Staff Spotlight: Chiara Hutchison

Operations Director
Chiara has worked with SAI Programs since 2013, both in admissions and operations. She studied abroad in undergraduate and graduate school, and believes in its transformative power. In her current Operations role, Chiara is committed to making study abroad achievable for all students, and ensuring that SAI provides a supportive and welcoming environment to help students thrive.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I have been lucky to have done a lot of travel in my life, so it’s hard to pick a favorite, but one that stands out is a recent trip to Patagonia on a multi-day backpacking trek in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

I was on day 3 of the trek, and had woken up to a damp tent, heavy (and cold) rainfall, and seriously sore legs. I’d be lying if I said a part of me wasn’t reconsidering why I was doing the whole thing in the first place. On my 5th hour of hiking that day, as we started ascending a peak, the rain slowed, clouds parted, and in what felt like minutes the sky was blue.

The views from the peak were outstanding, breathtaking, inspiring, and rejuvenating all at once. I sat at the top, gazing at the views in every direction, and felt an overwhelming sense of pride and appreciation for everything that had brought me to that place. What’s travel without a little struggle to put everything into perspective?

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

I love all the stories of friendship, travel, language, challenge, achievement, growth, and so much more. But sometimes it’s the little successes that can change everything.

One story I love is that of an SAI student at Paris American Academy, studying fashion. PAA’s programs are intensive, and students get a full immersion into the French couture fashion world, working day and night to complete amazing work.

Our student had the enviable opportunity to intern at Paris Couture Fashion Week during her program. She worked double time to complete schoolwork and enjoy this opportunity. It was tough work, but at the end of her summer program, she knew she had accomplished something great. She had found inspiration for her life’s work.

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

In our line of work, I think that a personal touch is the most important factor for success. Students are setting off on the adventure of a lifetime, but it can also be overwhelming, scary, and uncomfortable.

Our job at SAI is to offer a helping hand, and more importantly a friendly face, to make the transition as smooth as possible.

When students stumble as they explore their independence, our friendly staff is there to offer encouragement, resources and support.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

This is a tough question, because I would honestly go on every single one, but if pressed I’d have to say our Sicily program. It’s one of the places I have already studied abroad, but it left such a permanent impression on me, that I feel a constant pull back.

Sicily is an island like no other that is an absolute treasure to discover. I would take Italian, volcanology and mafia history courses, as well as do an internship. Every moment in between I would be meeting locals, swimming in the sea, exploring the island, and living it up! Can I go tomorrow?!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I’d say the resounding sentiment within SAI is that it’s a big family. I am always amazed at how long staff have stayed at SAI, which is a testament to a great work culture, and a tight-knit community.

Our collaborative culture makes it so that staff can quickly mobilize to assist each other across many departments, which I believe is truly unique.