What is your favorite travel memory?
My most memorable travel experience would have to be my trip to Egypt. My girlfriend and I decided that rather than planning the typical tourist holiday to visit Egypt, we would go about it in a more unorthodox way, to try to get the most authentic experience possible. The day we went to see the Pyramids, we left our hotel and went by metro, and then got on a bus to go the rest of the way. As soon as we arrived we were stunned - despite having seen pictures and films all our lives about these majestic structures, it couldn't compare to seeing them for the first time in person. We bought tickets to go see them up close as well as to go inside. Being there, face to face with these gargantuan objects, these huge one-tonne blocks, its impossible to imagine what they did to get one on top of the other. We entered the Pyramid and passed through tight corridors, less than one meter wide, going by galleries, fearing the the unimaginable weight right above our heads might collapse at any moment for its sheer mas. Inside we even saw the inscription, Scoperta da G. Belzoni 2 mar. 1818 left by the first explorer to re-enter the pyramid in the modern era.
But the most special moment of all was when we left the site, and walked for a distance, enough to see them from far away. We entered a bar, ordered some drinks and sat outside on a sofa where we looked at the Pyramids as night fell, and then we slept right there. The next day we made the trip back, and listened to Echoes by Pink Floyd, which was the most magical moment for us.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
I started working for my company when I was 19 years old, and for me my work has been a fundamental part of my development. I had to learn to be responsible, to deal with sensitive issues and above all else I had to learn to listen to others.
At the same time, I have seen how all sorts of stereotypes are proven false, as when working with people from various different countries, social status, levels of education and ages, you realize that each person is their own world, with a personality that often doesn't match up with first impressions.
Generally speaking, my job has given me the opportunity to have a home in nearly every country in the world. It has given me a curiosity and desire to learn other languages like German, and has made me realize that English truly allows it to not matter where you are from, and that someone will always be able to understand you at some point.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
I met a student from the United States named Liam. He was here in Spain for nearly a year and afterwards he began to travel the world. One day he returned to Bilbao and told me incredible stories about going to some islands in Polynesia. It was so exotic and outside of everything I knew that it seemed fantastic, and he impressed me as well with his artwork, as he enjoyed sketching from time to time too.
After his time with us, he continued speaking Spanish in the United States and even went to see Ernest Hemingway's house. Nowadays, he works as a surf instructor and we are hoping he will return one day to tell us more about his life.
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
Without a doubt I would choose our Beach/Mountain Cleaning Project. It seems really fun and I find particularly interesting the sheer quantity of hidden rubbish that is produced in our society. We are always in clean places, with bin containers close by our homes and we are led to believe that rubbish isn't a real problem However, going to the beaches and finding sofas, shoes, tennis balls, lighters, all sorts of bottles etc, and then returning the next day to find the same things back again, the only thought it brings to mind is that we are too many in this world and we don't do enough. Its like when you go inside a warehouse and see rows and rows of new products waiting to be used and you think that it wouldn't even matter if you took one, tomorrow there'll be another one just the same, and so on. Truthfully, collecting litter in the most unsuspecting places makes you reflect on the quantity of objects that we use and how irresponsible it is for us to throw them away improperly.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
I think that our company is unique in that we always try to do the best we can even if we aren't perfect. We are a small school, with few staff and a variety of projects, but when a problem arises we strive to find a solution. I'm proud of our team when we are able to fulfill our students wishes and make sure they have a good time, and when they confess to us afterwards how happy they are to have chosen Bilbao, even though it isn't the biggest or most famous city, because of their choice to study or volunteer with us. Overall, we are unique for the way in which we help people to learn and enjoy their stay while they forge relationships and have new experiences which give them a connection to here.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
I consider the key to our success to be our drive to constantly reinvent ourselves and look for new initiatives. It is a process of using our own motivation to bring new experiences to our students. On the others hand, our flexibility is perhaps what most characterize us, as while we may not follow the most standard protocols as a larger business might, due to us being a closer and more familiar company, we get to enjoy the chance to meet and get to know our students, sharing experiences and listening to their recommendations .