GoAbroad Interview

Lucy Hardaker - Marketing & Outreach Manager

Lucy Hardaker - Marketing & Outreach Manager

Lucy has been with the Augsburg College Center for Global Education and Experience since 2014. She loves all things intercultural and enjoys helping young people discover the joys of traveling the world and meeting new people. When Lucy travels, her favorite thing to do is find a unique coffee house to do some people watching! In her spare time she enjoys riding her bike, photography, and scrapbooking.

You worked in the international office at your university while earning your degree, which sparked your interest in the field of international education. How has your career and passion evolved over time?

My career has evolved over time, first by working with incoming international students, host families in the U.S., and learning about higher education administration in grad school, and now by working with outbound study abroad students. Through it all, I have had my passion for intercultural learning at the center.

Being in this environment with other international educators, I have learned that we all share similar joy from encouraging young people to travel, learn, and grow as people. With each story I hear from an international student in the U.S. or a returned study abroad student, the more my passion grows to have others experience the same kind of learning!

Augsburg College, Center for Global Education & Experience staff in Mexico

With staff at CGEE in Mexico in spring 2015. From left to right: Lucy, Hillary Mealman (Social Work Professor), Dr. Ann Lutterman-Aguilar (Mexico Site Director), and Lisanne Morgan (Program & Homestay Coordinator)

Your travels span from Turkey to Switzerland to Nicaragua. How do you use your own travel experience in your current role?

As someone whose parents did not attend college, I had a very difficult time navigating the college experience itself, so you can imagine that study abroad was even more confusing. I like to draw back to that time to remind myself just how scary it can be to take on the world as a young person, and I use that memory to help students navigate through the study abroad process, from program research to the application to actually going abroad.

While my travels are relevant and useful when giving advice to students, it is equally important to be aware that my experience traveling as a white American woman is only one unique point of view, and that others may have very different questions and fears than what I had when I first traveled outside my home. That is why it is essential for me as an international educator to pair my experiences with available resources to help students prepare for their study abroad program.

What is the most popular destination among Augsburg students? Why do you think this location is particularly attractive?

The Augsburg CGEE programs ebb and flow each semester as to which one is the most popular. Students tend to be very drawn to our programming that is offered, as each location shares a social justice and community-based philosophy. Right now, our Namibia location is most popular and I believe it is because students are seeking a way to break from the “traditional” study abroad locations in Western Europe, and are hungry to learn more about a part of the world the U.S. and West-centric curriculums have ignored or glazed over during their school years.

View of Thermaikos Bay, Thessaloniki, Greece

View of Thermaikos Bay in Thessaloniki, Greece, where I studied abroad as an undergraduate student

CGEE’s mission is to provide cross-cultural educational opportunities in order to foster critical analysis of local and global conditions so that personal and systemic change takes place, leading to a more just and sustainable world. How do you achieve this mission?

The mission statement is so much more than just words to our organization; we live and breathe it every single day. Each program we have has been carefully built to include research/review of the subject, practical experiences with the subject, and thoughtful, guided reflection. We believe that with these interactions and reflections in multiple aspects of a country/culture, students will learn about global conditions in a very real and meaningful way.

Due to this unique approach to learning, we give students the skills to be a globally-minded citizen when they return home, and for the rest of their lives, which we hope will lead to those changes for a more just and sustainable world.

What makes CGEE stand out among hundreds of other study abroad providers?

Two words: intentionality and reciprocity. Intentional about the experiences we build into the programs for students to learn about culture, diversity, and realities of the people in the areas in which we are located. Reciprocity for the communities in which we are involved. We always make sure our participants are not a drain on the community, by paying host families fair amounts, placing interns in appropriate organizations that are willing and in need of interns, etc.

Additionally, the staff at CGEE and their commitment to our work is far above and beyond anything I have ever heard of in study abroad. At our Central America and Mexico sites, the directors have each been with us for over 20 years. All of our employees (at the administrative office in Augsburg College in Minneapolis and all of our global sites) together average 12 years of employment. Because of our staff longevity, not only are we truly experts at what we do, but we also have very deep roots in the communities, in particular Cuernavaca, Windhoek, Quetzaltenango (Xela), and Managua.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

The classic Eiffel Tower tourist photo in Paris!

In a world where the media is constantly forcing us to confront conflict and violence on a daily basis, how do you ensure the safety of students while abroad?

Each location provides an orientation for students upon arrival, along with additional security measures, depending on the location (for instance, in Cuernavaca, we have a gate in which you need to enter a code to unlock and students receive cell phones pre-programmed with all important staff and emergency phone numbers). Additionally, due to our staff longevity in the communities, and given that we hire from the community itself, we are able to guide students through safety measures coming from a deep cultural understanding of the location.

We also have a 24-hour emergency phone line, carried by the CGEE staff in Minneapolis at all times, that can help in emergency situations with participants.

While safety can never be guaranteed during any travel experience, regardless of where you are or what provider you choose, you can minimize your risk of danger by being conscious of your actions, surroundings, and by using common sense!

What type of services do you provide for students before, during, and after their program?

Before & During: Being both a college and a provider, we have college resources that many providers do not, such as departments which support a variety of student needs and provide CGEE staff with training (i.e. LGBTQIA Ally training). Before students go on a CGEE study abroad program, we will work with them for any accommodations or support they may require while abroad, including LGBTQIA students, TRIO students, students in recovery from drugs and/or alcohol dependency, students with disabilities, religious minorities, DACA students, etc. In some locations, we can provide gay and lesbian-friendly homestays, dry-homestays, and accommodations for students that want to bring dependent children abroad.

Other services include food, housing, transportation, etc. Each of our locations we have cooks, drivers, and guides whom have been working for us for many years that are happy to help students. For instance, many of our cooks have had special training on vegan, gluten-free, Halal, and Kosher meals, in case we have students that require these special diets while abroad.

After students have returned home from a study abroad, we have the opportunity for them to recruit for our programs as a CGEE Ambassador. We hope during this experience discussing their study abroad program to eager listeners, they will continue the reflection process that we believe to be so important to learning!

Tourist taking a selfie in Granada, Nicaragua

Selfie in Granada, Nicaragua, while visiting CGEE in Central America program in spring 2015

If you had the opportunity to participate with one of CGEE’s programs, which one would you choose and why?

I’m not sure I could choose one! Probably Crossing Borders: Gender and Social Change in Mesoamerica. I love learning about how culture and gender collide. I am also very interested in learning more about Africa, as a Francophone I loved studying North and West Africa particularly, but Southern Africa and post-apartheid relations and tensions would also be fascinating.

What can we expect from CGEE in 2016? Any new destinations or programs in-the-making?

Yes, we will be launching a NEW education semester program in Mexico! This program will fit right into an education major’s curriculum, allowing for a spring semester sophomore year abroad. Applications are not yet being accepted (as of the writing of this interview), but will be online by fall 2016 semester!