What is your favorite travel memory?
During one of the Thinking Beyond Borders programs I led we stayed in a rural Indian village. The people there had not had much interaction with foreigners and the six weeks we spent there were FULL of special (and often hilarious) moments juxtaposing American and Indian values and culture.
One day, a student went home after a seminar to find her host mother, grandmother, and aunts happily awaiting her arrival. They were excited to show her how much fun they'd had with her things all day. They had a fashion show, each trying on her American clothing and and documented the whole thing- with her camera!
Which destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?
Before I went to Thailand, I thought of it as too touristy to make it to the top of my wish list. However, I led a program for TBB in northern Thailand and fell in love- with the country (gorgeous, even in the north), the people (SO friendly), and the program/partner organization we were working with (so intentional & thoughtful). Also, of course, the food!
While I find some places easier to visit than others (in the sense that they are less stressful), I don’t know that I would categorize any place I’ve visited as overrated. For example, I went to Arusha, Tanzania recently and found the entrepreneurs there are more aggressive than I had noticed elsewhere. While uncomfortable for me, I found this fascinating and would go back in a heartbeat. Also, the Serengeti is magnificent.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
In my opinion, a company is successful if it's able to keep it's values and mission intact and if those serving and being served by this mission are happy. I also think that a company's success depends on it nurturing an environment of respect, creativity, and empowerment.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
Working for TBB has been the most transformative experience of my life. Not only have I learned a great deal about the world but it has also afforded me the opportunity to become a more thoughtful and compassionate person. The intense nature of the mentoring relationship has taught me an enormous amount. I have a great deal of respect for the struggle that these 17-22 year olds have chosen to embrace.
What unique qualities does your company possess?
TBB embodies a spirit of continual growth. The leadership is purpose-driven and there's a reassuring intentionality present in everything they do. For example, at the end of the program, after the students have gone and everyone is exhausted, the staff gets together one last time. This time it's to revisit everything- from budgeting to curriculum. Everyone participates; charting paper is marked up and taped to walls and discussions spill over onto the tennis court. The program directors work hard to capture this feedback and returned staff see the fruits of these labors reflected in the next year’s program. In my opinion, this honors and embraces the value of each person's unique perspective.
Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of your current team.
There's a graduation ceremony at the end of the year. During this ceremony, the students are asked to talk about how they've changed and what they've learned. As you might imagine, this is a beautiful moment for someone like me who's been working to support that growth.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
While there are so many impressive updates on TBB alumni that I could share, here’s one which stands out because the update came from a unique place:
I had a student a few years ago who is a pleasure to be around- he has a great sense of humor, is a natural leader, a genuinely kind human being, and incredibly intelligent. During the year, this student chose to focus on pieces of the program other than the curriculum. From my perspective, it seemed that he didn’t have much interest in the academics. Fair enough. My co-leaders and I saw him putting in tons of effort in other ways. Two years later his sister joined TBB and was in my group. We talked about her brother a lot during the first few weeks while getting to know each other. She told me that during the summer following TBB, her brother read everything- the whole year’s curriculum. She said that she’d never seen him like that before. She provided insight into what the transformation of one of my former students looked like to those closest to him- and, oddly, what they saw was the one thing we didn’t.
For me, this story is a good reminder that everyone has their own process, that there’s always more than meet’s the eye & that these experiences serve as inspiration throughout our lives.