Alison Owens - Academic Coordinator
Alison Owens, a native Kansan, world traveler, and language and culture enthusiast, began working for Sol Abroad in 2013 after graduating from SIT Graduate Institute with her Master's in International Education. At Sol Abroad, she is right at home sharing her love and passion for the incredible opportunities that study abroad has to offer. In her free time, she loves to dance, exercise and play sports, eat, travel, and look for places where she can practice new languages.
How did you get connected to Sol Abroad?
Upon graduating from SIT Graduate Institute, I was searching for my dream job, a position that would allow me to share my newfound knowledge, build and create when needed, as well as learn from those with more experience. I searched and searched for a position with a company that shared my personal morals and ethics within its mission, goals, and objectives. Also, I was specifically interested in working with Spanish and Portuguese Language and Culture Immersion. When I read my current job’s description, I knew Sol would be a fit for me, and boy did I luck out!
Describe an average day in your role.
An average day in my role varies seasonally. During recruiting season, I am flying all over the U.S. to attend study abroad fairs, entertain info sessions or presentations, network with other partners, high schools, and universities, spreading the word about the “awesomeness” of SOL. Once the hustle and bustle of recruiting season is over, I’m back in the office in Austin, Texas with our whole team of Sol-dados, celebrating successful recruitment efforts, planning for future endeavors, and assuming all the tasks that have to do with being an Advisor (e.g. answering phone calls, responding to student/parent inquiries, visa attainment processes, document translation). There is never a dull day with SOL!
What sets Sol Abroad apart from other study abroad providers?
SOL is one-of-a-kind. With a team at headquarters that is über dedicated to traveling across the U.S. in order to share [with future participants] the value of SOL programs, and four teams abroad who are passionate about bringing our mission and purpose to fruition, our organization inevitably succeeds and grows year after year. We are strong advocates of accessibility for all; hence the fact that we work hard to keep our prices as the most affordable in the industry without compromising the quality of our programs. Our staff’s dedication to participant success is immeasurable.
At SOL, participants have a voice, and we listen.
You grew up in Kansas, what would you tell others from your hometown about the value of study abroad?
Studying abroad isn’t just one of the best decisions I’ve made, it IS the best decision I’ve made. Studying abroad led me to learn multiple languages and cultures, complete both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, along with many other accomplishments that have shaped who I am today. Without these experiences, the lessons learned, and the encouragement from my endeavors to continue learning, I would lack understanding in what it means to have compassion for myself and others.
Most importantly, do not allow yourself to fall victim to the ignorance of your upbringing. Instead, will your mind to open to the unique essence that every culture, language, and person of this world could teach you. You won’t regret it, I promise!
Your academic background is in Spanish, and you even studied abroad in Mexico and Spain, what do you think is the importance of speaking the local language when studying abroad?
Speaking the local language where you are studying abroad opens many doors of opportunity; however, learning to speak the language AND the culture of a people is even more important. Language and culture are inseparable. Trying to learn one without the other is like trying to boil water without fire, your odds of success are slim-to-none. If you don’t literally practice the lessons that you are reading and writing, the knowledge will be lost.
Culture is the reality in which we live; language is how we share it.
You have a Master's in International Education from the School for International Training (SIT), how do you apply your studies to your work with SOL?
Everything I learned at SIT is applicable not only to my work with SOL, but to life in general. SIT’s mission is “To prepare students to be interculturally effective leaders, professionals, and citizens.” At SOL, our mission is driven by said components, striving to encourage participants to see the importance of citizen diplomacy and being globally curious in our ever changing world.
What is one piece of advice that you give to incoming students?
When advising participants, the point that I emphasize most is to keep an open-mind while abroad. Entering a new place, whether for the first or tenth time, will inevitably provoke our subconscious ideals. As a result we begin unknowingly creating expectations that attempt to bring our experience abroad closer to our known past experience (usually of our home country/culture). This is when you see participants begin to express distaste regarding their experience abroad, also known as a stage of culture shock. If participants are encouraged to keep an open-mind and consider the possible stages of culture shock before going abroad, then their ability to maintain cognizant awareness and manage these stages will be strengthened exponentially; therefore, resulting in an enjoyable, life changing experience.