What is your favorite travel memory?
This would be when I did “vendemmia” - the grape harvest - when I lived in Italy. It’s not memorable because it was storybook-like, but precisely because of how different this experience was than how I expected it to be. I had imagined stomping grapes with my bare feet in the gorgeous countryside I Love Lucy-style, but the vendemmia was comical in how unromantic it actually was!
I asked to join in on the harvest of a friend’s family vineyard. For 3 days I got up at the crack of dawn to ride into the country in a car full of his all-male friends. It was over 30°C every day, and we had to dress up head to toe to protect ourselves from the sticky vines and the stinging wasps eating the grapes. The boys complained all day about the work, and in true Italian style my friend’s father would yell and gesticulate at the boys for being lazy, while his saintly wife kept smile on her face, preparing focaccia sandwiches every day for lunch. At the end of each day we were sticky, sweaty and tired. But I loved being an insider in my new home, and doing something that was unromantic, difficult and tiring, but fun!
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
A successful company needs a solid mission that the staff believes in and works toward. Quest staff members are passionate about fulfilling our mission to promote cultural awareness and international understanding through our study programs. We do this not just because it’s a job, but because it makes us feel great! Even if we have to spend a little more time helping a parent or student understand program offerings and prepare them with what to expect from study abroad, that’s okay because this extra time go towards accomplishing the mission.
Remembering how much studying abroad changed me and helped me develop as a person, I’m inspired to bring this opportunity to the independent and mature teenagers that seek this. By forming Quest with other individuals that have shared similar experiences, our mission drives us!
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
I have gained so much admiration for the students that choose to participate in the Quest program. It really takes will and courage to do something different from everybody else in your high school.
All Quest staff have lived abroad, but I did not even know that study abroad was an option when I was in high school, and many students that contact us find us through independent research.
I’ve spoken with a student that used her mock trial class skills to formally petition her parents, and another that used some of her own funds from her part-time job and prepared a PowerPoint to convince her parents to let her study abroad! Each qualified student in their own way proved to their family and school that they want and deserve this exciting international experience.
What unique qualities does your company possess?
It doesn’t get much more personal than Quest. As you can see on our website, we’re a small staff. Our numbers are smaller and more manageable than our competitors, which means that students are more than just numbers - we take the time to get to know you. We will be honest about whether this program is a good option for you, because student safety and success are our top priorities. We have solid partnerships with the foreign organizations that make the host family and school placements, because we have to trust them to care for the students we will send under their care.
There are many steps involved in the study abroad process, and Quest guides you from choosing your program to helping you get there. All students should be happy with their decision to live abroad, We often receive pictures and stories of our students abroad that brighten up our day!
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
Our study abroad alumna Madison went to the Netherlands – you can see her testimonial here on our Go Overseas page. She was able to visit the town where her family came from, and it was exciting for her to get back to her roots. Not only did she love her experience and wants to encourage others to study abroad, but she has maintained a very close relationship with her Dutch host sister. Her host sister was able to visit her home in the U.S., and we found out later that the two even have a trip to Thailand planned in the near future!
This shows how when you live abroad, you can really make friends for life. It’s up to you to put yourself into new and foreign situations, and when you do you will be amazed at the connections that you can make with people in a completely different part of the world.