Staff Spotlight: Jaume Gelabert

Director for Spain and Cuba Programs

What is your favorite travel memory?

The first time I ran the orientation for our first semester in Cuba - I'd been there twice already.

I loved seeing our students' faces with the amazement of the novelty, and at the same time the seduction of the old 50s cars, the run down buildings, the wide smiles of Cubans, the intense heat, the palm trees.

It was a new world for them and I was right there witnessing their excitement!

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

I've grown a lot. Students change little by little every semester. It's unnoticeable from one semester to the other, but looking back they're not the same as when I started with Arcadia in 2009 or with study abroad in 2006.

I've learned to understand their world, their concerns, their hopes. I've learned a lot about the fact that what we, as administrators and faculty, may find exciting is not exactly what interests them, and vice versa.

I work hard at finding ways to get them engaged, involved and in helping them have a great semester academically and personally.

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

Three statements I've heard from countless students that always resonate with me are:

"Thank you for knowing better than me that my initial preoccupations and homesickness would fade and I would have such a great time in Toledo."

"Thank you for your patience and for being always in a good mood."

And, "You challenged my views on things, and you also showed me with respect how to put the little things in perspective. I won´t complain about the little stuff so much anymore."

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

This is a tough one, but I'd say Cuba. It's going through so many deep, fast, unexpected changes. The U.S. has improved its relations with the island, and Cuba embraces it with open arms.

People are outstanding, welcoming, friendly, they love Americans and it's a spiritual oasis.

People are curious, are not glued to their smartphones, they talk, they play domino, they laugh loudly, they joke all the time. It's such a great country.

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

I'm immensely proud to be an Arcadian. Our human capital is outstanding. All my Director colleagues in the world, our Dean, our Executive Director and all of our staff in Glenside or overseas share two common traits: a passion for education and a great devotion for this work.

It's so rewarding to be able to help students achieve their academic and personal goals and be an important part of it.

Behind what we do there is a great amount of work and unsung heroes who book classrooms, hotels, excursions, conference calls, it´s really a complex and fascinating world.

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

We don't sell shoes, we don't make movies, or build radios. We work with students who are in the potentially most interesting and life changing semester of their lives. So there is only one thing: a genuine interest in every single student, their world, their interests, their worries, their progress, their personal growth. I don't conceive doing this job in any other way.