Staff Spotlight: Abby Pauley

Program Manager, Cartago


Abby originally hales from the Northern part of the US where she spent large amounts of time playing soccer and basketball, being a part of Latin quiz bowl and the Math team, and developing a strong affinity for language. This passion has led her from Europe to Oceania to Asia to Latin America through international experiences both ethical and less ethical, which has honed her passion for creating ethical, international experiences that encourage growth and critical analysis and leave both the individual and the community better for their involvement.


What is your favorite travel memory?

I don't have a single favorite travel memory, rather a collection of memories that swim into each other. All involve a long and winding road, some are on the South Island of New Zealand while others are closer to home in Big Sur, California and sometimes I'm in a car or a motorbike or a pushbike. Most have a sheer cliff side that drops into murky, churning water below with a cloudy, gray sky overhead, but some offer a deep cerulean pool down below that reflects the cloudless blue sky. The memories change and I'm not always sure they're really memories, but I find peace and perspective in them. They offer me an appreciation of motion - a time when I both felt like everything around me was going incredibly fast, but I was able to just stop and look at my reflection in the pool below and appreciate that moment.

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

I've grown up a lot working for GVI. At risk of aging myself in one direction or the other, I started at GVI in my mid-20s with ideas of what I wanted to accomplish both personally and professionally, but not always the confidence or the tools to put myself in a place to accomplish them. In the past two years, I have become more competent at critically analyzing myself and the communities that I own to make them better. And I am constantly working on finding peace in the process and tranquility in the fact that it will take ages to get there sometimes and that's okay too.

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

I've had a lot of really amazing participants in the past and it's hard to choose just one, because I think the "best" story is so subjective and every participant's journey and return is unique. I am always so touched when a participant reaches out to me after their return just to update me on their life - to me, this shows trust and affection on the base, something I'm always striving for. And I am particularly touched when they have life updates that fill them with pride and joy (like new jobs, acceptances into degree programs, or that they're focusing on themselves and their mental) or when they just reach out to ask me what TV show I'm watching or tell me what they're watching - a nice way to stay connected and to keep me relevant.

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

That's a toughie because GVI has a ton of really cool bases and I get to know all of the different staff teams on each base and know how cool they all are. But I have a strong love of water and so I think I would probably choose the Seychelles (learning how to dive is a bit of a dream of mine and also the Program Manager in the Seychelles has amazing hair so I'd love to get some tips) or Mexico (again, I really want to learn to dive and I love Mexico and, although I don't have a beard, the Program Manager in Mexico has an amazing beard).

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

GVI is unique because of its relatively huge size (we have bases in almost every continent), across the board commitment to health and safety, but still finding a way to make each base and project unique and special. I think that the emphasis that GVI puts on creating a band of international programs, but the freedom it allows each individual program to have to ensure that it does its country, culture, and community justice is very special.

I'm lucky enough to be able to hear from every base once a week and get to hear their successes as well as challenges and I'm always proud to hear how each and every base cherishes the community that they're in and works doggedly to make sure that our projects are tirelessly crafted in conjunction with community partners and members to create something that is beneficial to so many different places in the world.

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

I think that flexibility is one of the most important things in the international, experiential education sector. The cliché example in this is the pandemic and how in a matter of days, almost every major experiential education company shut down and sent students back to their homes, many losing in-person programming for at least a year. It required a huge amount of flexibility in creating new programming and adapting existing programming for these companies to be able to continue.

That being said, it's a crazy time right now for travel and experiential education and we've lost a lot of good compatriots in the past couple years through no fault of their own and I would like to recognize some of the challenges these past years have brought to us and acknowledge the unpredictable path that we've all been on.