Originally from Switzerland, I came to Argentina to study a Master's degree in International Relations. I took the extracurricular activities to heart and now have an Argentine girlfriend and an outgoing two-year-old son who becomes the center of attention at every Road2Argentina event.
Simon, tell us about yourself.
What is your favorite travel memory?
It's hard to decide between climbing an Andean peak in Bolivia; snorkeling with turtles, sea lions, and penguins on the Galapagos; the Rio Carnival; or dune walking and safaris in Namibia.
Actually, I'll pick a three weeks’ camping adventure in Southern Patagonia with my best mate. It's one of the least populated and most desolate areas in the world and in summer the sun shines until very late. We hiked around ten hours a day and saw some of the most stunning and remote landscapes: calving glaciers, high granite towers, and jagged peaks close to the world’s southernmost town, Puerto Williams.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
A lot. When my friend Will Zupan asked me back in January 2016 if I was willing to take over Road2Argentina with him, I first thought that I – a journalist finishing his IR Masters - would never be able to run a business, or not yet at least. At that time, the company was operating in the red and the old owner had decided to close down Road2Argentina and focus on his other business. Saving Road2Argentina seemed a Herculean task.
We decided to give it a chance and were thrown into the deep end. Fortunately, all worked out. Since then, I learn something new every day and I’m really glad that we took on the challenge. I learned to give new ideas a chance, no matter how unattainable they seem at first. I also enjoy a lot working with my co-worker and friend Will.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
A former Roadie (Road2Argentina participant) contacted us a few weeks ago offering to invite the current program participants for dinner. It was the first time he came back to Buenos Aires after his immersion program in 2009.
When we met him, he was enthusiastically telling us that he had the best summer of his life thanks to Road2Argentina. Even though almost a decade had passed, he could still remember the details. He also met one of his best friends during his program.
It was so great to see that Road2Argentina has such a great impact on people’s lives and boosted my motivation to keep up the good work.
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
That is a really tough one. I would probably choose our internship with a member of the Argentine Congress. Interns usually research about topics of their personal interest, for example about trade relations between their home countries and Argentina, or about women’s empowerment in Argentina -- currently a hot topic here.
If you do well, it is even possible that your idea results in a law in the end. Interns also get the chance to visit congressional debates and participate in high-level meetings.
As an alternative, I would volunteer in our animal conservation program where they artificially incubate condor eggs and breed the chicks with latex puppets looking just like a real condor. Those birds get huge and observing how quickly they grow is fascinating.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
Road2Argentina puts participants first. We help our Roadies put together the perfect immersion program that exceeds their expectations and offers them a unique way to see Buenos Aires. We are always there for them in case they have a problem.
We value the social component a lot and take our Roadies to cultural events twice a week. We show them how to prepare empanadas or how Argentinians drink mate, a local tea (there are some rules).
The mix between high-quality placements, our 24-7 support, and our social group of people from all over the world, also including locals, make our program unique.
This also reflects in our feedback and reviews which are all positive. This is an appreciation which means a lot to us and makes us proud.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
You should definitely dream big and create a work environment where new ideas form. It is also important to have a motivated team with an open and critical mind.