My favorite travel memory was when I traveled to Australia and New Zealand in 2008 with a student group, as it was my first time outside of North America. The experience blew my mind because, for the first time, I was seeing things in real life that I had read about and saw in movies. We encountered kangaroos, saw the real mountain in person used as the fictitious Mt. Doom in Lord of the Rings (how cool is that!), and visited the Sydney Opera house.
Harrison is passionate about connecting people to places for the express purpose of adding value to their lives.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
My perspective on travel has changed drastically since becoming a program provider and not just a program participant because I am acutely aware of all the little details that go into making a travel experience not only enjoyable but as stress-free as possible.
My awareness of the needs and wants of travelers has skyrocketed as I spend a lot of my mental energy now on accommodating needs and, above all, serving those in our program.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
The best story I’ve heard from a returning student is one that I think is emblematic of all our program participants and the sorts of stories they bring with them back home after returning.
This particular program participant wanted to be in a small, rural area in Spain where they could walk through the Spanish countryside, meet locals, and see what Spain in the pueblo was really like. We helped them get a teaching position in a small town in Extremadura, Spain where the rhythm and pace of life were just that: stone roads, ancient buildings, and lots of life amongst the locals.
After finishing a year in the small town, our return participant told us stories about dinners with the other teachers at their school, the tranquility that came from the peaceful flow of life there, and the kind people they interacted with on a daily basis. Not a bad year at all!
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
I would choose our Teach English in Spain Program because it's the perfect blend between work and travel.
The teaching job itself does not only look great on a resume and pay well: it also allows for a unique window into the Spanish way of life that most travelers wouldn't ever get a chance to see. I would choose this program to interact with the students, have a coffee with my fellow teachers, and brainstorm together how we can impact the lives of the students at our school for the better.
I would also choose this program for the flexibility and time that it opens up to travel to other parts of Spain and the rest of Europe. I'd spend my weekdays enriching my students' lives, and my three-day weekends (yes, three-day weekends!) visiting cities like Berlin and Rome, as well as soaking up the sun in the south of Spain.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
I think our company is unique because we focus on the person and not the numbers.
We are always telling our program participants that they are not a number to us, which sounds obvious, but it's so easy for companies in this industry to forget that those participating in our programs are making incredible sacrifices to move from one country to another and that so much courage is involved on their part because, let's face it, international is fun but can be very scary! Because we understand that, we focus on serving those in our program.
Many a time we've been on the phone with a program participant to just listen to what they needed to share with someone, not because we could necessary fix their problem or better their situation, but because we understand that they are a person with fears, hopes, desires, and wants, and that we can play a role in making that person's life better by being there for them. I think this is what makes what we do and who we are unique.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
I think the biggest factor that has helped our program to be successful is, just what I’ve been saying, that it's all about the human element.
I see our job as designing a program that adds value to people’s lives. We fully understand that most people who come to Spain via our program aren't going to spend the rest of their lives in Spain but rather are wanting to live abroad for a year or two, and then return to their home countries to start a career, have a family, etc.
Because we understand that, we see our job as making those one or two years so incredibly awesome that anytime they look back on this time in their life they just smile.