Staff Spotlight: Julia Stewart

Title:
Associate Director

Photos

Julia is an experienced program director with a history of launching and growing mission-based organizations. She previously worked on a team that helped start and grow over 100 companies, both for-profit and non-profit in the sectors of food, health, education, and water management.

Julia has a strong international background: she earned her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon; she has traveled to 27 different countries and lived abroad in Switzerland, Hong Kong, and India. In 2015, Julia was one of 12 Fellows selected from around the world to participate in the Global Good Fund, a competitive leadership development program.

Julia is passionate about volunteering and is actively supporting Mother Miracle, a K-12 school in India that serves exceptionally intelligent children from the slums. Julia also volunteers as a mentor for budding women entrepreneurs in India through the program WeConnect.

Formerly, Julia was a founding member of the Awesome Foundation in New Orleans and was selected to Grist’s list of 50 innovators to watch.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memory is when I met Mother Miracle in Rishikesh, India. We shared an informal pizza dinner together, and I was so inspired by her story that I ended up volunteering for her school nearly every day for five months.

I helped Mother Miracle School build an updated website, execute a fundraising strategy, and increase overall awareness. What I loved about that experience was that it just showed how much things can change in a short amount of time.

After one dinner, I postponed my future travel plans and committed myself full-heartedly to a cause that I believed in. I learned that, while travel for the sake of seeing new things is fun and enjoyable, I find much more satisfaction when I have a clear purpose and am building a meaningful community.

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

Since beginning to work for Global Routes, I have had the amazing opportunity to hear from countless students about the impact of their experience. "Life-changing" is one of the most common words used by our alumni to summarize their experience.

Before working for Global Routes, I could only really speak for my own experience with travel and how it's positively shaped my worldview and who I am as a person. After hearing from our alumni, I feel that I am much more certain that travel is one of the most effective methods of building compassion, understanding, confidence, adaptability, and problem-solving skills - which, I believe, are some of the most important qualities needed to thrive in the 21st century.

Through my work with Global Routes, I have really been able to witness the impact that immersive international experiences have on high school students, and I am consistently impressed by the students' shift in attitudes, increased global awareness, and matured self-understanding that comes from just a four- or five-week program.

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

The best story I've heard from one of our alumni students was from a student named Sophie. At the age of 15, she had very little travel experience outside of the United States prior to signing up for her first Global Routes program. She ended up traveling with Global Routes for two consecutive years: the first year she went to the Caribbean, and the following year, to Peru.

Sophie learned a tremendous amount during these two summers. In her words, "the program played a big role in fostering successful communication and collaboration between people with diverse backgrounds and world views." She also mentioned that the program "taught her how to take responsible risks and that it's OK to make mistakes." My favorite lesson Sophie shared was about self-acceptance: "I was challenged to love myself during a time of my life when it felt inappropriate and alien to take ownership of my personality."

These are huge life lessons and ones that last a lifetime. In fact, Sophie's experience with Global Routes inspired her academic path. The Spanish exposure she had in Peru prompted her to study abroad in Spain for a year, which then enabled her to pursue graduate study in Latin American linguistics. Sophie is currently a PhD student in documentary and descriptive linguistics, a field devoted to creating a record of the world’s linguistic and cultural diversity due to the fact that the majority of the world’s 7,000 languages are projected to fall silent by the end of the century.

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

If I could choose any Global Routes program, I would go to Tanzania. I have not had the opportunity to travel very much in Africa, and it is one of our most remote and culturally immersive programs.

The itinerary is truly outstanding: safari, homestay, service work, hiking, and sailing.

Students start on Safari in Tarangire, Lake Manyara and the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater, which are home to lion, giraffe, zebra, elephant, and rhinoceros. Following the safari, students live and work alongside community members and are fully immersed in Tanzanian daily life. The group also has the opportunity to hike the fertile slopes of Mt. Meru and experience the “spice isle” of Zanzibar while sailing the clear waters of the Indian Ocean in a wooden dhow!

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

I really appreciate and respect the fact that Global Routes sincerely wants the best and most immersive experience for its students. Relationships are number one for Global Routes, and this includes parents, students, our in-country staff, host families, leaders, and supporters.

We are a mission-driven organization in that we do everything we can to build meaningful cross-cultural connections and to foster personal growth, global awareness, and mutual understanding.

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

Authenticity and sincerity can be felt, and these qualities lead to trust. When it comes to leading programs for students and adults halfway around the world - trust is number one.

Our relationship with each student and parent is personalized, meaningful, and genuine, and this encourages our alumni to stay invested in Global Routes over the course of their lifetime.