GoAbroad Interview

April Arrowood - Admissions Counselor

April Arrowood - Admissions Counselor

April is an Arizona native and received a double major in Communications and Spanish Literature from the University of Arizona. She studied abroad in Alcalá de Henares, Spain (about 30 minutes outside Madrid). When she’s not planning her next travel adventure, she enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, boating, and off-roading in her Jeep!

How did you originally get connected to CEA Study Abroad?

I stumbled upon CEA Study Abroad during a job search and previously had no idea there was a study abroad provider located in Phoenix. The Admissions Counselor job was posted, I applied, and the rest is history!

You studied abroad in Spain as a student at the University of Arizona, what did you learn from your experience that has helped you in your role with CEA Study Abroad? How did your time abroad serve as a catalyst for your work in international education?

View of Rome from the cupola of St. Peters Basilica, Vatican City

Overlooking Rome from the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

There are a lot of decisions students make as they start their study abroad preparations from picking a program, to choosing classes, and figuring out funding. It can be easy for students to feel overwhelmed, but I can share my experiences and insight to help make their planning more seamless.

As they say, once you get the travel bug there’s no turning back. I realized working in international education would be a great way to help students begin the same journey I did years ago with my passion for traveling, experiencing new cultures, and meeting new people lighting the way.

Study abroad is a decision that forever impacts our lives academically, professionally, and personally.

What does an average day look like as Admissions Counselor?

Admissions Counselors guide students through the initial planning process, from the time they express interest in CEA programs until they apply. We do this through advising on which programs may be the best fit based on a student’s academic goals, personal interests, or both! In addition, we provide recommendations on how they will start planning with their university, such as discussing credit and financial aid transfer. 

Since we’re in Phoenix, our day to day job includes advising by phone, email, chat, and texting. We stay busy communicating with students all day long! Once a student picks their program and applies, they then transition to one of our location specific Site Specialists who they’ll then work with until they leave!

Your academic background is in Communication and Spanish, how are you able to apply this knowledge and these language skills to your role as Admissions Counselor?

Talking with students on the phone requires a lot of listening skills to tune in to non-verbal cues. Quite a bit can be gathered from someone’s tone, from interest level in a program, to whether or not they're understanding all the information given (and there's a lot)! I don't use Spanish in my role on daily basis, but given my language background I have a lot of recommendations for language driven students.

Eating frog legs in Aix-en-Provence, France

Frog legs anyone? Giving them a try with Fall 2014 CEA Aix-en-Provence students!

What are the typical characteristics of students who apply to study abroad with CEA?

There are many types of student personalities but they all share a common interest in traveling and adventure. They are hoping to gain independence while abroad and grow from their experience.

What makes an applicant stand out?

An applicant that stands out is a self-starter, organized, and driven to planning for their program. They ask questions and do research to ensure they are choosing the right program based on what they are looking to achieve from study abroad.

As CEA Admissions Counselor, you play a large part in helping students determine the right program fit and walk them through the process of enrollment, what is the most frequently asked question you receive? What is your response?

One of our most frequently asked questions is regarding credit transfer. Every school has different requirements, so while we can provide course descriptions and syllabi, this is something that needs to be discussed directly with an advisor on campus to see how the class will transfer (letter grade, pass/fail) and how it fits into a student’s degree plan specifically. We always recommend pre-approving backup classes to have flexibility during course registration.

Many students want courses to be guaranteed, but just like at your university, unexpected situations can arise such as a scheduling conflict, so it’s important to have a few options. Understandably, course placement is important; however I encourage students to see that this is just one piece of a bigger picture of their study abroad experience.

Albayzin, Granada, Spain

Exploring Granada’s Albayzin

You speak Spanish and a bit of Portuguese, what do you tell students about the importance of language learning before and during their time abroad?

Learning a language requires commitment and practice. It is very helpful to have working knowledge of a language before you arrive so you’re able to ask for directions or simply know how to greet the locals.

Many of our programs require taking a language as part of the course structure, which some students may not see the benefits of until they arrive. Having an understanding of the language of the culture you’re living in will allow you to gain so much more from your experience. Suddenly you realize you can actually read the menu in French or have a conversation with your neighbor!

For language majors, I am a huge advocate for homestays based on my own host family experience. I’m still in contact with my family and have been back to visit twice! You’ll be able to fully embrace the culture while practicing the language day and night. In addition, take every opportunity to interact with locals, volunteer, participate in cultural activities and make friends with local students.

Venturing outside your comfort zone to practice what is learned in classes is the best way to help your proficiency improve!

You’ve traveled much of Europe, if you had to hop on a plane tomorrow, which one of CEA Study Abroad’s sites would you most like to visit?

I would head straight to San Jose, Costa Rica! I haven’t traveled anywhere in Latin America yet, and can’t wait for the day I get to go step foot somewhere like San Jose. Being raised in the desert, the opportunity to see a diverse landscape of volcanoes, tropical forests, and beaches makes me want to drop everything and go now! Plus, as with all CEA Study Abroad locations, our staff in San Jose is phenomenal and goes above and beyond for our students. I also wouldn’t mind brushing up on my Spanish and chatting with the friendly locals, or Ticos!

You also do a bit of travel in your role to study abroad fairs to chat with prospective study abroad students, what changes have you noticed in students’ interests (program location, duration, etc.) over the last couple of years?

Schiltach in Germanys Black Forest

Heel click in whimsical Schiltach in Germany’s Black Forest

Destination trends can change yearly and fluctuate based on the session. Our programs in Barcelona and Prague have been our most popular since I’ve worked at CEA Study Abroad, but some cities such as Dublin and San Jose are gaining popularity. With competitive job markets, students are continuing to become more career focused and are seeking internships to gain valuable work experience while abroad. We have fantastic summer and semester options for anyone wondering! Finally, more and more of our CEA alumni students decide that studying abroad once isn’t enough and decide to go abroad again! I wish I’d thought of doing the same!

You’ve been with CEA Study Abroad since 2012, what has been your biggest achievement in the last three years?

Over the past three years I have visited six of our program locations (some of course that I’ve visited before during study abroad). These cities include Madrid, Sevilla, Granada, and Rome during personal travels, and Aix-en-Provence and Paris last fall during a CEA Site Visit. My job advising students is made easier by having firsthand knowledge of our CEA Centers, partner universities, housing, and excursions, and also meeting our international staff and chatting with actual CEA students.

What is your primary goal for 2015?

For 2015, I’ll be adding Buenos Aires to my “CEA Passport.” I’m really excited for the opportunity to gain more perspective on our programs in this city. The more informed I can be to help students successfully prepare for their programs is what I consider an achievement in my book.

What is the best part about working for CEA Study Abroad?

The best part of working for CEA Study Abroad is that I work alongside a motivated team who like myself, studied abroad and are passionate about what we do on a daily basis to help students achieve their goal of studying abroad. The greatest part is that once our work is done and they arrive abroad, this is when their journey truly begins!