Sara is a Senior Program Manager at Greenheart Travel, and manages their Teach in Thailand, Colombia, and Myanmar programs. Sara has lived abroad in South Korea, Costa Rica, and onboard the MV Explorer with Semester at Sea, but currently lives in San Francisco, USA.
What is your favorite travel memory?
This past year I had a destination wedding in the city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Being able to share my love of travel with my close friends and family was the ultimate travel memory for me. Many of my friends had never heard of San Miguel and some were a little nervous to travel outside of the US - so seeing them have a great time and get over the initial "culture shock" was the best feeling! And churros instead of wedding cake was a plus too!
How have you changed since working for your current company?
I started working at Greenheart Travel when I was 22 so I've changed a lot! I think working here has taught me to be even more open-minded when it comes to other cultures. I have lived abroad in South Korea and Costa Rica myself, but I am also surrounded by coworkers who have lived in Thailand, Ghana, Spain, Mexico, China, Austria, Peru, Argentina... you get the point.
All of us have different experiences and stories to tell, so even though I haven’t been to some of these countries, I get insight into what the culture is like from my coworkers (and participants!) on a daily basis. We push each other to be constantly learning and open to new ideas.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
I have heard of multiple marriages and babies! Some of my participants have ended up married to one another after meeting on the program, but I also have quite a few participants who met someone in their host country that they ended up getting married to or having kids with. Many of them are living in their host countries permanently now, and speak the language fluently. I’d say that is the ultimate cultural exchange!
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
I would choose to do our Teach English in Italy program. I am a total Italian food and wine lover and would love the chance to get to live with an Italian host family for 3 months. I can only imagine the pasta, gelato, and awesome experiences I'd get to have! Some our our participant's host families have even lived on an Italian wineries, which would be an absolute dream. I always swoon over our participants photos traveling around Europe on this program.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
We are a pretty small non-profit organization (only 9 of us!) which means we have a limited amount of manpower and budget. I'm really proud of what we've been able to accomplish with our hard work in developing Greenheart Travel as a brand and business.
All of my coworkers work really hard and are excited to come to work. We all really believe in the work we are doing, and I think that shines through.
A lot of time participants are surprised to learn that we aren't a huge corporation with a ton of employees and I think that has to do with the determination of our small team. We want Greenheart Travel to succeed because we have all partaken in programs like ours! We even have 3 Greenheart Travel alumni that become permanent staff that I sent to Thailand and Myanmar as their program manager!
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
In this line of work, I think the most important thing is to be upfront, transparent, and honest. When you are participating in a program like this, you aren’t signing up for a vacation; this is a true cultural immersion program. If I told all of my participants that every day was going to be wonderful and sunshine and rainbows, they’d experience a big shock when they got there.
Many days will be great, sure, but you will also have some really hard days. Being upfront and transparent is a huge factor in why our participants are able to adjust and go into the experience with the right expectations.