GoAbroad Interview

Jan Fitz-Gerald - Founder & President

Jan Fitz-Gerald - Founder & President

Jan is a passionate educator and has had the privilege of working across many educational sectors and cultural boundaries throughout her career. She has taught abroad, worked as a university professor, lead study abroad groups, and founded an international education organization. As president of the Institute of Global Engagement, New Zealand, she is dedicated to providing educational opportunities for people of all ages and interests in New Zealand.

You worked as the Director of University Relations at AUT University for more than a decade and founded Queenstown Resort College. What inspired you to establish the Institute of Global Engagement?

I first hosted a study tour from the USA in 2007 and loved the experience. When I returned to Auckland, I supported a local university in setting up systems and course design for executive, government and student study tours, and then went on to establish my own business to do this; university systems and procedures were very restrictive and you could not respond quickly to enquiries - and so the Institute was born!

Institute of Global Engagement, New Zealand welcome party for participants
Welcome party

As founder of the Institute of Global Engagement, how do you ensure every program is “informative, inspirational, and life changing”?

It is important that each program is both educational and transformational - we must make a difference in someone’s life. We put our heart and soul into each tour and i am told that they have been life changing for some students and participants - feedback always tell us this. We are not a travel agency - we do it differently.

What do you think makes New Zealand a great place for international programs?

It is a unique country and one of the most popular visitor destinations in the world - everyone wants to visit. It can be the experience of a lifetime to experience the breathtaking landscapes and immerse yourself in the culture and environment. It is safe and the youngest country on Earth, and the people are warm and friendly.

You have worked in the field of education for over 25 years, what do you think the key to student success abroad is?

A global education and awareness of the world’s issues through experiential education. Today, students can travel to any country they want to experience an education, and this, I hope, opens their minds and hearts.

A student must be able to make a difference in the world today through global and cultural engagement and understanding.

What sets a study tour with Institute of Global Engagement apart from a typical study abroad program?

We are not a travel or education agency - we are real New Zealanders on the ground hosting tours and care about the overall experience. Each tour is planned for the learning experience and what the participants will remember from it; it is on the ground real Kiwi experiences with qualified and experienced New Zealand educators.

International students in New Zealand
Farewell party

How do you make sure students experience Kiwi culture and the local way of life during their time in New Zealand?

Because we are all Kiwis, students will immediately be immersed into the Kiwi culture. The indigenous culture is also important to us, and each tour reflects a total immersion of the Maori culture through stories, performances, and song.

What is the most unique program you offer?

They are all very unique because they are carefully designed to be unique. They integrate education with culture, ecotourism, global and environmental issues, adventure tourism and a whole lot of fun to make them very different to agency tours.

How do you select your partners?

Relationships are important and we usually work with partners who we have met and trust.

What is the most important thing participants take home with them from a study tour?

A life changing experience, and that they will spread the word about this country and its people…and will return one day as a tour leader!

What can we expect from Institute of Global Engagement in 2017?

Wow, this year we are to host a large youth global leadership summit in July, so we are busy planning this at the moment. It is for a sister city program and a first of its kind in New Zealand. We have a very exciting year ahead.

What do you feel is the organization’s biggest accomplishment thus far?

Entering into relationships with great partners throughout the world who appreciate that having a dedicated study tour company in New Zealand with local experts to provide tours for them is beneficial; these relationships are important.

We like to design and host great and unique programs - being different is important to us. Happy participants is the most important outcome of any tour.