GoAbroad Interview

Kristin Uyl - University Relations & Marketing Manager

Kristin Uyl - University Relations & Marketing Manager

Kristin is the University Relations and Marketing Manager for Barcelona SAE. A Midwest girl at heart, Kristin has traveled to over fifteen different countries on four continents and considers traveling to be one of life’s greatest adventures. In her small amount of spare time, Kristin enjoys following the Dave Matthews Band on tour (61 shows and counting!), obsessing over her dog Bella (a Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix…her pride and joy), cheering for her beloved Detroit Tigers, Michigan Wolverines, and Tennessee Volunteers, and enjoying her new life as New Englander. As the University Relations and Marketing Manager, Kristin loves being able to connect with students directly, to not only tell them about the experiences Barcelona SAE offers, but also show them when they arrive!

Students at Mt. Tibidabo in the summer with Barcelona SAE staff member
Kristin and a group of students hiking up Mt. Tibidabo this summer.

You grew up in the Midwest, what triggered you to venture abroad for the first time?

Growing up in a small town outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan, I was always curious about the world around me and what was out there. When I was a freshman in high school, my orchestra had the opportunity to participate in a music festival in Northern England. It was my first taste of the international travel bug, and from there, I was absolutely hooked.

What made you choose Italy for your first formal study abroad experience?

When I was a sophomore at Grand Valley State University, I became intrigued by a brand new faculty-led program that the Hospitality & Tourism Department put together…and soon after, I found myself enjoying my first study abroad experience in Asti, Italy, and never looked back.

You also spent a semester in Thailand and worked in New Zealand, what attracted you to a program focused on Spain? How did you get connected to Barcelona SAE?

After I returned from my short-term study abroad program in Italy, I decided a summer just wasn’t long enough…so I immediately started planning to go abroad for a semester. I had a wonderful study abroad advisor that had suggested the less traditional destination of Thailand, due to the fact that it would align well with my Hospitality & Tourism Management major…and it turned out to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Thailand is such an incredible country with some of the most amazing people, and through that experience, I learned more about myself, others, and life priorities than I ever could have discovered while constricted by the four walls of a classroom.

After I finished my undergraduate degree, I spent a year in Auckland, New Zealand working for AUT University…and finally had my “lightbulb” moment in figuring out that international education was the field for me. Once I returned to the states, I decided to pursue my master’s degree in College Student Personnel at the University of Tennessee, and upon graduation, I was offered an incredible opportunity with Barcelona SAE. After spending eight weeks in Barcelona this summer working with our programs on-site, I fell completely in love with the city.

A staff in Barcelona's Park Guell

Enjoying one of Gaudi's many Barcelona masterpieces, Park Guell.

What does a typical day look like in your role as University Relations and Marketing Manager?

Well, a typical day includes everything except for the typical! Most days, one can find me visiting college campuses near or far, or coming up with our next greatest marketing initiative.  I love the variety that my job provides, and truly thrive on the fact that no two days are alike.

Barcelona SAE runs study and internship abroad programs. Which of your programs is particularly innovative?

At Barcelona SAE, we really pride ourselves on being the Barcelona experts. Our programs are extremely immersive, and we are proud to be one of the most affordable programs in Barcelona, with the most included.

We are currently in the process of rolling out a really innovative promotion called the “Barcelona SAE Cultural Credit Card.” It’s very exciting as all semester students that study with us in 2015 will receive a $1,000 pre-paid visa gift card, so that they can truly experience all that Barcelona has to offer. With the card, we’ll encourage our students to maybe go check out a museum they otherwise wouldn’t have seen, or perhaps take a trip to somewhere off the beaten path that they otherwise wouldn’t have visited.

We really want our students to have an amazing Barcelona experience, and are doing whatever we can to make sure that our programs are accessible and affordable for students with a variety of budgets.

A staff representing Barcelona SAE in a Study Abroad Fair.

Kristin representing Barcelona SAE out on the road at the University of Georgia's Study Abroad Fair this fall.

What advice would you give those who are interested in applying to a Barcelona SAE program?

Plan early! This is the best piece of advice I can give to a student studying abroad…no matter where they’re going. The earlier one plans, the easier the process will be when it comes to the application process, ensuring credits will transfer properly, etc. And once you’re abroad, make sure to take it all in! The experience goes by SO quickly and it’s something you’ll remember forever, so make sure to enjoy the little things and find a way to document your journey, whether its through photo journals, blogging, etc.

What sets Barcelona SAE’s programs apart from other study and intern abroad programs?

I think that one of the best things about Barcelona SAE is how personalized our programs are.  We really get to know our students, and do whatever we can to show them Barcelona through the eyes of a local (as opposed to the tourist birds-eye view). I absolutely love the connections that we as staff are able to make with our students and interns, and it’s such a honor to know that we hopefully made a difference in many young lives.

You recently finished your Masters degree from the University of Tennessee. How have you been able to apply your studies and research in College Student Personnel to your role as the University and Marketing Manager?

My masters program was incredibly helpful in preparing me for my career, as I was able to learn about all the different units across a college campus, and how they work together to support study abroad. It’s so great to work for a provider while understanding the dynamics of a university…it really is the best of both worlds. I’m so thankful for my time at the University of Tennessee (GO VOLS!) as it was extremely beneficial in preparing me for a career in international education.

Barcelona SAE’s programming goes beyond the typical academic experience of studying abroad or interning, and focuses on cultural immersion. How do you go about making sure students are immersed abroad?

All of our programming focuses on cultural and language immersion, which I believe really sets Barcelona SAE apart. I absolutely love the fact that we are a package deal – so our programs not only include tuition or the internship placement, but also various cultural activities and excursions.

One of my favorite activities while I was on-site this summer were the cooking classes – we were able to prepare and eat various foods that are such a big part of the culture in Barcelona. We also offer salsa classes, intercambios (language exchange),  barrio tours, cultural dinners, day trips and weekend excursions…and that’s just the beginning. I really love how much we can offer to our students outside of the classroom or internship placement, as it makes for a very well-rounded Barcelona experience.

What’s the best part of working for Barcelona SAE?

There are SO many things that I love about my job, but the absolute best part is being able to work with students. Students are the reason that our field even exists, so I absolutely love introducing them to the gorgeous city of Barcelona and all that it can offer to them. My own experiences abroad completely shaped the person I’ve become, so I’m so honored to be able to play a small part in assisting students with their own adventures abroad.

If you were to get on a plane tomorrow, where would you go first?

Barcelona, of course! :)