GoAbroad Interview

Marissa Sutera - Admissions Coordinator

Marissa Sutera - Admissions Coordinator

Marissa holds a MBA from Eastern Illinois University, and a Bachelors in Marketing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Marissa’s excitement for travel came about when she studied abroad in Ireland, Scotland, and England, and more recently she volunteered on a teaching program in Zambia. When she is not working or traveling, she is probably writing about travel on her blog or enjoying an outdoor run or hike.

Your background isn’t in medicine, and you’ve interned, but not abroad; how did you get connected with Atlantis Project?

I studied abroad when I was an undergraduate, and it sparked my passion for international education. Being immersed in another culture offers so many benefits and important lessons that are not achieved by classroom learning. I wanted other students to be able to have an amazing experience abroad like I did! Although I do not have a background in medicine, when I came across the Atlantis Project I saw it as the perfect opportunity to play a role in providing a transformative experience abroad for health students!

Studying Abroad in Scotland

Studying Abroad in Scotland.

Your role as Admissions Coordinator for Atlantis Project is multi-faceted, what does a typical day look like for you?

My days are always focused around promoting the Atlantis Project and making sure students know about our programs and what we offer. I typically start my day with responding to emails and checking on the performance of various ads we may be running. Throughout the day I monitor all of our social media accounts and will work on any projects we have ongoing at the time, like website development, writing for our blog, email marketing campaigns, managing partnerships with external organizations, and monitoring any contests we may be running. My days can vary quite a bit, especially depending on the time of year since our programs are seasonal, but if it’s related to promotion I’m all over it!

You are also involved in some marketing and social media efforts for Atlantis Project, how do you use social media to connect with prospective interns?

Social media is one of my favorite parts of my job! Social media allows me to connect directly with students. I post any articles and information that may interest health students as well as photos from Atlantis Fellows attending our programs to get students excited about interning abroad. I make a point to engage with students directly as much as possible to answer any questions they may have or simply to encourage them to check out our programs.

Volunteering Abroad in Zambia

Volunteering in Zambia.

Your undergrad was in Marketing, and then you went on to earn your MBA, how do you apply these skills to your role in the field of International Education?

Understanding the business side of our day to day operations has been extremely helpful in guiding me when making decisions about the best ways to promote our programs and reach health students. Combining the marketing strategies I learned in my studies with my experience working with students, and being a former study abroad student myself, have proven to be extremely valuable in understanding the ins and outs of sharing our programs with students and getting them excited for this fantastic opportunity.

You’ve been abroad several times, from studying in Ireland, Scotland, and England, to volunteer teaching in Zambia, what about meaningful travel do you find the most inspiring (or beneficial)?

I think it’s extremely important to be exposed to as many cultures as possible and meet friends from all over the world. Having a personal connection with someone in another country creates a connection with you and that place, rather than it just being another shape on a map. Giving back to a community through responsible travel is especially impactful, as you are giving your time and skills to help out people in need. That builds an extra strong connection, and suddenly news and events happening in that country are no longer just a headline of an article. Building these connections are what brings us closer to becoming global citizens and away from an “us vs. them” mentality across nations.

How has studying and volunteering abroad shaped your career?

Studying and volunteering abroad are the reasons I am on a career path in international education at all! Before going abroad, I just thought travel was going on a vacation for a few days or weeks and then coming home and returning to reality. Little did I know that there were so many opportunities around the world to explore foreign cultures, meet new people, and expand my comfort zone. I had such an amazing experience that I pursued a career that would allow me to encourage other students to go abroad and share with them how study abroad impacted me.

Hiking in the Canary Islands

Atlantis Fellows hiking in the Canary Islands.

What advice would you give a student interested in applying to an Atlantis Project program?

Start out with an open mind, even before applying. It’s important to know what you expect before attending, and then leave all expectations at home. Things are not always going to go as planned, so having an open mind before you even apply can help you to have the best experience possible. Most importantly, get excited! We want to see students’ enthusiasm for going on an Atlantis Project program and hear what excites you about our programs.

You keep a very active lifestyle, running, biking, and doing zumba, what are some ways busy interns can stay active while abroad (especially while on an island)?

One that I can guarantee is that there will be plenty of walking! Between busy days shadowing in the hospitals and exploring the island during free time, there is quite a bit of walking involved. Depending on where they are located, many Fellows enjoy hiking, jogging, and some locations may even have a gym. Whatever activities Fellows choose to engage in, we encourage them to always have a friend tag along as safety is our top priority.

Hiking in Scotland

Hiking in Scotland.

You recently moved to Colorado from Illinois, what has been the biggest adjustment for you? Are the two cultures that different?

They are much more different than I expected when moving here! The biggest difference I noticed is how much more laid back people are in Colorado. People are very friendly in Colorado, and there is much more value placed on being active and exploring the outdoors. It certainly hasn’t been hard adjusting to that!

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job with Atlantis Project?

I love offering the opportunity for students to participate on this life changing experience. When I went abroad, before leaving I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I just thought it would be “cool” and “fun” to travel abroad while earning course credit at the same time. Instead, it led me on a career path I didn’t even know existed at the time, broadened my worldview, and created a desire to learn about people and cultures from all around the world.

Being able to provide international internship programs for students is beyond fulfilling for me because students are able to develop skills relevant to their future careers while also having the chance to see the world from a new perspective.