Shannon Diegel - Program Manager
Shannon is an Assistant Program Manager for The Education Abroad Network (TEAN). She works primarily on TEAN’s Southeast Asia and Summer programs. Shannon studied abroad while attending Loyola University Chicago, which influenced her to move to Bangkok, Thailand to teach English after graduation. Upon returning back to the U.S., she launched her career in international education, helping U.S. high school students study abroad. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in International Education at the SIT Graduate Institute.
You studied abroad with Semester at Sea while in college at Loyola University of Chicago. How did this experience affect your decision to teach English abroad in Thailand?
Studying on Semester at Sea taught me how to feel comfortable when pushed outside my comfort zone. Since we traveled to various locations and were in some ports for only a short period of time, we had to jump in and make the most of our time in country. While I was a little nervous to move to Thailand (I had a momentary breakdown on the flight over), I knew that I had the tools to adjust and make the most of an exciting adventure.
Part of your role includes working on short courses, which typically take place over the summer months. What draws students to this type of study abroad experience?
There are many obstacles for some students studying abroad such as the cost of programs and the time commitment away from a student’s home campus. I love working on the short-course programs so I can help students maximize their time abroad with less-expensive options that don’t interfere with a students on-campus course load. TEAN has some amazing summer programs that ensure students make the most of their time abroad.
You’re currently finishing up a Master’s in International Education from SIT, how are you applying your learning to your work at TEAN?
Generally, my courses at SIT have showed me how international education is beneficial not only for an individual student studying abroad, but also for the host and home societies. Immersing yourself in another culture breaks down stereotypes and prejudices, as does hosting or befriending people from other backgrounds. Specifically, my work at SIT has taught me the importance of developing study abroad programs that ensure a student is well prepared for their experience so they feel a level of comfort that allows them to become an active part of their host community.
What does a typical day look like as Assistant Program Manager for The Education Abroad Network?
Everyday is very different at TEAN. Since I work on the Short-Course and the Southeast Asia programs, I spend a lot of time helping to prepare students and assisting them with their applications. I also answer parent and student questions and coordinate logistics for our short programs. Helping to organize the study abroad fairs that TEAN attends can take up a lot of my time as well. This fall TEAN visited more than 120 partner schools! I also travel to help out at some study abroad fairs, and it great to meet students in person. Being able to meet students preparing to study abroad, or those that are currently studying abroad, is one of the best parts of my job.
Known for being the Asia-Pacific specialists, how does The Education Abroad Network manage to keep the programming so personalized to students?
I think that TEAN is able to keep the programming so personalized for students because everyone in the office is really familiar with our program destinations. All of us have travelled in the Asia Pacific, when we start working with TEAN we visit our programs abroad, and have additional opportunities to revisit our program locations. It gives us a great advantage to help better prepare students and help advise students on a program that would best fit their needs.
What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a student headed to one of TEAN’s programs in Southeast Asia?
To narrow it down to just one piece of advice it so difficult! I would say engage one new person in conversation every day. It is easy to say that the language barrier might prevent this, but you would be surprised with how easy it is to communicate with a limited host-country language level. In engaging in these small conversations you can learn a lot and develop connections with the people in your community. It could be a conversation with your neighbor that is always sitting outside as you walk to class, your favorite Thai noodle stand owner, or a student on campus, which really impacts your experience. When you return home, it is these people that you will miss the most!
What’s the favorite part of working at the TEAN office in Chicago?
I love working at TEAN because helping students experience a part of the world that had such an impact on me personally, is awesome. It’s so cool to work for an organization that has a strong focus on the student’s experience and really believes in facilitating life-changing experiences for the students. Talking with the students and their parents make every day different and exciting. The TEAN staff based in Chicago also make coming to work everyday enjoyable. We have some traditions that contribute to an awesome office culture, such as making lunch together on Fridays. I am lucky to work at a place that has a great mission and great people!