Staff Member Spotlight: Jonathan George

Title
Program Director: Spain & Morocco, Southeast Asia

Photos

Jonathan spent 15 years working overseas as a tour guide, SCUBA instructor and bicycle tour leader in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Central America and South America.

He returned to the USA to complete his Masters in Education, then began leading field programs for Carpe Diem. He now works full time in the Carpe Diem Education office to help create high quality, experiential education semesters in Spain & Morocco, and Southeast Asia.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Driving the road from Sierra Leone to Liberia. I had driven a small car from Switzerland down the West coast of the African continent with friends, and we had finally reached a road we were not sure we could pass. We waded through muddy ponds, built bridges, and were genuinely exhausted. After three days, we stopped in a small village to ask if we could pitch our tents. We were welcomed in, and spend the evening sharing about our lives, were fed a wonderful meal, and given our first hot water shower in weeks. The kindness of strangers never fails to amaze me, and I always feel I have more to learn about giving and generosity.

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

Prior to working for Carpe Diem Education, I often found myself traveling very un-intentionally. I tended to be a "consumer" of travel and experience and was not really participating in my own experience as much as I could have been. My work with Carpe Diem has helped me to begin questioning my reasons for travel and has helped me to learn how to pull meaning and growth from the experiences I have had. Carpe has helped me to approach travel as a very intentional experience, one which never seems to stop having something to teach me about life.

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

I don't know if I have a favorite story from a returned student. What I most enjoy is seeing fear beginning to be removed from student's lives, being replaced with awareness and a desire to learn from the world.

I've met students years later who began their program terrified to step out the door of the hostel, now telling me that they are exploring their hometown, having new experiences, and planning further travels. Their entire outlook on the world has changed for the better, and it has helped to make their lives more fulfilling. Helping to facilitate this growth is the most rewarding aspect of my position.

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

At this moment, I would choose to go on our Spain & Morocco program. Northern Africa is an incredible part of the world that I can't seem to get enough of. I constantly find myself drawn back here, exploring souks, sipping tea, sharing a conversation with people who are often just as curious about my life as I am of theirs. Morocco is beautiful, diverse, the food is excellent, and I always feel welcomed as a guest when I come here.

Being able to see the complex ties between Spain and Morocco, Northern Africa and Southern Europe, and realizing that what many people often think of as separate and apart from each other, are actually intrinsically linked and inseparable, is an incredible realization.

Learning languages and looking into the topic of Human Movement in this part of the world is a wonderful and eye-opening experience that I'm excited to be a part of every day.

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

Carpe Diem Education really takes the time to question our actions and activities of our programs, and our presence in the areas in which we work. While this does not make Carpe Diem Education unique, I really enjoy working with a team that first asks challenging questions about community engagement, what relationships we hold with our program partners, and considers our impact both on our program partners, as well as our students.

I'm especially proud of our Overseas Educators who lead our programs. The OE's are our heart and soul. They work hard for our students, walking a fine balance between educator, mentor and group member. They are experts in group dynamics, and Carpe Diem Education places a high value on Community in our programs. They help to bring the group together and offer a steady hand in times of difficulty. They realize that explicitly teaching the social/emotional skills of living and traveling in a community is actually one of the most important aspects of a Carpe Diem Education semester, and they want to share these skills and lessons with their students.

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

I feel honesty and integrity are the most important attributes to success. I feel proud to work for Carpe Diem Education as I know that the programs we are helping to facilitate are an honest look into the world. We are always questioning our intentions, making sure that we are putting forth our best effort, and that our efforts are what is beneficial and needed for our students and our program partners, as the world is constantly changing.