It’s been a hundred and ten years since the first International Women’s Day was held in New York City. Since then, every year on March 8th we’ve celebrated women worldwide for their accomplishments.
On this International Women’s Day, we wanted to celebrate a few of the fabulous women on our team who are all at different points in their career, and share their stories on what inspired them to pursue careers in international education.
Kayla Lucrezi – Admissions Counselor
Kayla was raised in the “middle of nowhere, Oregon” and never thought exploring the world was even a possibility. It wasn’t until college that Kayla had her first chance to go abroad. At first, the idea of international travel filled Kayla with a mix of emotions – she was “scared, excited, and full of doubt” about what she could accomplish while abroad.
Traveling across Eastern Europe didn’t just change Kayla’s life; it gave her a “whole new way to live.” Being abroad opened up the world for Kayla and was “everything that [her] upbringing wasn’t – loud, bright, and constantly changing.”
After graduation, Kayla made her way to Annapolis, Maryland, and eventually ended up coming to work at Global Experiences as an Admissions Counselor. It was her curiosity and her own formative experiences abroad that inspired Kayla to seek a role in international education.
“I learned so much about myself, about others, that I was almost terrified of what my life would be if I hadn’t pushed myself, hadn’t gone. If I am even able to help one student make their own experience possible then absolutely this is the right career for me.”
Being in international education requires you to learn new skills nearly every day. For Kayla, the biggest skill she has learned is perseverance. “This field has taught me that if you persevere, if you truly believe in something, then it’ll happen because you can honestly do anything you pursue with 100% of your focus and determination.”
Carmen Chamorro – London Location Coordinator
After living in four different countries and traveling nonstop for ten years, it’s no wonder that Carmen has such a deep understanding of the importance of travel. She originally began her career as an architect in London, and it was her love of travel, people, and education that inspired Carmen to change careers.
“Traveling is a powerful form of education and everyone that travels and realizes this helps make the world a better place. I learned this a long time ago and working in [international education] allows me to share my experience with students and allows me to help them get out of their comfort zone and learn about their career path in the most wonderful way.”
International experience has a significant impact on the lives and careers of every one of our interns. Every year Carmen sees first-hand how living and interning in London impacts a young woman’s career. “When you have international experience, you expose yourself to new ways of understanding the world. [International experience] makes you aware of the fact that what is normal for you might not be normal for another woman from another culture.”
Carmen changes the lives of every one of our London interns. In the few months she gets to spend with each group, she sees how a new city and exciting tasks give each intern a “clearer idea of what they want in their professional and personal life.” Getting out of their comfort zone may seem intimidating to interns at first, but they soon discover it’s “the space in which you learn the most!”
Dr. Shawntia Key – Global Program Director
Early on in her life, Shawntia developed an interest in learning about different cultures and different people. It all started with a love of Japanese anime and manga, but “eventually evolved into an interest in cross-cultural psychology and communication, languages, and religion.”
While pursuing her bachelor’s degree, Shawntia became heavily involved in her university’s international programs including forming international clubs, starting a mentoring program, and studying abroad in both Japan and China.
Going abroad was “life-changing” for Shawntia, and she learned an entirely new way to look at the world. “[Going abroad] taught me to let go of my "U.S. individualistic perspectives" and stop comparing everything to the United States. It was the most exhilarating and freeing experience of my life. I truly believe it made me a better person and professional.”
It was her experience studying in Asia that inspired Shawntia to pursue a career in international education.
“It wasn’t until I started traveling internationally that I really started to notice there weren’t many people who looked like me. In most cases, I was the first “black person” many of my friends encountered, and I realized I wanted to continue in the field for three reasons:
- To meet as many people as possible so that I can assist in changing the narrative that “black people” do not go abroad.
- To inspire, encourage, and mentor other Black Americans to get into the field and to see that it is a career path.
- It’s a fun career with a variety of tracks that can look different on any given day.”
Shawntia saw an opportunity to help shape the narrative about the African-American experience abroad. Many of her own experiences in Japan and China showed Shawntia there was an opportunity and need to educate others about diversity. “Without diversity, there is only a narrow perspective which does not truly represent the richness of our world. I do a see a slow increase in diversity in the field and am excited to see all of the changes to come in the next couple of years.”
Emily Merson – CEO
Emily Merson’s life’s work was always “to make the world a better place,” but early on she didn’t know what form that would take. It was her experience of a gap year, internship abroad, and studying abroad that showed Emily experiences abroad can “help resolve conflicts globally through greater awareness and compassion between people of different cultures and environments.”
At only 24-years old, Emily co-founded Global Experiences and by 35 was the CEO.
“Global Experiences was created to solve a problem that we saw among specifically U.S. students, that they did not have the opportunity to live and intern abroad. Building access and opportunities within a supportive program has been my life’s work for almost 20 years.
I love that our work is done in a highly personal way and yet the impact is global. Education is transformative and global awareness is a 21st-century imperative - together it can begin to solve some of the worlds greatest challenges.
Every day I wake up knowing I am doing a good thing with my abilities and every night I go to sleep knowing I gave my best to make a difference.”
Women dominate international education, but those numbers aren’t reflected in leadership positions. In the last few years, Emily realized how much of glass ceiling existed for women in international education and is actively working to find ways to correct such an imbalance. “To correct this imbalance for women it really does take leadership from the top that invests in actively identifying and cultivating talent and building the confidence in female staff to take on a larger management or leadership role.”
In the nearly two decades that Global Experiences has been in business, Emily has seen international education make great strides and exciting changes. “There are so many female entrepreneurs working in international education, and I think this is the most exciting change.”
While promotions at universities and large international education organizations may not be very accessible, Emily encourages women to forge their own paths. “There is no limit to women starting and building their own organizations. Find what you are passionate about and find a problem that needs a solution, and you have the spark you need to start thinking about building an organization that solves a problem.”
While Emily admits that starting a financially stable business does require total commitment and that women entrepreneurs struggle with being so mission-driven, she stills sees a bright future for women entrepreneurs in international education.
“I have confidence in the women in our international education community and think the next ten years will see a big change in many areas and women will be more proportionally represented in positions of leadership. So I encourage women interested in making that move to get their game face ready for when that opportunity comes knocking.”
At Global Experiences, we’re so grateful for all the women on our team and those who have supported our program to bring it to as many students and young professionals as possible. We look forward to a bright future of bringing even more career and life-changing experiences to empower young women worldwide. Happy International Women’s Day!