Zachary studied abroad in Mexico, Peru and Spain. He is now the Director of Communications & Associate Director of University Relations at International Studies Abroad (ISA).
Where did you go to school?
When and where did you study abroad?
Puebla, Mexico – Universidad de las Américas Puebla Summer 2007
Lima, Peru – Pontifical Catholic University of Peru Academic Year 2008
Madrid, Spain – St. Louis University Madrid Summer 2009
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
It’s the adventure. When done right, studying abroad is about discovery and learning something new every single day. When you’re living in another culture, even the simplest of tasks can lead to adventure. I studied in Spain and Latin America, and some of my fondest memories involve me trying to hang with locals around my age while I was very much still learning – both the language and the culture. Let’s just say I had some very patient friends!
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
Studying abroad in Peru for a year, I enrolled directly in a Peruvian university. I embraced the adventure and dove in head first. Everything was in Spanish of course – lectures, group projects, class presentations, even office hours. Culturally, too, university life was worlds apart from my college in Boston. I eventually got the hang of it and even flourished, but those first few weeks were a steep learning curve.
The reason I bring this experience up is because of its effect on my perspective upon re-entry a year later. After an incredible year full of adventure, there I was back in Boston facing down a daunting senior year: internship, part-time job, two thesis defenses (double major). I remember laughing to myself, “Hey, at least it’s not in Spanish!”
I learned to survive and even thrive in Peru and by my second semester, all of my friends were Peruvian. As a result, I felt more self-confident and frankly better equipped to fend off the challenges in day-to-day life. The broadening of perspective that so often happens during study abroad can have a very practical application.
How did studying abroad change your life?
When I’m asked for advice about getting started with a career in international education, I like to say studying abroad is not enough. It’s important – yes, it’s even essential. Shortly after retuning to my college from South America, I was hired to intern for the Office of International Programs on campus. It was the perfect bridge between my study abroad experience and what would become my career. I gained invaluable experience on the job, such as advising peers on options, facilitating pre-departure orientations, spearheading outreach for the office. Critically, though, my internship gave me the opportunity to network and put me in touch with people in the field. I made many great connections that year, a process that would eventually lead me to ISA.
What have you been doing post studying abroad?
I joined ISA not long after graduation in 2009 and have been here ever since. I was originally hired as the University Relations Representative and was responsible for overseeing ISA’s outreach efforts in New England. I’m now Director of Communications and oversee a variety of initiatives, including online marketing, social media, public relations, newsletters and more. I’m a study abroad “road warrior” at heart, though, and love to travel to campuses for study abroad fairs and other events.
What’s your BEST piece of advice for a student who is thinking about studying abroad?
Stop hesitating. Just go for it. And if you’re going to do it, you might as well go big. My advice is always to study abroad for a whole academic year if you can. Only 4 percent of study abroad students go for a whole year, but those that do have a richer experience. I’ve never heard a single student say they regret studying abroad or say it wasn’t worth it. In fact, most of them are trying to figure out how to get back!