GoAbroad Interview

Anna Hurd - Regional College Relations Manager

Anna Hurd - Regional College Relations Manager

In her role with IES Abroad, Anna visits schools in the Carolinas and Virginia, and also serves as the program advisor for Ecuador and January term programs. An IES Abroad alum herself, she holds a bachelor's degree in Spanish and English from Wofford College and is currently pursuing her master’s of international education at SIT Graduate Institute. Anna studied abroad in Japan, Spain, and Ecuador, and now lives in beautiful Greenville, South Carolina.

IES Abroad Center in Vienna, Austria

At the beautiful IES Abroad Vienna Center

You are a study abroad alumna of IES Abroad’s program in Quito, Ecuador. How did you transition from participant to staff member?

I actually am a double IES Abroad alumna! My first experience with IES Abroad was for a customized program in Japan my first year at Wofford College. A large part of my college decision was built on the fact that I wanted to study abroad, and that first international experience in college really set my expectations high for what study abroad could be. When I studied abroad in Quito two years later, I knew that IES Abroad was the perfect fit since I was already comfortable with their high standards and I would be able to live with a homestay family.

After I graduated, I worked in the admission office at my alma mater and found one of my favorite things about my job was talking to prospective students about study abroad opportunities available to them. So now, I get to do that full time!

What impact does your study abroad experience with IES Abroad have on your work today? 

I don’t think I would be in the field of international education if I hadn’t studied abroad myself. Not only did studying abroad influence my career path, but being a study abroad alumna helps me empathize with students who may be nervous about going to a country they’ve never visited before. While no two students’ study abroad experiences are the same, I think it can be helpful for students to know that many people have been through similar experiences (and thrived!) and they can too.

As Regional College Relations Manager, you are in charge of building IES Abroad’s relationships with institutions and study abroad advisors. What does a typical day of work look like for you?

There really is no typical day, which is why this job is so great! If I’m traveling that day, I may be meeting with study abroad advisors to talk about a new program, discussing changes in school policy with a director of study abroad, or attending a study abroad fair to meet with prospective students. If I’m working from home, I could be responding to student emails and calls, working on a curriculum integration project, or planning for the upcoming semester.

IES Abroad staff members

With Amy Lancaster, Dean of International Programs at Wofford College, and Gianni Ponti, Center Director of IES Abroad Rome

What question do you hear most often from advisors, administrators, or faculty members who are interested in IES Abroad’s programs? What is your response?

I think if it’s anyone, whether that’s a student, advisor, or faculty member, who is unfamiliar with IES Abroad, the most common question is probably: why IES Abroad?

When there are so many great study abroad organizations, it can be tough to understand what makes IES Abroad different. IES Abroad’s commitment to academic excellence is something that most people recognize as a differentiator, but I think equal to that is our thorough health and safety policies. We don’t just meet minimum standards, we truly go above and beyond. I think that’s just one of the reasons that we are recognized as a leader in the field.

What is the most difficult part of recruiting students?

Students who speak to me are usually already open minded about the possibility of studying abroad, but often showing students that they can fit a semester abroad into their academic schedule is challenging. I think everyone can study abroad and still stay on track for graduation if they plan ahead. I love when first year students come to talk to me at study abroad fairs, because they can recognize much earlier if they have a more structured major (likee) and can start crafting their schedule to include study abroad from the beginning.  

IES Abroad table at a study abroad fair

Ready to speak to prospective students at a study abroad fair! 

As the initial advisor for prospective IES Abroad students, what are some of the typical barriers faced in the decision to enroll? What are some solutions you are able to provide?

There are still so many misconceptions about why students think they can’t study abroad. Staying on track to graduate and financing are two of the biggest. IES Abroad has hundreds of courses that can transfer to a huge variety of majors, including those that are underrepresented in study abroad, like the STEM field. We also offer nearly $2.5 million dollars in financial aid every year, including funding specifically for underrepresented groups.

What characteristics make a student a good fit for an IES Abroad program?

I think students who succeed with IES Abroad are driven, high achieving, and adventurous. IES Abroad has 126 different programs, so there are so many options that we can be a good fit for a wide variety of students.

You serve as an expert on IES Abroad’s Ecuador programs in Quito and the Galapagos Islands. What makes these programs particularly special?

I am incredibly biased towards our programs in Ecuador, because that’s where I studied abroad, but I really do think they are fantastic! Quito is an amazing place for students looking to improve their Spanish because the spoken Spanish is very clear and easy to understand. Aside from that, the history is fascinating and it’s always the perfect temperature (Quito is known for its “Eternal Spring” between about 55 and 75 degrees year round)! The Galapagos Islands really speak for themselves.

I think our direct enrollment program with GAIAS is one of the only study abroad opportunities available where students get to live like a local on San Cristóbal Island with a homestay family for three months. Where else can you take a class about techniques of marine research on the beach with sea lions lazily looking on or study evolutionary ecology in the very place where Darwin developed his theory of natural selection?

Wellington, New Zealand

My most recent adventure visiting Wellington, New Zealand in May 2015

You speak Spanish, why do you think language learning is an important part of international education programs?

Language adds another layer to your international experience. Even if your second (or third or fourth!) language isn’t perfect, it’s important to make the effort to connect with the communities around you. It just expands your world so much to have that commonality with others. My fiancé speaks three languages and a regional dialect, so between the two of us, we can communicate with a large portion of the world. I think that’s pretty cool!

You’ve been with IES Abroad for almost three years, what has been your greatest accomplishment so far?

Every time I meet with a student who has attended an IES Abroad program and get to speak with them about the impact of their experience, I feel rewarded. Two of the students I recruited to attend Wofford when I worked in the admissions office studied abroad on the IES Abroad Quito Area Studies & Language program this past semester. Being a part of their journey to study abroad from meeting them at their high schools to advising them on studying abroad four years later was really personally meaningful. Even if I was just a tiny part in their decision to study abroad, I feel like that’s an accomplishment.

What is the best part about working for IES Abroad?

Everyone in our organization works for the common goal of helping students learn and grow in their time abroad. Ultimately, I get to work with great people. I’ve been able to visit eight of our study abroad centers and I’m always blown away by our amazing center staff and their dedication to our students. I’m also so lucky to work with the staff at the schools in my region; they are some of the most warm, professional, and interesting people I know!