GoAbroad Interview

Pierce Persons - Recruiting & Program Director for Greece

Pierce Persons - Recruiting & Program Director for Greece

Pierce is a Macon GA native and UGA graduate. She has been involved with the Go Global team in varying capacities over the past four years. Her interest in the company sparked when she attended the Global LEAD Cape Town trip as a student. Since then, Pierce has a whole new appreciation for life and traveling and spending time with friends, family, and loved ones is what makes her heart happy.

How did you transition from Global LEAD program participant, to intern, to staff?

I first entered the Global LEAD family as a student on our Cape Town 2012 experience. Immediately I fell in love with the culture, food, scenery, and experiences throughout my five week study abroad experience in South Africa. Upon arrival in the states, I served as a Campus Director at the University of Georgia.

Next, I returned to Cape Town as an intern on our 2013 experience and continued to grow my involvement as the Regional Director for the UGA/Clemson campuses. In April 2014, I was officially offered a full-time job with Global LEAD and led the first ever Cape Town Direct in May 2014 and LEAD Greece during the month of June. I will be heading off to Greece shortly for my fourth summer abroad with Global LEAD, otherwise known as Go Global.

Eating gelato in Greece

Pierce, Courtney, and Ashley enjoyed some gelato with a few of the boys on the Greece trip

What does an average day of work look like for you?

An average day in my role is different depending on the season. When we are traveling from campus to campus I spend my days meeting with students and telling them about our different programs. It makes for some pretty happy days getting to talk about my favorite things. Nights consist of dinners or other outings with our past students. During the summer I lead our Greece program, which includes planning, organizing, entertaining, teaching, leading, and creating a transformative experience for the students on the trip.

You studied abroad with Global LEAD in Cape Town while at University of Georgia, how did this experience shape your interest in working in the field of international education?

Not everyone can pinpoint the exact moment or experience that changed their life, but I can. Going on the Global LEAD trip to Cape Town the summer after my sophomore year changed my plans completely. As a public relations major, I had dreams of going to a big city and working for a big firm. However, after the five weeks in Cape Town I knew that was never going to happen. I quickly changed paths and became involved with Go Global in as many capacities as possible. This ultimately led me to accepting a full-time job with the company a few years later.

Posing with a guard

Pierce paused to pose during the changing of the guards

What did your role as a Global LEAD campus ambassador entail? How did you use your academic background in PR to assist you?

At the time I was the LEAD campus ambassador at UGA, I was absolutely on fire with anything that had to do with Global LEAD. After returning from the program, I did everything possible to connect my experience back on campus. Conveniently, I was on the Panhellenic Executive Board, serving in the Public Relations Director position, which allowed me to connect my two worlds together so perfectly. I would speak at different campus organizations about the programs, meet with interested students, assist in campus visits when the staff would come to Athens, or put posters up around the school. Anything I could do to help get the word out about the best five weeks I had ever experienced, I did it.

What makes Global LEAD’s programming in Greece unique when compared to other study or volunteer abroad programs there?

Although I am biased, I truly believe Global LEAD’s programming is extremely more interactive than other programs. I have talked to several of my friends who studied abroad on other programs in the past, and they say they never saw a staff member from the company facilitating the study abroad program. This is the exact opposite approach that Global LEAD takes. In Greece I want to do everything possible for the students to know I am available at all times. If a student is sick, I take them to the doctor. If a student wants to go to dinner, we go eat. If a student needs a shoulder to cry on, I am there. We have days filled with tours, adventures, service projects, etc., and I will be there every step of the way.

How do you help participants fully immerse into Greek culture while abroad?

Go Global’s programs are structured in a strategic way that creates environments for students to interact with a different culture to its full measure. From eating local cuisine on the first night of the program to having guest speakers inform the students of past and present struggles, the students are educated in a way where they fully understand a new culture. Personally, I challenge students frequently to go outside of their comfort zone, to learn the language, to connect with locals, to go beyond what is scheduled, which will really allow them to be enriched by the space they are in.

Yoga pose at sunset

Traveling can be extremely busy and stressful - it is important to pause and appreciate the little beauties that surround you.

What is the most frequently asked question you receive about Global LEAD’s programming in Greece, and what is your response?

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive about Go Global’s programming in Greece is some sort of combination about safety. Obviously students, parents, and friends worry about their loved one being in a foreign country. I quickly ensure that we go to extreme measures to keep everyone safe while abroad (orientation, they must sign out when they leave the hotel, students must stay with a buddy - just to name a few). However, the thing that comforts most everyone is that at the end of the day we will not go through with a program if students are in serious danger.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give to Global LEAD participants headed to Greece?

The best piece of advice I could give the Go Global participants headed to Greece this summer is to take advantage of every single opportunity. This ranges from going to local restaurants to sight seeing or tasting new food, but the most important thing I tell students is to take advantage of all the students that are on the program. There are students from dozens of universities across the country that have absolutely amazing stories. If they do not take the time to break away from their closest friends, they may miss the chance to meet someone special.

We hear you love sharing travel stories, hit us with your best one!

Last summer, before I led the Cape Town Direct trip, I had the opportunity to join a friend in South Africa for a safari. This was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. If you have never been on a safari I highly recommend it. Being without a cell phone, without noise, and without distractions is a truly breathtaking feeling. Waking up before the sun rises and going to bed right as the sun sets is a foreign concept for most of us, but as cheesy as it sounds, being one with nature is something unique. Not to mention, seeing lions, elephants, cheetahs, giraffes, zebra, and other animals running free five feet away is an exceptional sight. It was an unforgettable experience and I will forever be grateful for being able to share this with a close friend.

What has been your biggest achievement in your role with Global LEAD so far? What are your goals for 2015?

This past year has been the fastest year of my life, and I think it is fair to say it has been one of the most challenging. No one warns you for what a transitional period the first year out of college is, and I could not have done it without the support of the Go Global team. Although staying “up to par” with the rest of my co-workers was a big achievement my first year, I think Go: Again would be the biggest. Go: Again is when a student goes on one of our programs for a second or third time. I had the idea to reach out to all of our past students to inform them that this was a possibility after I talked to one of my students. Since then the concept has taken off. In a short time, we had almost a dozen students joining us for yet another summer.

What’s the most exciting part about your work with Global LEAD?

The most exciting part about my work with Go Global is getting to create international programs for students from all over the country. Because I experienced one of the programs first hand, I know how truly wonderful it is. This makes it all the more exciting to go to work everyday and help create these environments for future students. Something as silly as making copies for their welcome folders is fulfilling because I know it will have a positive impact on the students when they arrive in a foreign country.