What position do you hold at SPI? What has been your career path so far?
John: As a Program Director here at SPI, I am responsible for facilitating our programs in Spain. When I started here, I was an Admissions Advisor, answering parents' questions about studying abroad and assisting with our San Sebastian program during the summer. It feels great to have a big impact on the quality of our programs and to be a resource for students who are thinking about studying abroad!
My degree is in Urban Planning, so working in the Education Management industry was a change, but I couldn't imagine doing anything else. A lot what was instilled in me in my planning education, including the need for collaboration and front-loaded thinking, has directly helped me in facilitating programs abroad.
Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?
John: In high school, I studied with SPI in San Sebastian, Spain. The same program that I now direct. It wasn't my decision to go abroad that summer. My mom signed me up without telling me. I had the best time of my life and was thrilled to be able to practice Spanish in such practical situations every day. To facilitate that same experience for students today feels really great.
I realized quickly during my first visit that San Sebastian and the Basque Country is a special place. It provides good insight on the different cultures within Spain and and is a bit off the beaten path. It's typically not the first place that comes to mind when someone envisions Spain and I like that.
What about the future of the industry? How do you think study abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?
John: I think that, especially in the high school niche, a major trend is accessibility. Year over year, the number of high school students traveling and studying abroad grows. It's a great opportunity to improve resumes for college applications and a lot of families realize that.
It's a shame when people dismiss an international education as only an option for the affluent. The students that participate in our programs come from diverse backgrounds and that combined with the cultural immersion that comes from living a daily routine in another country is very valuable. In 10 years, I see high school study abroad becoming as common as going to soccer camp.
What was your favorite traveling experience?
John: I travel a lot so it's hard to single out an experience as my favorite but I'll try! Last year, I went to Paris after the programs ended. It was just me staying there, so I had the freedom to really explore the city. I feel like I spent half my time in the Paris Metro but still it was great to literally lose myself in the city. That experience is definitely among my favorites.
Also, when I was in college, my friends and I drove down Hwy 1 from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles. We were winding our way through Big Sur during the sunset and it was amazing. What I love most about traveling is that you get out of your normal surroundings and have cool experiences that turn into even better memories.
Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of the SPI team.
John: I really respect the work we do at SPI Study Abroad. We all like what we're doing and we like working with each other. It's a joy to work here and I feel proud of our team every day.
I feel especially proud every time that my colleagues or myself have an idea that is really worth developing, and we are able to work together to implement it without losing focus on what made the idea great in the first place. That happens all the time here and it makes it a great work environment.