Carrie Straub - Program Director
After studying abroad in Spain during college, Carrie knew she belonged in the field of international education. Proficient in Spanish and French (thanks to her husband!), Carrie is a lover of languages and cultures! As SPI’s Program Director, Carrie works to ensure that students (and their parents) are prepared for the cultural and logistic experience of studying abroad.
How did you first become connected with the SPI?
Since my first study abroad experience in college, I have wanted to work in international education to guide students through a similar life-changing experience like I had. When I moved to Austin, Texas, I was working in the financial industry but I knew in the back of my mind that SPI was headquartered here. I was fortunate to find a position with such an amazing company!
What kind of work do you engage in as Program Director at SPI?
As the Program Director, I get the privilege of working with parents, students, teachers and administrators who are considering study abroad as an academic enrichment opportunity. It is an amazing journey to help schools and families through the entire process – from program selection to the students’ experience abroad. What we do is a positive experience for everyone, so it makes my job a lot of fun!
What makes SPI’s high school study abroad programs unique from those offered by other providers?
SPI’s mission is simple: authentic language immersion provided by highly trained educators (or as we like to call them: “international moms & dads”). SPI was started by a language teacher here in Austin who had taken a few ‘educational’ trips, but was interested in providing a more enriching cultural experience in which her students would practice the target language in real life situations, as well as get an insider’s perspective on a new culture and way of life. We strive to stick to the simplicity of her mission and vision.
High school study abroad experiences have the potential to drastically affect a student’s chance of traveling abroad again later in life. How do you get the word out about your opportunities to this younger demographic?
We have built strong relationships with schools and teachers interested in providing their students with academic travel opportunities. Additionally, we encourage our alumni to share their experiences and create awareness about study abroad through their networks. We are always trying new ways to reach more students and parents, as many families still don’t know that programs like ours exist.
As Program Director, how do you help SPI participants prepare for the experience of study abroad while still in high school?
Students are automatically excited and a bit nervous for their experience abroad, and we want them to feel prepared and comfortable. We have worked very hard over the last few years to create detailed, engaging pre-departure preparation materials using different platforms such as videos, social media, and alumni experience galleries. All this allows us to provide a realistic view of what it’s like to study abroad.
What is the most rewarding part of your job at SPI?
Each summer the most rewarding (and difficult!) day for me as a part of the SPI team is the very last day of the program when the students are about to board a plane to return home to their family and friends. Many of them express their sincere appreciation for your guidance, friendship, and support during one of the most amazing and challenging experiences of their life. It is a moving gesture that gets me every time!