GoAbroad Interview

Barbara West - Vice President of Internships & Partner Outreach

Barbara West - Vice President of Internships & Partner Outreach

With over 11 years of experience running international internships, Barbara is responsible for the oversight of program development, marketing strategy, and student enrollments for API. Additionally, she assists academic institutions with developing customized internship programs to best meet the needs of their school and their students.

You are originally from Indiana, how did you get connected to Academic Programs International?

I moved to Colorado immediately after graduating from Ball State University. I wanted an adventure and wanted to be near the mountains, so I hopped on Amtrak and ended up in  Boulder. After exploring a few different career fields, I fell into a position with GlobaLinks Learning Abroad (AustraLearn at the time). This turned into an amazing 11-year professional journey in education abroad. After GlobaLinks was purchased by another organization, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to move on to a more challenging role at Academic Programs International to build an internship program from the ground up.

Site seeing in Singapore

Barbara attending the 2013 GIC conference in Singapore

What exactly does your role as VP of Internships and Partner Outreach entail on a day-to-day basis?

Since coming on board at API my focus has been on developing a high-quality, full-time internship program in a number of key destinations by using my previous experience and expertise in the field.

Currently, my day-to-day is spent improving program services and support and developing enrollment processes for our first intake of students that are going abroad this summer. I am also looking ahead to what is next as far as new destination development goes.

Lastly, one the most exciting tasks is collaborating with institutions to help them develop internship programs to meet the needs of their campus and students.

You spent a year studying abroad in Germany, how did this experience impact your life and your journey to work in the field of international education?

My interest in international education and cultural understanding actually started long before I studied abroad in Germany. I grew up in a multicultural home, with a mother from Germany. I took my first trip abroad at the age of two and many other subsequent trips, so the importance of international education was ingrained in me from an early age. Besides multiple trips to Europe as a child, I also did an exchange program in Germany through my high school. It wasn’t until quite a few years after I graduated college that I learned that there is a whole field and business side to international education. When I studied abroad the concept of a provider did not really exist.

What sets API’s internship programs apart from other intern abroad providers?

Definitely our onsite staff, our commitment to delivering meaningful, tailor-made, and high quality internship placements, and our desire to integrate career planning into the intern abroad experience. We want to make sure that our participants receive a high return on their investment.

Exploring London, England

Attending a BUTEX workshop - December 2012 in London, England

Your academic background is in German and geography, how do you apply this knowledge and these skills to your work with internships and partner outreach?

A great deal of my work involves building relationships with businesses and colleagues in different parts of the world. So having an understanding of different cultures through my geography degree has been helpful. Sadly, I have not been able to utilize my German as much as I have hoped. Again, the biggest help in my work has been my study and travels abroad.

You’re a recent addition to the API team, what was your first impression, and what makes the organization really stand out?

What has really stood out the most at API is the amount of care and thought that goes into dealing with our students, parents, affiliate universities, and partners abroad. Time and effort is made to really develop relationships with everyone that comes into contact with our organization.

In addition, API is very dedicated to making studying and interning abroad open to as many students and recent graduates as possible, so there is a strong effort and focus on making sure that API programming is as affordable as possible.

You’ve traveled to over 25 countries, if you could study or intern abroad on one of API’s programs, which would you choose and why?

That is an almost impossible question! There are still so many places that I want to experience and explore. I guess I would say an internship in Argentina or Chile. I have had limited exposure to South America, so I think it would be the greatest learning opportunity.

What is your biggest goal as Vice President of Internships and Partner Outreach for the next year?

To make API a leading provider of international internships, expanding to some key destinations, and to continue to build on our internship program delivery. There is always room to improve and evolve programming, so I want to make sure our internship program is always ahead of the curve.

What is your favorite part about working for Academic Programs International so far?

Definitely working with my colleagues at API, both here in the U.S. and abroad. API is made up of a team of very diverse and fun people that are very dedicated and passionate about the field of education abroad and to helping students from all walks of life study and intern abroad.