the community.
Lindsay Allen, the Director of Engagement for World Endeavors, grew up in Minnesota, Mexico City, and Hong Kong! A love for cultural exchange from the beginning, Lindsay found World Endeavors after working in translation and legal services - and could not be happier to work for an organization whose mission aligns so strongly with her personal passions.
MEGAN: Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?
LINDSAY: I interned abroad in Beijing, China when I was in college. I had two majors and a packed course schedule, so an internship abroad was a great fit for me because I could do it during the summer. The three months I spent interning abroad probably taught me more than any semester in school could have. I gained a much clearer perspective of what I wanted to do professionally, I became much more confident in my ability to handle myself in new situations, and I came away with some great experience to talk about in interviews after graduation.
As a graduate student, I studied abroad in Spain for a summer, and then later spent a year studying in Portugal, so I have also had the great opportunity to study abroad and travel in Europe. I can't seem to stop studying abroad, actually!
MEGAN: What principles does World Endeavors strive to achieve?
LINDSAY: Our goal is to design programs that promote cultural immersion and meaningful personal connections. Through host family accommodations, local staff who are native to the program site, and internship and volunteer placements with locally-run organizations, our participants have the opportunity to make meaningful connections with local people. One of the best indicators of our success in this area is the large number of our alums who return (often repeatedly) to their program country to see their host families, friends, and colleagues there.
We also pride ourselves on providing personalized support for each of our participants. Our advisors take the time to get to know each participant and help them get the most out of their experience abroad. We consider many of our alums to be friends and love to stay in touch with them over the years to hear how their international experience has impacted their career and personal goals.
MEGAN: What does the future hold for World Endeavors - any exciting new programs to share?
LINDSAY: We are always working to both broaden and deepen our program offerings around the world. One new program that our staff is very excited about is our Sustainable Agriculture in Costa Rica program. Interns and volunteers work hands-on with small coffee farms employing sustainable practices, as well as with local cooperatives working to promote the products made by these small farms. It's a great opportunity for students with an interest in agriculture, environmental issues, or business.
Because our internship program is so customized, we are constantly coordinating new and unique internships. We recently placed an American opera student in an internship with an opera and arts festival in Italy. She spent her summer coordinating events, observing rehearsals, practicing her Italian with professional opera singers, and living in the heart of Tuscany.
MEGAN: What about the future of the industry? How do you think study abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?
LINDSAY: I am very optimistic about the future of international education. I think it is becoming increasingly clear to students that international experience is one of the best investments they can make in their professional and academic development. We have been encouraged here at WE by how many students have made international education a priority over the past few years, even as we have experienced a significant economic downturn in the US and around the world.
My prediction is that the next ten years will bring huge growth in experiential programs abroad, such as internships and volunteering. With a tight economy, students are looking for programs that are affordable and that give them an edge in a competitive job market. Many students are also looking for programs that allow them to do more than just sit in a classroom; they want a hands-on, authentic experience. My hope is that growth in these types of programs will put international education within the reach of students who previously were not able to participate.
MEGAN: If you could study abroad again, where would you go, and why?
LINDSAY: Oh, this is the hardest question on the list! This is actually a conversation our staff members have frequently - which World Endeavors program would you choose if you could go today? I change my mind frequently, but I often come back to Asia as a part of the world that really fascinates me. I love the energy of Asia, and many destinations in Asia are both very safe and very affordable. It's a great destination for female travelers!
Lindsay told me "study abroad is for everyone" - and I think she really meant it. World Endeavors strives to accommodate a diverse population of students, and achieves this goal by not only offering not only a wide variety of program options, but also customizing new programs to meet students' needs. Lindsay's evident optimism for study abroad is truly contagious!
- The Philippines - Experience Southeast Asia; earn US academic credit while continuing your studies in any of hundreds of courses from dozens of subject areas
- China - Experience a smaller Chinese city for language and culture study during a semester or summer program.
- Ecuador - Students can study Spanish, business, Latin American studies, or liberal arts and earn academic credit from a fully-accredited Ecuadorian College.
- England - Multiple programs available, from the more remote, northern part of England to the international capital city, London.
The benefits of international education are endless. There are the obvious ones, such as increased language proficiency and greater cultural fluency, but that's just the beginning. Going abroad gives students an opportunity to build their confidence, evaluate their priorities, and challenge themselves to step out of their comfort zones.