What country have you always wanted to visit?
Morocco! I have long been fascinated with the culture, the colonial history, and, of course, the food. I planned a trip to Morocco at the end of my study abroad year, then had to cancel it at the last minute—the only trip I have ever had to cancel. Ever since, I have been dreaming of finally making this trip.
So, to celebrate my 30th birthday in Spring 2016, I am planning a two-week Moroccan adventure, spending time in Fez, Marrakech, the desert, and, of course, visiting IES Abroad Rabat! I am so excited to experience a country and culture I have so long admired, and I’m looking forward to seeing an IES Abroad Center in action.
What's your favorite ethnic dish?
My favorite way to experience a culture is through food, and I make it a point to take a cooking class whenever I travel. The smells and tastes of those experiences are some of the most vivid memories of my travels, and whenever I get nostalgic, I can whip up a memory in my kitchen!
I couldn’t possibly pick just one favorite dish, but several do stick out—my French host mom’s soupe au pistou, the taste of gelato on a hot summer day in Florence, heavenly soup dumplings that scalded my tongue in Shanghai, the smell of coffee on my honeymoon in Costa Rica. When I travel, I do most of my souvenir shopping in grocery stores, so that I can bring back the tastes of the country with me and share them with my family and friends.
Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?
Language learning and cultural immersion promote understanding, humility, and acceptance of that which is different from you. They push you outside your own worldview, and make you realize that there are multiple valid approaches to communication and living. These are the very things that encourage peaceful resolution to conflicts, and active collaboration across perceived ethnic, religious, and cultural barriers.
I believe learning a new language and experiencing different cultures is a vital developmental experience for young people, and the earlier, the better! The earlier we are exposed to different points of view (and even different verb tenses and sentence structure), the more flexible our minds become and remain. This is why I am an advocate for traveling and studying abroad in college—or before, if possible!
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
Working for IES Abroad has been an incredible learning opportunity for me. In my previous positions at NYU and Barnard College, I gained a broad view of international education—I worked with faculty-led trips large and small, planned international conferences, advised study abroad students, and worked with international students. Working at IES Abroad has allowed me to delve much deeper into one aspect of international education: study abroad.
I have gained such a unique perspective from being on the inside of a study abroad organization, and even more so from working closely with the schools in my region and seeing the many ways that study abroad can be approached on different campuses.
What does your home-country's culture value that is taught in your program?
As Americans, I believe we value curiosity and independence, which are both espoused by IES Abroad programs around the world. IES Abroad programs are designed to engage the student in an intellectually curious experience, to ask questions respectfully and thoughtfully, and reflect on the responses. IES Abroad student blogs and the Film Festival are just a few examples of the products of this curiosity.
IES Abroad encourages students’ independence by placing students in housing assignments that encourage them to function as independent students in their host country. IES Abroad provides a great complement of challenge and support, which ultimately helps students feel comfortable exploring their curiosity and independence.