What is your favorite travel memory?
I studied abroad in Seville, Spain, as an undergraduate. Six years later, I went back to Andalucía with my parents and my sisters and had a wonderful time sharing with them the culture that I fell in love with as a student. As the only Spanish speaker in my family, I was the interpreter, navigator, and—most importantly—the one who ordered at every restaurant. I introduced my family to refreshing tinto de verano and authentic jamón ibérico, and even ordered fried sesos (brains) without translating the word before everyone got a chance to try it! The trip sparked a love of Spanish food, art, and music for my family. Sharing my passion for travel with them was a truly meaningful experience!
Which destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?
Siena, Italy! Students are often attracted to big cities for their glamorous reputations, but smaller cities like Siena offer students a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to feel at home in a foreign place. I have had the pleasure of visiting our Siena program twice in recent years, and I am so impressed to see that our students get to know their local baristas, greet their neighbors on the streets, and identify strongly with their neighborhoods. Living somewhere with a slower pace of life and a smaller community can make study abroad even more meaningful. I encourage all students to look beyond the capital cities and travel hubs while choosing a study abroad destination. After all, you can be a tourist your whole life, but the opportunity to live and study abroad only comes once—maybe twice if you’re lucky!
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
When I started working at IES Abroad, I brought Spanish language skills, administrative experience, and a passion for international education. In the past eight years, I have developed many more professional skills related to management and leadership. Early in my career, a mentor encouraged me to “think strategically.” It took me a while to figure out what that meant, but now I’ve made strategic thinking a habit. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day of any job, and it’s so important to take a step back to innovate and to challenge the status quo.
Also, working with people from different backgrounds and with points of view—both domestically and abroad—has challenged me to become better listener and to develop a stronger awareness of my own biases and preconceived notions.
What unique qualities does your company possess?
My colleagues at IES Abroad are passionate about cultures, languages, the humanities, and looking at the world through a global lens. Working here has encouraged me to continue traveling, to stretch my comfort zone, and to see myself as part of a global community. The most exciting time of year is each October when our Center Directors from around the world come to Chicago for our Annual Conference. I am continually so impressed by their commitment to our students, their insight into the histories and cultures of their home countries, and their perspectives on the United States. I also have to mention the other major highlight of working at IES Abroad—our international potlucks cannot be beat!
Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of your current team.
In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Turkey, France, Belgium, and other locations where our students live and travel, I am so proud to see IES Abroad staff around the world step into action to support our students.
The tragic events of November 13 in Paris had a huge impact on our students since we operate several programs there. In the hours after the attacks, we swiftly ensured the safety of not only our students enrolled in our programs in Paris, but also IES Abroad students studying all over Europe and North Africa who may have traveled to France for the weekend. After the initial task of contacting every student and parent to confirm their safety, our staff helped students process the events with facilitated discussions, presentations from faculty about the historical and political climate in France, and support from local English-speaking counselors. Our response to this and other recent tragedies affirms my confidence that I am part of an organization that deeply cares about the well-being of students.