ISA at 25 Interview Series: Arturo Artaza, Executive Vice President of University Relations & Marketing

Year started at ISA: 1989
Where you studied abroad
: Salamanca 1988
Position at
ISA: Executive Vice President, University Relations & Marketing
Favorite place to travel: Spain and Paris, France.
The one thing you don’t leave home without:
My noise-cancellation headphones

You were a student on the first ISA program in Salamanca back in the 1980s. Tell us about your first time studying abroad and how has your perception of study abroad changed since 1987.

On an excursion with the original ISA Salamanca group, 1988.

There was a strong desire for people to immerse themselves 25 years ago. Students were interested in speaking the language, living with host families and learning colloquial expressions. We wanted to go beyond going to a bullfight and seeing someone dance La Sevillana.

ISA has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 25 years. What are we doing right?

ISA has always been a leader rather than a follower in terms of where we open programs. We were the first major [third-party study abroad] provider to go into Barcelona, for example, back in 2000 when the perception in the field was that Barcelona was off limits for study abroad due to Catalan language. Moreover, we are an organization full of people who are passionate about study abroad. We’re excited about working to make these opportunities a reality for our students.

What’s been your proudest moment at ISA?

There’s not one “proud moment” necessarily. Every time a student comes back from being abroad and – as clichéd as it sounds – says that something changed their life.

Both you and your wife are ISA Spain alumni and Spanish is an important part of your life. What are some of the ways that you and Marie incorporate Spanish into your everyday life?

We’re constantly speaking Spanish to our kids in both private and public. Our hope is that they enjoy learning the language and that they continue to learn others – French, Chinese, Portuguese.

In addition to working for ISA in the U.S., you’ve also worked as Resident Director at a variety of ISA sites abroad. Which ones?

I’ve been Resident Director in Salamanca, Barcelona, Valencia and Guanajuato, Mexico. I’ve spent time in other sites training staff as well – Sevilla, Amman and Belfast, amongst others.

If you were going to study abroad today, where would you go and why?

Galway and the West Coast of Ireland.  I’ve found Ireland to be a country where people are so approachable and the region where Galway is located to be rich in maintaining the country’s Irish language.

What’s the strangest/tastiest food you’ve enjoyed during your travels?

The strangest was definitely eating goat’s brain in Amman, Jordan. That was a challenge from a student. And as for tastiest, I’ll have to say anything Turkish.

How has the field of international education changed in the past 25 years? What are today’s students looking for?

Today study abroad is for everyone. Once upon a time it was limited to liberal arts majors, but now we have engineering and business students going. The effect of this is that students are taking content courses taught in English in countries where the host language is something other than English.

How has ISA adapted to these changes?

ISA has been proactive in adding the type of things that students are looking for. For example, we were among the first to add a wide variety of courses in English in Paris through our partnership with the American Business School, Paris. Additionally, we were the first program in Jordan to have students directly enrolled with Jordanian students.

What advice do you have for people looking to break into the field of international education?

Be passionate. Love what you do. Make sure you’re doing this for the betterment of the field – and of students.

Many of our students talk about how study abroad has changed them. You’ve worked with countless students over the years, what’s one story you’d want to share?

There was this one student who had never traveled outside of the U.S. who signed up to do a year in Sevilla. During her first couple of days, though, she did exactly what we had instructed her not to do and got into an unofficial cab. The cab driver ended up driving her around the city for a couple hours and charging her $100. This whole incident left her very distraught, and when she saw this cab driver for the second time at the airport she took it upon herself to stand near the unofficial taxi line at the airport warning people to stay away – for about three hours. This young lady ended up working for ISA for some three years afterwards.

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