What position do you hold at SFS? What has been your career path so far?
I began my interest in International Educational Exchange in high school when I participated in an exchange to Alicante, Spain. While completing my B.A. at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, I spent my junior year abroad in Seville, Spain studying Spanish language, literature, and culture. I returned to the U.S. and began working in the International Programs Office at my university. I went on to receive my masters degree in International Relations from Lesley University in 2006.
I joined the SFS team in October 2007. Previous to joining SFS, I worked with CIEE on their Work & Travel Program. I'm thankful to have traveled extensively through Eastern Europe as well as Western Europe and parts of South America for work in the last few years.
Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?
I studied abroad in high school in Alicante, Spain and again during my Junior year of college in Sevilla, Spain. I chose to study abroad because of an inspiring teacher in high school who was able to demonstrate the value of cultural immersion for better language acquisition…if you are thirsty and no one around you understands English, you suddenly remember the word for water! I was also inspired to study abroad because of a curiosity about the world and other cultures, which has fully developed into an insatiable thirst for travel.
What is your favorite story of a student's experience with SFS?
It’s not even a story, it’s one line that a student wrote in a program evaluation in response to their overall rating and experience in the program… “I plan on changing the world. Thanks for the jump start!”. While it always makes me smile, and feel good about our work here at SFS, I believe this quote demonstrates the transformative experience study abroad and specifically SFS programs can have on a student.
What makes SFS programs stand apart from other program options?
I wish I knew about SFS when I studied abroad. With increasing options for international travel, it’s easy to travel to a place like Spain on vacation or perhaps volunteer for a few weeks. On SFS programs, however, you are part of a community and they value the research and work you are a part of. For example in Costa Rica, the SFS Center for Sustainable Development Studies is currently working with local residents to test water quality and clean up their watershed. Students are making a real impact on people’s lives and becoming active stewards of the environment. I think, more so than other study abroad programs, SFS inspires students to take action and instigate positive change around them.
What are you hoping to achieve with these new SFS program offerings?
SFS has successfully be running programs for over 30 years. As we create new programs, we wish to create a portfolio of programs that would offer something to all students, remain the leading provider of international environmental education for colleges & universities, and provide students with the most rigorous field research opportunity available.
Our new program “The Living Mekong” is going to be a particularly dynamic program. After decades of being inaccessible due to war, Cambodia is now presenting research opportunities for scientists to study habitats that have been inadvertently protected by conflict. Along with rapid development, there are frequent discoveries of new species. As the country develops, it is only with careful study and activism that these areas can be protected. By conducting research in the region, SFS stands to play a critical role in capacity-building through education and in benchmarking and monitoring the rapid changes to this biodiverse environmental system.