Forum Staff Reflections on the Power of Education Abroad

Lifechanging, enriching, inspiring, positive—these are just some of the ways that education abroad experiences can affect our lives and open us up to new opportunities that impact our lives forever.

In honor of International Education Week, our Forum staff remembers how their experiences abroad influenced them and shares moments that they’ll never forget.

“I had my first study abroad experience at 15 with a sister-state exchange program between my high school and Chiba Higashi High School in Japan. From that moment, I was hooked! I fell in love with creating relationships with people from around the world. Since that first international experience, I wanted to encourage others to explore the wider world so naturally I found a professional home in the field of education abroad.

Nothing has been more satisfying than working with students and being a part of their life’s journey. Personally, I have built long lasting friendships with people across the globe. My life is a thousand times richer because of my experiences in international education.”

Mandy Brookins, Director of Programs and Training

“Studying abroad opened the opportunity for me to become my whole self, learn languages that helped me express myself better, become the home chef I always wanted to be, build a chosen family that I love and cherish, and pursue my passions in school and in my career.”

Amelia Dietrich, Ph.D., Senior Director for Research & Publications

“Study abroad is full of opportunities from learning new skills and languages to contributing positively to long-term locally run projects. After over 20 years working in meaningful travel, I believe more strongly than ever in its power to create shared understanding and help us tackle the SDGs on a Global level.”

Andy Woods-Ballard, Consultant

“As a Mexican citizen, living abroad seemed like an impossible thing to do if you didn’t have the economic means. However, “where there’s a will there’s a way”, and I have been fortunate enough to do a Master’s Program Abroad and work on International Service Learning Projects.  This opened my world view in so many ways, not to mention that now I count with so many friends worldwide. It made me more humble and opened my mind to the different challenges we face as a Global community.

I cherish all the moments in which I have been part of an international tribe, and it always fulfills me with the sense that we are so many trying to make a positive change in the world that it will be a reality one day.”

Cynthia Arochi-Zendejas, Virtual Events & Digital Support

“Education abroad shifted my perspective on my place in the world. Though it has been over two decades since my first education abroad experience, I still feel its impact in everything I do in my personal and professional lives.”

Elizabeth Frohlich, Ph.D., Director for Resources

“You’ll always hear me say this, Education Abroad is all about the relationships. Back when I studied abroad, The Director of Education Abroad at my alma mater, University of New Mexico (UNM), made a difference in my life. As a first-generation student that had never left the country, he patiently guided me though the scholarship process for two study abroad programs (Spain and Nicaragua), helped me find a paid internship in Nicaragua before grad school, and eventually supported me with getting into the field of Education Abroad.

This is a reminder that what we say and do to support students matters. Our knowledge and support can change the trajectory of students’ lives.  Fun Fact: I met my husband while studying aboard. We were both UNM students on the same study abroad program and we have been married 11 years!”

Annette Mares-Duran, Member Services Manager

“One of the greatest privileges of my career has been to lead education abroad programs for learners in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. This photograph is from back in 2015/2016 with my students on the International Field Study Experience program, where they worked on interdisciplinary teams to examine a problem of practice that an organization abroad was grappling with. It was such a joy to learn along with them!”

Marissa Lombardi, Ed.D., Executive Director of Training, Programs and Services

“One of my most meaningful experiences in education abroad came from an offhand remark made by a student. For his very first trip outside the U.S., he’d chosen a short-term, faculty-led program to Brazil. As we were waiting to board the flight home, he told me that the trip had completely altered his view of the world and of his own country.  “How so?” I asked.  “Well,” he paused, then answered thoughtfully, “This is the first time I realized that not everyone wants to be American. I always assumed that the rest of the world wants to live like we do and have what we have. I never really got that they love their country as much as I love mine and think their way of life is the best way to live, just like I think ours is. And you know, I think we’re both right.”

Melissa Torres, President & CEO

The Forum’s mission is to cultivate educators who champion high quality education abroad experiences that ignite curiosity, impact lives, and contribute to a better world.

Our staff works tirelessly to make that mission a reality!

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