What position do you hold at Sol Education Abroad? What has been your career path so far?
I am a program coordinator at Sol Education Abroad. I oversee many tasks here from recruiting to helping create and plan all aspects of our study abroad programs.
I was a Biology major and studied abroad in Mérida, Venezuela. That experience led me to pursue a double major with Spanish. I got my first job out of college working for a study abroad program in Costa Rica for a year. After that, I was hooked! I jumped on board with Sol Education Abroad because I wanted to be a part of an organization that had a style of holistic programming that was student-focused.
Did YOU study abroad? If so, where did you go and what inspired you to go?!
I studied abroad in Mérida, Venezuela on a faculty-led program. Honestly, what inspired me to go was sitting in on an advanced Spanish class at UT Austin not being able to speak a word of Spanish. Others around me could and I soon realized it was all because they had studied abroad. It was obvious that the only way to truly learn the language was by living it. After that it took some time to figure out funding and fortunately my grandparents helped pay for me to go.
What does the future hold for Sol - any new programs to share?
The exciting news on the Sol front is all the great opportunities we've been developing for greater integration with Spanish speakers. I think this is where many of the larger programs fall short. We've got unique volunteer and service learning components in every one of our four locations now and also language exchange opportunities.
We honestly just want to be known as the most knowledgeable and personable study abroad program out there. Affordable programming is also a focus for us now and in the future. We want to continue to build awareness with students and universities that we are a knowledgeable program that only has 4 sites that we know like the back of our hand. We consider this a focused-boutique approach to study abroad programming. We're not trying to be a Wal-Mart.
What about the future of the industry? How do you think study abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?
We see three main areas of change: I think on one hand more students will go abroad because you'll have students whose parents went abroad. I think it will become a more natural part of the college experience. On the east coast you run into students whose grandparents even studied abroad in Spain. I think you'll find that more common across the country. And, of course, universities have campaigns to raise awareness of study abroad and increase students going abroad.
I think the only thing fighting against that is our digital world where it seems there might be a trend for people becoming less intrepid - less adventurous. I hope the power of a very real and un-replicable experience such as international travel and education won't be lost or be affected by that.
Which study abroad destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?
I think Oaxaca City, Mexico is most underrated. Americans don't realize that the violence in Mexico is regional and not all areas of the country are affected. Oaxaca has no US travel advisory and Malia Obama was even there with her school in March 2012. It’s such a fascinating and welcoming city and with fewer Americans going there it provides a very real and off-the-beaten path study abroad experience. For overrated, I don’t think any of ours are. I think if it was something overrated we wouldn’t have chosen it!