GoAbroad Interview

Abraham De La Rosa - Program Associate & IES Abroad Alum

Abraham De La Rosa - Program Associate & IES Abroad Alum

Abraham De La Rosa is the Program Associate for IES Abroad programs in Spain and Chile. He earned his Bachelors in Business Management and French Studies at Hope College. While completing his undergraduate degree, he worked with the Hope College TRiO Upward Bound Program as a Tutor, Office Assistant, and Assistant Director. Upon completion of his undergraduate degree, Abraham decided to explore new horizons and lived abroad in Taiwan and France before relocating to Chicago, where he currently resides.

Overlooking Nantes in France

Overlooking Nantes.

You’re an IES study abroad alum of the Nantes, France program. How did your experience abroad lead you to your current role as a Program Associate for IES Abroad?

When I started college, I actually didn’t even know that study abroad was a possibility. Being a first generation-Hispanic student, my main objective was to finish college and graduate with a degree. It wasn’t until I attended a presentation on study abroad that I realized it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and all the benefits that study abroad brings.

Being in Nantes helped me to further develop my French language skills, made me much more independent, and most importantly, it opened my eyes and mind to a world I did not know. I realized that there is a lot more out there that I was completely unaware of. That is how I decided that study abroad was the career I wanted to pursue. I wanted to continue to spread the word on how study abroad can change the worldview of a person and that anyone who wants to study abroad can indeed do it.

Cathedrale de Nantes, France

In front of the Cathedrale de Nantes, France.

What skills from studying abroad in France have you been able to apply to you current role? How do you share what you have learned with prospective study and intern abroad participants?

Working with IES Abroad, we are in constant communication with our Centers abroad, so the usage of the French and Spanish languages is definitely one of them. Cultural understanding is certainly a big one. On many occasions, I try to explain cultural aspects by making connections to what might be an equivalent here in the U.S. and allow others to have some point of reference, in hopes they might have a better understanding.

Part of my main role as a Program Associate is working on pre-departure content. A lot of the times I am able to contribute more details to these materials so our students studying abroad have a better understanding of the host culture in which they will be living, and what they can expect during their time abroad. Being an alumnus myself, I can certainly relate with the anxiety and excitement that comes before leaving. I try to provide detailed information so our students are better prepared when they arrive onsite.  

Near Toubkal National park in Morocco

Morocco excursion, near Toubkal National Park.

What does your day-to-day look like as a Program Associate?

There is no typical day to day to be honest. It really depends on the time of the year and the projects in which we are working on. I can say that I always start with opening my email and responding to our Centers or our recruiters. After that, it really varies.

What sets IES Abroad’s study and intern abroad programs apart from others?

I am not really too familiar with other providers, so it’s a little hard for me to compare between others. I can however say that we try to provide our students with an immersive cultural experience in every possible aspect. IES Abroad field trips, for example, are not just field trips in which our students are taken somewhere and left to wander around for hours. There is some free time, of course, but there is also an academic component that provides a more in-depth cultural experience. One of the field trips that we did while I studied abroad in Nantes was a tour of les Chateaux de la Loire. In every château we had a tour in which we were explained the history of the château and why it is unique or important in comparison to the other chateaux. After each tour, we also had some free time to explore the surroundings. It was a great balance of academics and independence at the same time.

Our host families and staff also go above and beyond. Homestays are not just a place where students live and eat for a few months. My host family, for example, saw me as another member of their family. They invited me to some family reunions in different parts of France and even took me to one of their family vacations. I was able to experience a different aspect of the French culture that I would have never experience if it wasn’t for them. Through the IES Abroad Nantes conversation group I was also able to meet locals with whom I am still very good friends. In my role as a Program Associate I frequently receive emails from alumni inquiring about their host families, professors, and staff in order to reconnect with them. That, I think, is our biggest strength as a company. We all do our best to go above and beyond and provide a life-changing experience. 

Sahara desert excursion

Sahara desert excursion.

What advice would you give to someone interested in applying to one of IES’ programs?

Do it! You will not regret your experience abroad. If there is anything that you will regret when you return, it’s probably that you did not have enough time abroad.

You taught English in Taiwan and France, why do you think language learning so important in study and internships abroad?

We are living in a globalized world and being able to communicate with other people really helps a lot at a professional and personal level. For IES Abroad, most of the Centers that I work with are in Spain or Latin America. All the communication that I have with them is in Spanish. When I interact with our Centers in France, I always take that opportunity to speak or write to them in French.

Even if a work environment is not too culturally diverse, we will encounter people who do not speak the same language as us. Learning a language does not only allow you to communicate but gives you a different mentality of how you can get a message across. When I lived in Taiwan for example, I did not speak Chinese, but I was able to find different ways to communicate and get my message across.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in your role as Program Associate so far?

As Program Associates, we also run special projects on the side. One of the projects that we do is to run an 8-week summer program here in Chicago for students who attend our partner institutions abroad. This year, a colleague and I ran this program from start to finish. We played many roles working on this project, and at the end it was very rewarding.  

A staff living and working in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

Abraham during his time living and working in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

If you could choose another IES program to go on, which one would you choose?

There are so many places that I could think of. I work closely with Barcelona and after going there on vacation once, I would love to study abroad there. However, I think I would have to go with Rome. There are a lot of very great classes offered through our Rome Program and being able to experience the eternal city for an extended period of time would be great!

What is the your favorite part of working for IES Abroad?

The people at IES Abroad are great and make every day an enjoyable one. I don’t think that there has been a day in which I wake up and I do not want to go to work. Working with our staff abroad is also a lot of fun. I am constantly learning from our Centers abroad, either vocabulary or new cultural aspects. However, my favorite part is knowing that my work is making a difference. I am a piece within the preparation of our students going abroad, and I am happy being able to be part of the life-changing experience that awaits them.