GoAbroad Interview

Justine Harrington - Admissions Director

Justine Harrington - Admissions Director

Justine’s experience abroad in Argentina when she was 16 served as the catalyst to her fascination with travel and exploring other cultures. This led her to study and volunteer abroad again in both Ecuador and France. Her meaningful experience abroad brought her to where she is today, as SPI’s Admissions Director. Through her role as Admissions Director, she helps guide students through the process of applying and commencing study abroad with SPI, and she also manages SPI’s social media channels. She hopes to inspire other young people to pursue study abroad and develop greater intercultural communication! Outside of work you can find Justine practicing her downward dog at one of Austin’s yoga studios, or embracing her inner foodie and venturing to a new restaurant!

Having a blast with SPI students in Biarritz, France
Having a blast with SPI students in Biarritz, France.

Coming from the Midwest, what inspired your travel to France and studies of the language?

As a teenager coming of age in small-town Oklahoma, I really developed a desire to travel and explore other cultures and ways of life. This isn’t to say that I didn’t love growing up where I did (I definitely did!), but I always knew that my ultimate goal in life would be to have adventures and see as much of this big, beautiful world as I could.

I accidentally fell into studying French Literature in college. I had originally wanted to major in Spanish and study abroad in Argentina, but the Beginner Spanish class I wanted to take was full -- so I ended up taking French, instead! I immediately fell head over heels in love with the language and its amazing culture and canon of literature. My French studies also really complimented my other academic interests in college: Cultural Anthropology and African Studies. It was definitely meant to be!

How did a background in teaching facilitate your involvement with SPI?

I taught at a Montessori school before I entered the study abroad industry, and while I absolutely loved it, I always knew that I wanted to work in the international education industry at some point. When I moved to Austin, Texas, I began sending out resumes like a madwoman and ultimately found SPI! I’m so happy to work for such an amazing organization, and to be in the exciting field of study abroad and international education. It’s truly the most rewarding thing in the world to be able to help guide others through the process of studying abroad, and to know that our students are going to have the same life-altering experience that I did.

What does a typical day look like in your role as Admissions Director at SPI?

A typical day for me begins with lots of coffee and emails, and ends just about the same way :) In between I speak with prospective and enrolled parents and students, process applications, coordinate our alumni outreach efforts, write for the SPI blog, and spearhead our social media channels. Every day is different and exciting! 

You’re SPI’s social media manager. What’s your favorite part of communicating with students on these channels?

I love being able to connect with our former and future students on social media because it’s an effective, fun way to keep in touch with our alumni and provide helpful info to our possible participants. Whether it’s offering advice about including study abroad on your resume via our SPI alumni group on Facebook, or creating Pinterest boards for our pre-departure materials, I always have fun incorporating social media into my daily schedule!

If you were a high school student, which SPI program would you choose?

While it totally depends on the student, and though I’m admittedly biased toward our fabulous Biarritz program, in my next life I want to study abroad in Siena (the location of our Italian immersion program, in dreamy Tuscany). Siena is a magical city, and our students absolutely love getting to be part of the Palio every year -- it’s such a culturally-enriching, wonderful program.

What part of your job at SPI do you enjoy the most?

Honestly, I get fired up every day thinking about talking to parents and students about the things I’m most passionate about -- genuine immersion in another culture, second language acquisition, and the value of intercultural communication. It’s also an immense joy to be part of such a dedicated team -- everyone works so tirelessly to help our students have the best and most rewarding experience possible. I also always love to hear back from our students on how transformed they’ve become by their SPI experience