Staff Spotlight: Emma May

Regional Director


In her position as Regional Director for Michigan, Missouri and Illinois, Emma can't wait to encourage students to grow personally and professionally, through studying abroad. Emma is originally from Canada, has traveled all over the world and was a study abroad advisor before joining ISA.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa as part of Art in Schools Initiative through NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This is a unique research project that aims to prove creative learning is essential in high schools. A majority of my time in Cape Town was spent in a community called Bontehuewel. We taught over three-hundred students art every week.

During one of my classes a student tip toed up to me very bashfully and asked if she could borrow some art supplies to take home with her. Her response changed my life. She said "I have been teaching my family every thing you have taught us and we just don't have any paint and brushes at home." I instantly dropped every rule we had about lending out art supplies and gave her whatever she needed.

This moment was profound for me because I realized that when you share something with one person, you have no idea how inspiring that may be to them. One little encouragement may trigger a series of events, thoughts or ideas that could be life changing. I may have helped this student learn how to paint, but she then took my lesson a whole step further and shared it with her family. I later learned about the South African philosophy, "Ubuntu", the notion that "I am because we are". I have taken this philosophy and applied it to every area of my life, including study abroad.

Which destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?

The most underrated destination is Myanmar (Burma). Not only does Myanmar have some of the most beautiful untouched landscapes that I've ever seen, it also has incredible, genuine people.

I don't think any destinations are overrated -- I believe every place is worth visiting. What occasionally needs adjustment is the lens the country is being viewed from.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

The passion, collaboration and mutual respect to work towards a common goal together. We all want to create opportunities for more students to have global experiences by making study abroad as simple as we can.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

The combined experience in the field from my mentors, supervisors and colleagues is unfathomable. I have learned so much working from them in the collaborative office setting. I believe there is nothing you can't accomplish as a team.

What unique qualities does your company possess?


Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of your current team.

I attended a panel discussion at one of our partner institutions where four of our alumni talked about their study abroad "aha" moments. Each student had a very unique experience abroad on ISA programs and each had come to a particular moment where they realized something profound about themselves. I am proud that through our collaborations with such wonderful universities, we are able to help each student achieve something incredible.