Staff Spotlight: Grace Twardy

Senior Coordinator of Student Relations


Grace holds a Bachelor's in Global Studies & Spanish from Providence College and has studied abroad in Nicaragua, Tijuana, and Seville. Her own study abroad experiences are what inspire her to help others have life-changing opportunities abroad, and she loves her job advising students who choose to study abroad with CYA in Athens!

What is your favorite travel memory?

It's hard to choose just one, but a recent favorite travel memory of mine was when I went to Greece last year to visit my colleagues in Athens. I had the weekend free, and I wanted to see what the island life was like, despite it being the off season.

My colleague had recommended taking a day trip to the island of Aegina, which is a short ferry ride from Athens. It was my first time traveling completely on my own, and I am so happy that I chose to make this little excursion. Aegina is a beautiful, little port town, and it was great to be able to get out of the city, read a book by the ocean, and just have a delicious meal as the sun was setting. There was no specific agenda, and I was able to roam freely, not being tied to anyone else's schedule besides my own.

I encourage everyone to take a trip by themselves and just wander, without any expectations; I think it's the best way to get a feel for a place and simply appreciate being present.

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

Working for a smaller organization has allowed me to be involved in lots of different initiatives and see what it takes for a study abroad program to be successful. After a few months of working with CYA, I was promoted and the nature of my work changed where I am now responsible for preparing our students for life-changing experiences abroad.

CYA has given me the opportunity to continue to learn and grow in this field, to connect with our partners, and to get to know first-hand the beautiful country of Greece and its people. I work directly with my colleagues in Athens every day, and it is in this sense in which we are truly practicing intercultural communication and learning from one another all the time. There is always something new and exciting developing here at CYA, and I know I will continue to learn and grow being a part of it.

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

Honestly, the best stories I hear from returned students are ones that deal with the relationships they have built during their time abroad. It's so nice to see who ends up becoming friends and the adventures they take on together. I met with one of our alumni who told me all about the trips her and her friends took while they were abroad, and now that she is graduating this semester, they are all coming to visit her for a reunion.

We see these strong connections between our students and staff over in Athens as well. We always hear of students returning to our Academic Center to visit, even years later, and it's a testament to the amazing students and people that are a part of the CYA family.

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

We have an incredible new partnership with DIS, where we are offering a new summer course called, "Tasting Culture: Nordic and Mediterranean Food, Tradition, and Nutrition." In this course, students will have the opportunity to travel throughout Denmark and Greece, gaining a firm understanding of the study of food in its social and cultural aspects, of the commonalities and differences between these two cuisines, and how they are a reflection of their societies. Being able to spend four weeks in two countries is pretty incredible, and what better way to get to know these communities than by getting a "taste" of their cultures for yourself?!

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

One thing that I think makes our organization unique is that we are made up of 86% women! But, I think most recently, it's been great to see how CYA has grown and continued to capture the interest of students who wish to study abroad. We had a record number of students join us this upcoming spring, and that is a testament to all the hard work everyone has been doing: from our recruitment efforts; to adding new courses; to creating a vibrant ambassador program. It's a team effort, and it's great to see your efforts paying off and for others to see value in the work you are doing.

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

For me, I think the biggest factor in being successful is sharing a common goal and everyone believing in that goal. Success is obtained by passionate, hard-working people working together. Of course, it's important to work in an environment that is welcoming of new ideas and challenges, but believing in the importance of the work you are doing and the mission of your organization is what motivates those to rise up to the challenge. That's why I feel so lucky to work in a field where we all believe in the work we do and recognize the importance of what we all are doing to bring people together from around the world.