Staff Spotlight: Brent Kirkland

Study Abroad Advisor


What is your favorite travel memory?

While traveling from Krakow to Prague, our bus (that I remember to be more of a Winnebago) let us off at a small bus station that looked like a shack. Unsure which country we had arrived at, we grabbed our packs and walked, doing our best to communicate with locals to find where the train station was.

As we navigated through the cobblestone tight, winding streets, pointing and gesturing only to get loud hacks and coughing sounds in return from whatever language we had encountered, we crossed a bridge with a large blue sign: Česká republika. Soon after, we followed the bridge and found the train station.

The most memorable part of that experience that lives with me today is that although we couldn’t point to a map to show our mothers or fathers where we were, ultimately we learned how to trust ourselves, and how to communicate with others who speak a much foreign language to find a resolution to our problem.

No matter where we are in the world—physically or mentally—we can always find confidence from within to survive any situation we arrive into.

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

Each day brings great opportunity to see new challenges and learn how to find resolutions. None of us are experts, and each situation is unique in its own way. Much like I learned through stumbling into the Czech Republic, I’ve learned to first take a deep breath.

Then, tell myself that it is okay not to have an immediate solution, but to find the confidence within myself (and encourage those around me to do the same) to find a resolution.

As in life, there are not guides or policies that dictate the future. We can only learn through experience and develop enough confidence in ourselves to trust instincts, and have the calm and will to push forward whether our judgement leads us in the right direction or not.

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

This past year, I had a student who contacted me with questions about student visas in Spain. I asked if they were planning to study abroad again, but they had told me they got a job there.

Before departure, the student had shown no interest in finding a job abroad or asked about career opportunities, but after studying there, she was convinced that is where she wanted to move and make a life.

I was excited and inspired knowing USAC gave her the opportunity.

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

I would choose Accra, Ghana because it seems so unique in contrast to Reno, Nevada. Having already traveled and studied in developed and westernized countries, I think it would be extremely thrilling to go somewhere like Accra that I believe boasts a wealth of culture, but is limited to the westernized resources in which I’d been accustomed since birth.

In order to grow as people and improve our lives and this world, we must feel discomfort. Since it seems like such a new world from the one I’m used to, I think my cultural competence would explode!

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

USAC is genuine. We’ve grown greatly from when I first walked in the doors for my first advising session as a student here, but to this day we still feel like a small startup company that is interested in individuality.

As an Advisor, I’m okay with suggesting other locations or programs, because our aim as a company is not simply to grow numbers, especially monetarily. We are focused on providing the greatest, most engaging experience possible for each individual student, just as I was fortunate to have when I made the choice to study in the Basque Country.

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

Caring about those you serve. Yes, I earn a pay stub for the work I do at USAC. Yet, I know each project I do - from mundane processing to revamping the way we deliver crucial pre-departure information - is to prepare our students for a cultural experience that could change their lives and shape our world’s future.

As we move forward with a more engaged global population, we must learn to respect each other on an individual level. Understanding and acting on this principle not only will benefit companies and workers, but it will bring unity to all involved with the relationship-building process.

It’s with those we serve who we have most direct contact. When we see this process improving their lives, it does the same for us in return.