Amanda Mirabella - Student Admissions Coordinator
Amanda was born in Pennsylvania but raised in The Woodlands, Texas by her fun-loving, loud, Italian-American family, whom she loves to spend time with. She has always loved traveling, and became intrigued by the Spanish language through her travels. She attended Texas A&M where she majored in Psychology to further her interest in understanding people and thought processes, and minored in Spanish with intentions of studying abroad. She’s passionate about many things, including: music, good food, new adventures, animals, hockey, and her family and friends. Former participant turned staff, in this interview Amanda Mirabella shares her experience as a Sol program alumni and now staff member!
How did you start working with Sol Education Abroad and what’s your current role?
Right around the time I graduated from A&M I received an email from Sol about an opening for a position at the Austin headquarters. I loved Sol when I studied abroad with them as a student, so I was overjoyed at the opportunity to work with them! It was a different path than I expected to take after college, but it's been a privilege to work for Sol. My title at Sol is Academic Coordinator which covers a lot of ground! A lot of what I do is preparation and organization for the students before they go abroad, as there is a lot that goes into the process! Another facet of the job is working with universities and high schools across the country as a liaison. We love spreading the word about Sol and meeting our alumni!
What makes Sol Education Abroad unique from other study abroad providers?
It was not that long ago that I was working with Sol as a student, so I still remember what set Sol apart. The initial difference was the cost to study abroad; I was thorough in my research of all the programs offered and met with my advisor several times. Hands down, Sol's price was the most inclusive and inexpensive, which was a big reason why I was able to study in Spain. While I was in Granada, it was amazing to me how many more activities and trips we were able to do as a part of Sol. Another thing that was very clear when I was abroad was that Sol had a much more familial, connected program than any of the others. The size of the groups are small which enables the students to truly form relationships with each other and their directors. Not only were the directors a great resource, they are genuine supporters and friends to the students. They go above and beyond in all aspects to ensure the students are in good hands.
What makes Sol’s program location in Granada so special?
Our program in Granada exposes students to fantastic academics, a city rich in history, and is perfectly located to be able to travel to other fascinating places in Spain or other countries if they choose.
What is the most popular program activity among students?
It's almost impossible to say what activity the students love the most, everyone has their preference, but the excursions are adored, for good reason! Sol brings the students on some incredible adventures. As far as a specific excursion that students loved...well that's a really tough call. The Mediterranean Beach Trip (Nerja Beach, Costa del Sol) & The Alhambra palace tour were favorites of mine. I've hardly seen anything as incredible as the Alhambra.
What are the typical characteristics that you look for in potential participants?
We look for participants who are willing to push their comfort zone, are ambitious students, and love adventure! All of our students are very unique, which makes studying with Sol so fun, but our students usually have those things in common.
What are the steps that Sol Education Abroad has in place to ensure the safety of students?
Well I would start by saying that this was my father's number one concern when I went abroad. He is the classic protective Italian father and had a million questions for me and for Sol before he allowed me to go to Spain. Sol is a smaller program, which allows us to stay in close contact with the directors, students, and their parents. The rules and regulations are always upheld to ensure the safety of our students and our directors ALWAYS go the extra mile to help anyone in need.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to incoming students?
Studying abroad will change your life in so many ways if you let it. Be thorough in your investigation of the best program fit for you, and know there is always a way to go abroad! Do not let financial concerns hold you back, there are so many people willing to help you. The benefit to going abroad goes beyond the classroom and the fun trips you take (although both are wonderful). Go abroad with an open heart, don't expect every moment to be perfect, but challenge yourself and you will come back a better person.
Explain a typical day for student on one of Sol’s programs.
The students live with their host families and share three meals a day with them, one of the best ways they will solidify their language skills is the time they share with their family. They will attend class in the morning, return for lunch at home, and potentially have a class in the afternoon. There will be a central location the Sol students meet at to go on the cultural activity guided by the directors (like Flamenco dance lessons and a performance). After the cultural activity they can split off to head home, or go to get tapas with friends (my favorite pastime in Granada). Then they have dinner with their family and get ready for the next day! The weekends are for the bigger trips (excursions) that are organized by their directors.
How does local staff help support students on a daily basis and attend to their continually changing needs?
I am speaking from first hand experience as a recent Sol alumni-- truly the directors are fantastic individuals who dedicate a remarkable amount of time to the students. You would think that they don't have lives outside of Sol they are so committed and present! Whether students need class advising, have questions about excursions, need food recommendations, help with their host family, or whatever might come up, the directors are there for the students 100% of the time.
Are there any new locations that will be added to Sol Education Abroad in the near future?
We are not currently adding any new locations, but we are continually seeking out volunteer & internship opportunities for our students, and keep up to date on new courses offered abroad.
Where do you see Sol Education Abroad in the next year?
Growing! We are thankful to have more and more students each year. Every year we have the opportunity to reach new students and schools and tell them about the great things Sol is doing abroad. I am confident we will continue to move forward and grow with each day to come.