GoAbroad Interview

Nate Hammond - Special Projects Intern

Nate Hammond - Special Projects Intern

Nate’s position at Performing Arts Abroad integrates interests in cultural exchange and the societal value of the arts as a path to intellectual development and personal expression. He previously worked in his hometown of Cincinnati conducting business strategy research, is currently a Master’s degree candidate in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, and graduated from Denison University with a degree in history and East Asian studies.

You have a strong musical background, how did you originally get connected with Performing Arts Abroad? 

It actually wasn’t through my music background at all!  In fact, if anything it’s the other way around. Having the opportunity to work for Performing Arts Abroad has really reinvigorated my desire to stay involved in the arts as I pursue my career in international education. I originally learned about PAA when my fiancée, who also works in the field of international education, got a job at another company in Northampton, MA where Performing Arts Abroad is located. I got in contact with Reynolds over the phone while I was still in California taking classes for my Master’s and we had a great conversation. Once I got here, we met in person and hashed out some details and the rest is history! 

Waterfall in Jiuzhaigou National Park in China

Stopped for a break from backpacking in front of what is probably the least scenic waterfall in Jiuzhaigou National Park in China

What exactly does your role as Special Projects Intern entail on a day-to-day basis?

I work primarily on back end, internal-facing business strategy related to marketing and outreach, program design and assessment, data conglomeration and analysis, etc. I have more of an operations and analysis-oriented background in my work experience prior to coming to PAA, so my work here largely builds off of that. 

Your Master’s program at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey is focused on International Education Management, how do you use this knowledge and the skills you are learning within your internship for PAA?

It’s fundamental to my work. Performing Arts Abroad is an international education company that is run for and by performing artists. It’s a fantastic model, and the passion and industry knowledge that run throughout the organization on the performing arts front is pretty amazing. What my skillset provides is another perspective and a corresponding set of practical international education-focused business acumen. My training represents a way of thinking about the company and its strategic future that helps round out PAA’s standard operating procedures and the delivery of our business concept.

Holding a Red Panda at the Chengdu Panda Research and Breeding Base in China

Getting some personal Red Panda diplomacy at the Chengdu Panda Research and Breeding Base

What is the number one thing people should know about Performing Arts Abroad?

We have fun doing what we do. No, really; we have an absolute blast both in the office and outside of it. We’re also serious about our work though in the same way that professional dancers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and other artists are about their craft. We are performers and artists at heart and by our training, that have taken an interest in providing international programs to fellow artists. This really shows in our programs and in the kind of experiences you can expect when you enroll with Performing Arts Abroad. 

You have a background in East Asian Studies and speak Chinese, how is language learning important for study abroad?

People often think of studying a foreign language as being synonymous with having an international/intercultural experience. Our education system is structured in a way that really reinforces this idea. For me, my personal interests in language and history drove my interest in learning about different cultures and seeking out intercultural experiences. For others that’s not the case at all. In some countries it is much easier to get by without having much language proficiency than in others. If you want to live somewhere like China, for example, I would definitely say it is more critical to have the ability to speak some Chinese than it would be to speak the local language somewhere like Scandinavia. Also, there are options for English language study abroad in many countries, and you can still have a very transformative cultural experience in other English-speaking countries as well.

Speaking generally, having at least intermediate-level proficiency in a second language really expands your options when looking for a study abroad program. Most important though is the willingness to learn a language and to learn the culture of the place where you’re living, being really open to speaking it, learning on the job, and living it on a day to day basis regardless of your tested level of fluency. If you have the right mentality you will easily learn more language just by being abroad and interacting with it on a day to day basis than you ever will in a classroom. Of course, it always helps to have a head start though!

At the top of Yosemite Falls

Relaxing at the top of Yosemite Falls (seriously though, the rock was shaped like a bathtub, it was perfect)

If you had to hop on a plane tomorrow, which one of Performing Arts Abroad’s programs would you choose to participate in?

I would go to Costa Rica as a music volunteer. The intellectual, social, and community development, along with the level of personal purpose and fulfillment that the arts provide are the biggest things that draw me to the field. I personally am not a hardcore professional performer; frankly, I am not talented enough to be (although I do at times envy those that are)! We have a fantastic partner in Costa Rica though, and the opportunity to make an impact in the communities there is just enormous.

By going to Costa Rica I would be following in the footsteps of some pretty amazing people who have helped a ton of others to feel empowered through the arts. When you go abroad to volunteer with PAA as an artist, no matter your discipline, you bring so much potential with you. Also, I’ve heard it’s absolutely beautiful in Costa Rica, and I could scratch my outdoors adventure itch a little while I was there as well! 

As someone new to the organization, what would you say is the organization's biggest challenge? Greatest strength?

Hiking in Yosemite

"Getting ready to enter Yosemite" photo op with half dome, looks a little different there in March than it does in New England

Our organization’s biggest strength is also its biggest challenge. The strength is that we are small. Your experience with us is personal, we know your name, you’ll know who we are, we know what matters to you as an artist, and you’ll feel understood and supported throughout the entire process, whether you’re just starting to think about going abroad or getting ready to come home. The challenge is that, as it turns out, our students love us for those reasons. We’re growing, but we have to figure out how to stay small in our service mentality and ensure that we continue to bring personal, artistically valuable perspectives to our programming even as we build out more programs, enter into more international partnerships, and send more students abroad. 

What is your favorite part about interning for Performing Arts Abroad?

I am not penned in or constrained by my responsibilities. As a young professional, having the opportunity to wear many different hats, work on various projects, and knowing that my work will have a genuine and immediate impact in determining the future success of this company is a great environment to work in.