Staff Spotlight: Abby Zelenka

Student Services Advisor


Originally from Boston, Abby graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a Bachelors of Arts in Spanish. Her junior year she studied abroad with ISA in Valparaiso, Chile and returned to campus her senior year as a Global Ambassador encouraging her classmates to explore the world. She hopes to use her experience and stories to help encourage and advise potential students.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memory, hmmm. There are so many! The one that stands out specifically was the morning of my friend and my first weekend trip. With our bus leaving the station at 5am, we knew we had to get to the bus station and just assumed that we would be able to pick up a taxi on the road. Well, there were no taxis/colectivos to be seen. We lived close to a gas station and headed there to see if anyone could bring us. In a panic with the time pushing closer to 5, we were running out of options. One man pulled up in a van and when I asked him, panicked if he would bring us. He happened to be a security guard at the bus station and so we hopped into the back of his van. We realized at that time that he was our only option no matter how sketchy it was. Everything worked out for the best, but we made sure to always have a way to the bus station from then on!

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

I may be biased, but I would say that Valparaiso and Vina del Mar is the most underrated program here at ISA. The on site staff is amazing and there is so much to explore throughout the city! It's the perfect jumping off point to explore the rest of Chile, Patagonia, Argentina, and Peru. The most overrated program I would have to say Barcelona. Students get it stuck in their mind that they're just going to go abroad and party the whole time. Yes, that can be the case for some, but Barcelona is so much more than just partying. I can't say that the city itself is overrated, but the idea of this crazy party city is overrated.

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

Passion is the one thing that can truly change the game for a company. Anyone can have a product and try to sell it, but when the people involved are inherently passionate about what they are providing and are meaning to do good and change the world, that is when an inspiring/successful company is born.

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

I have definitely grown since working for ISA. I started here in Austin in December 2014 and it has been a huge life changing experience for me! I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, (quite like you do when you travel) and I have made a life for myself here. Before moving to Austin I worked as a Montessori teacher and needless to say, it was a HUGE change for me to move to an office setting. Professionally, I have carried along my flexibility from to classroom to the office.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

I believe that everyone who works at ISA is passionate about study abroad, and we all want to share our stories and make it possible for others to explore and experience the same thing! The on site staff that we have across the world loves what they do and they share that pride with the students who come in every program.

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

This last summer we had the AC go out on us during a Friday. We had been chugging away at our calls list and were so close to finishing up. Through the sweltering heat, we finished all call list and it felt so good to just finish it working through when others had left. It might have helped that we had an industrial fan blowing on us...