GoAbroad Interview

John Colhouer - Regional College Relations Manager & IES Abroad Alum

John Colhouer - Regional College Relations Manager & IES Abroad Alum

John Colhouer is a Regional College Relations Manager at IES Abroad, where he visits schools in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. John also serves as the Madrid Language and Area Studies Program Advisor and is based out of St. Louis, MO. For more than 10 years, he has worked in a variety of capacities within the field of International Education. When he’s not traveling, he’s either riding his bike, reading, or practicing yoga around town. 

You studied abroad with IES Abroad, how did you end up as a Regional College Relations Manager almost 13 years later?

After studying in Madrid, I realized how much study abroad impacted me as a person. While in undergrad, I never had a clear picture of what I wanted my career to look like (unlike lots of my peers). I think this flexibility helped me to experiment with careers, but it also consistently reaffirmed how international education and language study had defined a tremendous amount of my perspective. After leaving the field of education abroad for several years, the importance of study abroad continued to reappear in my professional satisfaction.

At the Alhambra in Granada, Spain

John pictured at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain while helping co-direct the first IES Advisors Workshop Abroad.

Thirteen years ago I had no idea where the path might lead, but am thrilled it finds me managing College Relations for IES Abroad. Every day I’m able to use my education first-hand while speaking with students about future possibilities and how study abroad may be incorporated into their degree plan. 

What advice would you give to other males who are uncertain if studying or interning abroad is for them? 

When talking to male students, the practicality of studying abroad is mentioned frequently. At IES Abroad, we conducted a study focusing upon the Career Benefits of Study Abroad in 2012 with a group of alumni. This study is something I frequently discuss because during my conversations with males identifying the “why” to study abroad is important. While I’m a strong believer that many of the gains in an international experience are not only justified by percentages, there’s no doubt that data supports how tremendously important studying abroad is and how it sets you apart from your peers. 

Your role as Regional College Relations Manager for Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas must involve a lot of travel. What does a typical day look like for you?

My role is very dynamic and takes two shapes: College Relations, which involves travel, as well as more home office working environment while serving as a Program Advisor.   During the academic calendar, I travel extensively visiting schools in the early through mid-fall as well as early to mid-spring. In fact, last year I was on an airplane 61 times in 2014 to make visits.

Whether I’m on a campus meeting with faculty, hosting training sessions for new staff, participating in a study abroad fair or information session, there is rarely a dull moment.  My excitement to travel as a student has continued to permeate as I’ve become a professional.  When I consider that I may be in five different cities in one week making these types of visits, I smile.  If I were to sit at my home office all day for the entire year, I’m sure my anxiety for not traveling would surface! 

You have over 10 years of experience in international education, from program management and serving as an on site director to student advising. What sets IES Abroad’s programs apart from all the others out there? 

I think there are many quality programs that are available to students. IES Abroad focuses on academic study, which speaks a lot about my background. I found the courses that I took in Madrid to be challenging in a way that was similar to my home school at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.

We have a dedication to students to ensure they receive the highest quality and integrity of programs—both in the United States and overseas—something I believe we consistently deliver for all students. IES Abroad recognizes and supports diversity, offers financial aid and scholarships amounting to more than $2.4 million each year, and actively participates in quality assessments to continue to perfect best practices in all that we do. I love having the opportunity to work with an organization that inspired me personally so many years ago and allows me to work in such a rewarding endeavor. 

IES Staff with a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia Study Abroad Fair

John speaking with a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia Study Abroad Fair.

You’re fluent in Spanish, why do you think language learning is important in any study or intern abroad program?

I believe students have many different objectives when they choose his or her program. For me, language immersion and study was crucial to my development. For the first 18 years of my life I was raised in rural Southeast Missouri, an area that is predominantly agrarian and isolated from much of the rest of the state and the subsequent landscape of the Mississippi Delta.

Learning Spanish helped me to understand that it didn’t matter where I lived. Taking the time to learn how others communicate reaffirms that we all share the same needs, regardless the words or accents we use to speak. I encourage students to become proficient or fluent in another language because it not only opens up your professional opportunities, it demonstrates that you have a curiosity about how other cultures work with genuine authenticity.

You also serve as a Program Advisor for the Madrid Language and Area Studies programs and help to facilitate student pre-departure. What are the most important things students need to know before they head to Madrid?

Being adaptable to a new place is the most important piece of advice that I’m able to give any students. There will be challenges as well as triumphs, and I encourage all students to take them in stride. Navigating a new place can be stressful, but with an accepting attitude and a willingness to recognize that sometimes when things are slightly awkward, we are given the opportunity to grow as people. Madrid was a fantastic place for me to learn more about how to embrace so many different things. Studying abroad grants this opportunity to experiment wisely, and I encourage all students to consider this when thinking about what their time abroad may look like. 

Hassan Tower in Rabat, Morocco

John touring the Hassan Tower in Rabat, Morocco.

You’ve been with IES Abroad for three and half years, what has been your biggest accomplishment so far?

I’ve been fortunate to work with a great team that has fostered the opportunity to present and implement new ideas. In 2013, I recorded the largest growth in enrollment for a single term in IES Abroad history. That same year, I was able join the first Advisor Workshop Abroad in Granada, Spain, designed for Study Abroad Advisors to participate in a familiarization trip.  Having the chance to participate in the inaugural workshop was a personal highlight, as I loved working with advisors from all over the country with interest in learning more about Spain.

What is the best part of working for IES Abroad?

To echo the sentiment about my team, working at IES Abroad has enabled me to meet so many incredibly talented people in the field. Having a network of colleagues that offer support, advice, and create a community for those of us who work remotely has been invaluable. While my family owned their own business for three generations, I’m often reminded of that dynamic and commitment to one another I watched growing up as I work at IES Abroad. Thirteen years ago I was unsure of where my path would lead. I’m so grateful that it has brought me back to IES Abroad, and that I’m able to impart those experiences with other students.