Staff Spotlight: Hannah Sutton

Assistant Director of Student Services


Hannah developed a passion for international education after spending a semester on IFSA's University College Dublin program. Returning to her IFSA roots as a Program Advisor in 2014, Hannah now serves as Assistant Director of Student Services and continues to advise students heading to Australia and New Zealand.

What is your favorite travel memory?

During my semester abroad, a friend and I planned to meet in Paris for a long weekend. We traveled separately and I spoke no French, but I managed the airport and the metro without issue. I was feeling confident when I got off the train. I strode up the steps with purpose, fully expecting to find the hotel right across the street...and it was nowhere to be found.

The signs around me were all in French, there were few people around and it was starting to rain. It was my first time in a country where English wasn't the official language and I didn't know anyone. I was completely overwhelmed. After a moment of internal panic, I found a bus stop with a map and figured out where I was. After some trial and error, I eventually navigated myself to the side street where my hotel was hidden away.

My friend’s train was delayed, so I had the evening to myself. Emboldened by my earlier success, I decided to walk around and explore the neighborhood. I eventually made my way to the Seine and spent some time people watching and reflecting on how lucky I was to be in that moment. It was the first time I felt truly independent, the first time I really explored a place on my own. And it's a time that I often think back on when I need a reminder to push through those challenging moments!

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

When I started working for IFSA (my first international education job, and my first full-time job after college), I was passionate about international education in the sense that I thought everyone should study abroad and that was that. I didn't think far beyond checking that experience off the bucket list.

In the five-plus years that I've been here, I've developed a deeper understanding of what can be gained from exposing ourselves to new cultures and new ideas, and I've had a chance to reflect on how my study abroad experience shaped me in ways that I didn't realize at the time. Now more than ever, it's important that we set our students up with the tools they need, not only to have their study abroad experience but to understand and unpack it so they can apply that experience and the lessons they learned abroad to their day to day lives.

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

Several years ago, we had a Marine Science student who studied at James Cook University in Australia. The program did not offer any internship or research opportunities, but the student was looking for some kind of hands-on experience.

During her time abroad, our resident staff helped connect her with researchers studying flatback sea turtles. The student was able to participate in some groundbreaking research and even contributed to a paper that was accepted for a scientific journal. It was one of the first major student success stories I had heard after I started at IFSA and I was so impressed to see that our students could actually play a role in shaping the research future students would read.

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

I would, hands down, study on our University of Otago program in Dunedin, New Zealand. I was an English Literature major in college and Otago offers a fascinating array of Literature papers, and I'm always a little jealous of my students who get to sign up for classes like "Tartan Noir: Scottish Crime Fiction".

Our New Zealand resident staff also host some truly excellent excursions and co-curricular activities, like an overnight stay at a Māori marae during orientation, a visit to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, and an overnight cruise on the Doubtful Sound. I'm not sure it gets much better than that!

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

I think IFSA's future-focused approach is what makes us unique. We aim to offer programming and support that sets students up to truly understand how their experiences can shape what they do beyond study abroad. And through our Exploring Community & Culture Class, and the introduction of our Global Flagships, we provide students with opportunities to consider their study experience in a global context. It's not just about having a successful semester in one location, but it's considering how that experience fits into the bigger picture.

I'm so proud to be a part of a team that not only creates these kinds of intercultural opportunities for students but also ensures to meet each student where they are in order to take advantage of the opportunities in front of them. Success looks different for every student!

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

Communication. In order to be successful, we need to be prepared to listen to each other and listen to our students. We need to engage in discourse, consider conflicting opinions, and be prepared to try new things when necessary. If the lines of communication are open and we are willing to listen to what others have to say, everyone benefits in the long run.