GoAbroad Interview

Karen Carswell - Marketing Manager

Karen Carswell - Marketing Manager

Karen earned a bachelor’s degree in modern languages from Union College, but spent two semesters of her degree program abroad in Spain and México, respectively. She went on to earn a master’s degree in sustainable development and is currently a graduate MBA student at Isenberg School of Management. Karen enjoys exploring and helping others find adventures abroad, broadening their education beyond the borders of their home country.

How did you find out about the job opportunity at CISabroad?

I actually first applied to CISabroad in 2002 after finding the job on careerbuilder.com (not sure that exists anymore!). Back then I had finished my master’s degree at SIT Graduate Institute and was working with a fun crew at Trader Joe’s while job searching for a career in my field of international education. Jeff Palm, founder and executive director, didn’t hire me the first time around, but I was persistent gained more sales experience and finally landed the job in 2003.

I worked for three years and then took time off to be a Mom, gained some social media marketing skills working for a record label, among other marketing jobs, and then returned part time in 2013 as a student advisor in the CISabroad Global Advising Center. It wasn’t long before an opportunity in the marketing and university relations side of the business opened up for a marketing manager position, and it’s great to be back!

CISabroad site directors in Florence, Italy

Amazing site directors at European conference in Florence, Italy

Your career in the field of international education began long before you joined the CISabroad team. What inspired you to get involved in the field of international education?

Like many of us in the international education field, studying or working abroad was the impetus for our passion to help send more students abroad and increase the two percent of U.S. college students who take up that opportunity to learn more about themselves and the world. Studying abroad in Spain and Mexico while in undergraduate school and my passion for living in another culture brought me to the field.

What does a typical day of work look like for the Marketing Manager of CISabroad?

I have a fantastic team that manages our digital communications. The first thing I do in the morning is read through the news, students blogs, and review social media channel ratings, deadlines, and recent applications. I review why programs are not performing well, read reviews, review the promotions that are ongoing, and balance a budget every now and again.

Daily I am inspired to keep doing what I do, and make sure the content we share and the stories we tell are authentic, branded, and engaging. Overall, CISabroad’s marketing delivers what our customers need: affordable and accredited programs across the globe.

How do you think CISabroad ensures participants are well informed and prepared for their time abroad before departure and upon arrival?

From the moment a student calls CISabroad they are speaking to a well-traveled and well-informed staff member who has been to a CISabroad location or is highly trained on our programming. We work together so that if any questions arise, we don’t pretend to answer, we are resourceful and find the correct information. We take our student evaluations seriously, we change programs to fit our customers, improve, and prepare the next group before they depart. We have an online pre-departure orientation, experienced on-site staff overseas, and a 24-hour emergency line.

Man eating raw food in Eataly

Stepping out of my comfort zone to eat raw food in Eataly

You created the current CISabroad Alumni Ambassador program. What do you think the greatest benefit of this program is and why should alumni become part of it?

When you are an alumn of CISabroad, you’re part of the CISabroad family and that’s for life. As part of our alumni ambassador network our students are able to share their experience to audiences that want to hear their story. When friends say “yah, yah, you studied abroad, is that ALL you talk about?” We are saying, “tell us one more time, how did you navigate London and get lost, that’s a great story!” Or “How did you overcome your fear of flying?”

Recently an alumni ambassador landed a job with an international education office as a program coordinator, and by putting CISabroad Alumni Ambassador on her resume we helped land her dream job. Overall, there are many channels and reason for alumni to become CISabroad Alumni Ambassadors, whether it’s right when they are back or three years after they’ve graduated college.

What do you think makes CISabroad extraordinary?

It’s extraordinary because of the people who work here; it’s truly a network of individuals that share CISabroad’s mission and values.

You have dipped your hands in various aspects of the nonprofit field and clearly have a philanthropic side. How do you think CISabroad integrates “giving back” into their international programs?

So proud, of course! CISabroad gives back every day to the locations where we send our students. It’s more than just a green initiative, it’s sustainable. Students that volunteer while abroad or receive the Green Scholarship give back to the local community and learn an important aspect of protecting our Earth’s resources, and this in turn helps their life back “home” and abroad.

During your undergraduate studies you studied abroad in both Mexico and Spain, and rightly so considering your Spanish major. What do you think makes these two destinations ideal for study abroad?

I learned that learning a language does not mean that you know how to navigate the language in a country that speaks it. Language and culture are truly tied together, and in order to strengthen intercultural communication you have to live abroad.

Hiking in New Zealand

New Zealand - Victoria

If you could participate in any of CISabroad’s international programs, which one would you choose and why?

The Semester in the South Island - New Zealand. It’s a country that I admire for their progress with women’s rights, public and environmental policy, and the deep respect for the Maori culture. It’s a model country in my opinion and I’d love to retire there one day.

What is your favorite part about working for CISabroad?

The constant inspiration for innovation at CISabroad is cutting edge and makes every day different. And of course, the people that work here! I feel so lucky to have such amazing coworkers who are always pushing each other to be the best we can be in order to serve universities and students the best we can.