Staff Spotlight: Alissa Marie Gildemann

Admissions Officer, Teach & Learn in Spain Program
Originally from the Seattle, WA area, Alissa has worked as an educator in New York, Texas, Washington State, and Spain. She holds a B.S. in Biology from Washington State University, is a certificated teacher in the USA, and has an M.A. in Bilingual and Multicultural Education from Instituto Franklin-UAH.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Listening to fado with the locals in a hole-in-the-wall bar in Lisbon, Portugal - so beautiful! Any time I have been willing to challenge myself and try something outside of my comfort zone (traveling alone, going places where I don't know if I will be able to communicate effectively, doing something in the spur of the moment), I have been lucky and had amazing, unforgettable experiences.

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

Working in a Spanish workplace that has many American and non-Spanish students has made me much more culturally aware of my own culture! I try to be cognizant of the underlying expectations that our students have and act as a cultural liaison as best I can. I think that in this job, as in any position working with students, I have learned to be empathetic and patient! (And maybe better at search engines).

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

It's difficult to choose just one best story from a returning student! I am always happy to hear from students who have been able to find their "niche" and are happy with what they are doing with their lives after completing our program, whether that means starting their own travel company, returning to the job they had before doing our program, working at an educational non-profit, continuing their education elsewhere, or trying something that they never thought they would or could!

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

I am a graduate of our Teach & Learn in Spain program (Master in Bilingual and Multicultural Education), which was an incredible experience for me and gave me the opportunity to live and gain experience (while not going into debt!). Best of all, it led to a job here at the program, which I do not think would have happened if I had not done this program and also gives me valuable insight into how to best serve our students.

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

We are a small group of hard-working people who really care about providing the best opportunity we can to our (mostly-international) students. We are the only program in Spain that allows foreigners to earn their Master's degree while completing a paid internship in a school, which is pretty special.

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

I think the biggest factor is the support we can provide our students! We are aware that students are putting a lot of trust in us, and we want them to know that they are in good hands and that we are here to support them - whether that means lending a sympathetic ear, making appointments and explaining bureaucratic processes to them, translating documents, or whatever else they need!