GoAbroad Interview

Harrison Brazier - Program Advisor

Harrison Brazier - Program Advisor

Harrison Brazier is a world traveler, semi-professional musician, professional foodie (in his own mind, at least), and Program Advisor for Global Experiences. He’s a native Marylander with an English degree from the University of Maryland: College Park, and a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certification from Via Lingua in Chania, Crete, Greece.

How did you originally get connected with Global Experiences?

After a year of teaching English in Istanbul, Turkey, I missed my friends and family and wanted to come home for a bit. My experience living and working abroad was transformational, and I knew that if I was going to be truly be happy in my career, it would ideally involve education and international travel. Serendipitously, I found a job posting for a Program Consultant position at Global Experiences, a small but thriving international internship provider based in Annapolis, Maryland (my state capital), and it seemed too good to be true. I came in for an interview, was hired shortly thereafter, and the rest is history. I’ve been with Global Experiences for nearly three years now.

Staff of Global Experiences at a Global Connections Networking Event in London, England

Global Connections Networking Event in London. Global Experiences regularly arranges events for the interns and their employers to meet and mingle with one another and work on their professional networking skills. Here Harrison is pictured with an employer, a Location Coordinator, and an intern.

What about the organization most appealed to you?

What appealed most to me then, and appeals most to me now, is the organization’s mission: helping young people experience the world and go from being kids to cultured, young professionals. I experienced this epiphany in my own life, and working with Global Experiences would allow me the opportunity to help others have their own similar experience.

What does a typical day at work look like for a Global Experiences Program Advisor?

Lots of emails and phone calls. My job is to be accessible in case anyone -- participants, parents, employers, or our Placement Team staff -- has questions about where they are in the process. I answer a lot of questions about budgeting, culture shock, safety, and most importantly the needs and wants of our participants. I work directly with our participants from the day they’re enrolled, to the day the get on a plane and fly to their location. One of the most important parts of my job is to work hand in hand with our Placement Team to make sure every interest is being considered for the best-matched internship possible. The entire process is very bespoke, and that requires a lot of getting to know people. I love it!

You taught English in Istanbul, what takeaways do you have from your teaching abroad experience that you are able to share with interns preparing to head abroad?

Travel is a challenging, humbling learning experience. My original plan was to teach in Greece, but between the time I signed up for my TEFL course and the time I got on a plane, Greece was suddenly all over the news for its economy being in shambles. It didn’t seem like a stable place to look for work, so I had to come up with a Plan B. So instead of teaching in Greece, I wound up teaching in Turkey.

I arrived and began looking for work during Ramazan of 2010. Lots of headscarves and burqas everywhere. Suffice it to say that this wasn’t the nude beach, ouzo sipping, spinach pie party I had originally envisioned. It took a little while for Istanbul to grow on me, but before too long I was in love; in love with the people, the culture, the Bosphorus, the mosques, and the food! This experience taught me that being open minded and challenging yourself to step outside of your comfort zone is one of the best ways you can live your life. I try to pass this wisdom on to all the soon-to-be-world-travelers I advise.

Furthermore, my experience in the classroom opened my eyes to how rewarding it is to be an educator. My students were mostly 15 to 30 years old, and I really enjoyed working with that demographic. I feel so grateful that I still have the opportunity to influence the minds of 20-somethings and prepare them for the life changing experience of living and working abroad.

Team building activities at the Annual Global Experiences Retreat

Team building exercises at annual Global Experiences retreat! Harrison’s the lucky one on the bottom row in the grey hat. They're a fun bunch.

What sets Global Experiences apart from other international internship placement organizations? 

Global Experiences pays so much attention to detail. We look at every participant as an individual and work tirelessly to make sure everyone is getting the most relevant internship possible. Additionally, we’re incredibly reachable and our participants can contact us anytime and in a number of different ways. We know that the experience of packing your things and moving your life abroad, even if only for two or three months, can be quite intimidating and challenging. To counteract this, we put in so many hours for every single one of our participants to make the process as worry-free and straightforward as possible. The individualized attention we give our participants is probably our biggest strength as an organization.

In your role, how do you help students prepare for the experience of interning abroad? What kind of pre-departure programming does Global Experiences provide?

I work with each student individually to discuss the timeline of how the process plays out, their expectations, and the reality of what living and working abroad is really like. I stress to everybody I work with that I only want them to feel excited and happy when they think about their program, so if they ever have any questions or concerns weighing on their minds, they all know they can reach out to me for help. In addition to giving each participant this kind of one-on-one attention, we host regular webinars that cover a wide range of relevant topics such as budgeting, packing, interview tips, making the most of your internship, and culture shock. Furthermore, every participant receives individualized resume/cover letter coaching from our devoted Director of Career Development, Mike Oettel.

You help to coach interns on revising their resumes and cover letters. What are the most common recommendations you make for improvements?

I make some general resume/cover letter suggestions, but most of this is actually done with our Director of Career Development, Mike Oettel. Before our participants speak to Mike, they’re given some basic tips on what a professional resume and cover letter should look like.  They’re given an opportunity to make these basic edits before their coaching call with Mike, that way they can focus on more nuanced, substantive edits when they speak with him. It’s difficult to say what the “most common recommendations” are because, like everything else we do, we look at each individual’s documents closely and make specific suggestions for how they can improve upon what they already have. Whether that be a change in formatting, word choice, or sentence structure/grammar, Mike helps them correct it.

Your first experience abroad was in Greece, how did this impact your movement toward a career in international education?

I can remember it like it was yesterday: I was standing at the base of the lighthouse in Chania, Crete, hearing the waves crash on the stone wall leading up to it, smelling the salt in the air, feeling the cool breeze whip across me, and gazing dreamily in at the crumbly, beautiful Venetian harbor. I knew in that moment that that could not possibly be the last time I stood in that spot. I decided then and there that the world was too small, too easily traversed, to resign myself to staying in one place. This is something I’m really passionate about, and I love opening others’ eyes to wonders of travel.

Global Experiences staff and intern in Cambridge, England

Harrison posing in Cambridge, UK with one of the summer 2014 interns.  Shortly after this photo was taken, they all went punting on the River Cam.

You speak some Spanish and Turkish, what do you think the biggest benefits of learning another language before or while traveling abroad are?

Learning the basics of a country you’re visiting is simply the polite thing to do. Knowing how to say “Hello” and “How are you?” coupled with a friendly smile can open a lot of doors when you’re abroad. In general, I’m a big advocate of politeness and being a great ambassador for your home country, and being respectful and learning some of the local language is an easy way to do this.

You’ve been with Global Experiences for almost three years, what do you consider your biggest achievement to be thus far?

My biggest achievement has probably been showing my colleagues how passionate I am about what we do and being rewarded with the opportunity to travel for work (I lived in London last summer and assisted with the implementation of our program there) and being moved into my new position as Program Advisor. Most importantly, I feel like my colleagues are my friends. I trust them and they trust me, and we know we can rely on each other. I can’t think of a more important component to a happy, successful career.

You enjoy writing music, and even play the guitar, does Global Experiences have international internship placement opportunities available in the music and arts sector?

We do! We have some very cool music industry opportunities in London, Dublin, Sydney, New York, and a few here and there in our other locations as well. Same goes for the art world.  We have some great opportunities with museums of all sorts in nearly all of our locations.  There’s even a super high profile fine art restoration placement opportunity in Florence, though you need to be a great candidate to land it!

What is the best part about working for Global Experiences as an organization?

I work with a team of fun, hard working, wonderful people to create a one-of-a-kind service that helps change people’s lives. It doesn’t get better than that.