What position do you hold at Global Routes? What has been your career path so far?
Alison: I am the admissions coordinator for Global Routes. I have led programs abroad in Latin America with Global Routes and Putney Student Travel, and domestically I have led service-adventure and wilderness programs on the East Coast with the University of Vermont.
I take pride in diversifying my career path to date and over the years I have landscaped, worked for a traveling crepe company at festivals and fairs, taught yoga to kids, and worked in fine dining.
Some life experiences outside of work that have contributed to my trajectory so far have been taking a gap year, studying abroad for a year in South America, working as an au pair in Europe, and participating on a Global Routes gap year program.
Did you volunteer abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?
Alison: My most significant volunteer experience was with Global Routes on a gap program, when I lived with a host family in Northern Tanzania and taught at the local high school. To this day, I say proudly that it was the single most formative experience of my life. Each day was filled with challenge, growth, and joy.
I was motivated to explore Global Routes’ programs because I was committed to taking a year away from school to learn about myself and work alongside those with whom I might not otherwise exchange living in suburban Massachusetts. I had no idea when I was applying for that program what a tremendous personal journey I was about to begin!
What is your favorite aspect of Global Routes' programs?
Alison: I love the intimacy of the Global Routes work environment; the size of our office and leader staff and the length of our leader orientation allows for us all to get to know one another very well. They are all inspiring and intrepid folks from such a wide background of experience and I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know everyone personally as well as professionally. We all learn from one another at Global Routes!
Another aspect I appreciate is how Global Routes takes extra steps in communicating with students pre- and post- program to make sure that all questions are answered and all needs are met. To me, this is a clear demonstration of Global Routes’ commitment to offer higher and higher quality programs year after year.
What's the best story you've heard of a volunteer's experience with Global Routes?
Alison: I have to share my personal story here, because it is a big part of me, and something I may have never found if not for my Global Routes program.
I maintain a relationship with one of my Tanzanian students from my Global Routes gap program, and we continue to be in touch on a regular basis. His name is Herman and he is one of the most charismatic, driven, and humble people I have ever met. Herman came to the U.S. in 2010 to attend summer camp on a full scholarship.
That summer, he learned to swim, hopped on a mountain bike, made friends from all over the world, and even rode a jetski. Now he’s back in Tanzania finishing up his secondary education and has dreams of being an American-educated electric engineer one day.
Though the future is unclear for both of us, so many people have been connected through this exchange, and he has a special place in the hearts of many. I’m so grateful for this friendship and authentic intercultural exchange that may have never came into my life if I didn’t make the decision to go to Tanzania with Global Routes.
Any tips for someone considering their first volunteer trip abroad?
Alison: Exchange is a great gift that bears many fruits, including invaluable perspective expansion, lessons from yourself about yourself, and some of the most unique friendships of your life, if not some of the greatest!
You can grow so much when you push yourself to thrive in a more challenging setting. Life is short; let yourself live it to the fullest!