Jeramy Johnson - Vice President of Marketing and Development
Academic Programs International (API) is a leading international education organization with study abroad programs in 20 countries across Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. API works closely with universities to make sure each student’s needs, before, during, and after an education experience abroad, are met. Jeremy Johnson works as API’s vice president of marketing and development, ensuring the organization continues their mission throughout the world, in every program, for every participant.
The Academic Programs International mission includes a line that states, “API is committed to providing the best comprehensive study abroad experience possible.” What comprises a great study abroad program?
In our opinion, what makes a great study abroad program is the value of the program… not only the economic value of the program (what you get for the price), but the academic and cultural value added. Our goal is to develop international experiences that highlight top academics and amazing cultural opportunities - all at a competitive price point.
API has always been a leader in international education. What do you think is API’s role in today’s fast-evolving field of international education?
Again, our focus is developing quality academic and cultural programs at a reasonable price point. I think that is the niche that we fill in our field, and what we’re best known for; that and the amazing people that I work with both in the U.S. and internationally. We also place a high priority on fulfilling the needs of our university partners in innovative ways and through new types of programs, including customized offerings, individual and specialized internships, service learning opportunities, etc.
API has a lot of programs in a variety of countries. How do you make each program stand out from other programs?
We are very strategic when it comes to deciding which programs to develop and where. We try to be conscious about creating programs that will appeal to a diverse array of student interests, based on location, areas of academic interest, cultural opportunities, etc. Some of our programs have mass appeal, others are inviting specifically because they are in an “off-the-beaten-path” or relatively undiscovered location. Other programs are popular because of the unique set of course offerings they present. So I think each API programs stand out based on a combination of the factors mentioned above.
What is API’s most popular program or program destination based on participation numbers?
While several programs vie for the most popular, traditionally our programs in Spain have had the largest enrollment.
In your profile on the API website, you list Salzburg, Dubrovnik, and Dubai as your favorite travel locations. In your opinion, what would makes these locations good study abroad destinations?
Ha, good catch! Salzburg is a personal favorite (my wife lived in Austria for 7 years), and I think a program there could be very popular (who knows what the future holds?).
Regarding Dubai, I am fascinated by how the U.A.E. and Qatar (and specifically Doha and Dubai) have quite literally risen out of the sands in the past few decades, and are developing before our eyes. The U.A.E. provides a study abroad experience in contrast with more ‘“traditional” American study abroad destinations where students often are drawn to a location based on its history, architecture, artifacts, etc… The dynamic in the gulf region affords students the opportunity to witness the rapid modern development of societies.
On that note, API offers a wonderful study abroad program in the UAE in Sharjah, the Emirate next to Dubai (20 minutes away). Our partner university (the American University of Sharjah) is arguably the top university in the entire region, with multiple American, U.A.E., and regional accreditations (including middle states, Aacsb, Naab, and Abet). Additionally, the campus is absolutely gorgeous, is coed, and has a very diverse student body. Couple that with the fact that Sharjah is the U.A.E.’s cultural capital and only 20 to 30 minutes from cosmopolitan Dubai, and students have the best of both worlds at their disposal!
What program do you most highly recommend to potential participants?
It totally depends on the student. When speaking with students at universities, on the phone, or on social media, the first thing I try to do is get a feel for why they want to study abroad, what they want to study, what their learning goals are, where they want to go, when they want to go, etc, and then try to present what I think might be their best options from our program portfolio.
We really want what is best for the student, and sometimes they are looking for a program that we do not offer, so we always encourage them to speak with their study abroad office or academic advisor on campus before they make any decisions.
How does API ensure participants feel comfortable in their program locations?
Every student has different needs and different expectations, so I think a big part it is trying to provide the student with as much information as possible in advance of their program decision, so that they have realistic expectations on what their API program experience is going to be like. This includes not only collecting all the relevant personal information we can upon application or post-application from the student (food allergies, roommate preferences, etc), but also letting them know as much as possible about accommodations, transportation, API staff, etc. We take pride in securing quality housing in each location, and in many locations we try to provide additional services (e.g. kitchen kits, transport passes, mobile phones, tutoring).
Our extensive pre-departure and on-site orientations also focus on student needs and expectations, and our on-site resident directors are trained to work with students to make their experience the best it can possibly be (they are available to students 24/7, often providing tutoring and social/cultural support, particularly at the start of a program, and they often remain in contact with students post-program).
Safety and security is a primary concern of study abroad participants. How does API ensure the safety of its participants abroad?
Student/participant safety and security is of paramount importance to us at API. We have extensive emergency action plans in place for all of our locations, and our resident directors undergo continuous training to make sure that they are current on our policies and procedures in the event of an emergency, large or small, real or perceived.
Additionally, API Texas and API international staff closely monitor safety and security information on a daily basis to make sure that we are as prepared as possible for any potential crises.
As API’s VP of Marketing and Development, you have visited many of the organization’s program locations, including Barcelona in Spain, Doha in Qatar, and Krakow in Poland. How did your experience in those cities compare to that of living in your hometown of San Antonio, Texas?
Growing up in south Texas, I never really thought much about traveling the world. In my rural bubble, I didn’t even know many people who had travelled out of the country (with the exception of Mexico, which is only a few hours from where i grew up). I loved my childhood, but I did think there was much more out there for me, and once I had my first taste of travel, I was hooked. I know it’s cliché, but it really did open my eyes to the wider world, and the notion that there is more than one viewpoint or way of seeing the world. It was liberating!
Can we expect any API programs in new cities in the near future?
Did you ever get the chance to shoot hoops with Tim Duncan?
No, but I did get to shoot the breeze with him before he was announced to the city in front of the Alamo after being drafted in the summer of 1997. His Wake Forest team had knocked my University of Texas team out of the NCAA tournament, so I got a few good natured digs in at him. ;)