What position do you hold at Giles Brooker Education and why do you like working there?
I've been working with the Giles Brooker Group for over 10 years now. I’m the Managing Director of Giles Brooker Education and Giles Brooker Academy based in India but am actually a New Zealand citizen since I migrated to New Zealand in 1996. I share my time between New Zealand and India so get the best of both worlds.
We work on developing two-way pathways for education (and sometimes three-ways connecting institutions in three or more countries). I really enjoy being able to share the education origins and focus of the companies and find ways to provide transformative experiences to people, and developing collaborations that are mutually respectful and build on the strengths of our collaborative partners to create something innovative and exciting.
Have you been on a program abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?
In some ways my life has been a program abroad since I first went to New Zealand. I studied and worked there (gaining my second degree as well as bringing up my children) and had many opportunities to learn about a new culture – but also and importantly to reflect and learn more about my own, using the new perspectives and paradigms of my new country.
In recent years I’ve had opportunities to travel quite widely, to the US (to visit my daughter and her children now living in North Carolina), to the UK and France (to learn more about wine and cheese of course) and to other countries in South-East Asia.
How do your study tours differ from others?
We think our programs offer great opportunities to focus on niche areas and issues and to really engage with their target culture. And I’m proud to play a key role in the process, and particularly to bring international students to my first home of southern India – to introduce them to an important but surprisingly unknown part of the country.
All of our programs are developed in partnership with respected institutions in the countries and give participants new and targeted insights into how the country works. Our groups are small where everyone gets opportunities to engage. Our schedules include learning alongside cultural experiences. And working with our partner institutions ensures that you get local insights, meet local students and make local friendships that can lead to exciting professional collaborations in the future. Our collaborative partners offer very high standards of learning and also of accommodation and boarding facilities. We have been working with our partners for many years now and we know and trust them totally.
What is your favorite story of a participant's experience in the program?
The best experiences for me are the transformations within the participants’ lives. Have a look at these quotes from surveys we’ve done:
“It didn’t take long into five weeks for me to realize this, and that’s when I started having one of the best experiences of my life. Everything I thought I knew about India was completely wrong, and the more time I spent there the more apparent it became that it is a culture so rich and complex, that instead of trying to understand it all it was easier to just embrace it and go with the flow. My time in India was full of unforgettable memories, along with the sadness of knowing that we would be leaving far too quickly.”
“.... you could easily look around India and feel pity for the people there- the poverty, the non-stop chaos, the rubbish on the sides of the roads. But nearer the end of the trip I realized that was an arrogant way of thinking. There is a lot about Indian life we can be jealous of. Coming from somewhere where we moan if we have to work through a lunch break, and seeing people having business meetings at 1am, makes you realize we really don’t need a lot to be content. Everyone I met was so happy, and they were able to find beauty and enjoyment out of their life regardless of what they had.”
What would you tell someone who's reluctant or anxious about going to India?
I know it can be a bit daunting but I’ve seen from my time living in both countries how the media loves focusing on the downside. Of course there are risks in any travel but these are manageable with common sense……and a few discrete nudges from time to time. I’ll be in the background to help with this. We want participants to experience some culture shock and, with a bit of support, to develop ways of managing this and gaining a global perspective.
I know you’ll be anxious, and at times this can be good, but as a parent, please be assured I wouldn’t allow anyone to be put in a position where I wouldn’t send my family. And that the transformation that comes from a visit to “Incredible India” will be a wonderful contribution to their lives and careers ahead.