ISA at 25 Interviews: Savoring the ‘Moments’ of Leading ISA Granada

Each week we will be featuring interviews with ISA staff members as part of our 25th Anniversary. This week we’re talking to Dr. Marisa Revelles Moyano, Resident Director of ISA Granada, Spain. Marisa has been with ISA since 2007.

Marisa Revelles Moyano (far right) with the ISA Granada Office staff.

What do you do here at ISA?

As the Resident Director at the ISA Granada office, I basically supervise everything that “moves” in the office. There are 10 of us here, and I oversee all aspects of on-site operations in Granada so I manage the finances, interview and screen prospective employees for the office and attend ISA Director meetings in Spain and across Europe. I go on every “orientation excursion” to Madrid to pick up my students at the airport when they arrive in Spain and manage the orientation meetings. I oversee academics and am in charge of Customized Programs. Every day in Granada is different.

Marisa with students at the University of Denver in 1998.
Marisa with students while a faculty member at the University of Denver in 1998.
Tell us a little bit about your background, and how you came to work for ISA as Granada Resident Director.

My relationship with ISA started back in the 1990s. I was living in Colorado teaching Spanish at the University of Denver and one day there happened to be a study abroad fair on campus, and I attend with my students. After walking around and speaking with ISA Reps in attendance, I decided to start sending my DU students to every single ISA site in Spain. One afternoon after class a former student, Megan Graber, came to me after her study abroad experience in Granada. She was showing me all her pictures and all of the sudden she said: “Look at this picture! She was my Resident Director! Laura Reyes!” When I saw Laura’s face, I was shocked. Laura and I have been friends for a long time and we went through college together! We hadn’t been in touch for a while, and had lost one another’s addresses. And yet there she was. From that moment on, I feel I have been “part of ISA.” I returned home to Spain in 2000 and started working for ISA. At that time, we were a small office, only four staff members. Things have changed a lot since then…

After working for ISA for one year, I decided to keep moving and [explore more of Europe]. I got a teaching position at the University of Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium teaching English and Spanish as a Second Language. After seven years of living in Belgium, I decided to get back to Spain in 2007. For good this time. And so I did. I think that when you fall in love with something, you always come back to it!

Marisa high school study abroad Granada
Marisa in Granada leading her first group of high school students from ISA sister division, Learning Programs International (LPI).

Did you study abroad? If so, please elaborate.

I have lived, studied and taught in Spain, Norway, the U.S. and Belgium. I was driven to get “out there” to meet new people and learn other languages. I was eager to know other places, live other lives and put all those moments and experiences in my “backpack.” And it worked. I am what I am today thanks to these experiences.

You returned to Granada after many years of living abroad to lead ISA’s Granada program. How does it feel to be back home?

It was great coming back to Granada, to my old friends, to my family. But honestly, where is “home”? I love Granada, of course, but I feel like I am part of Oslo, part of Colorado and part of Brussels as well. Home is everywhere where I go.

I understand you were a Spanish faculty member at the University of Denver for many years. How has your experience teaching on a U.S. campus affected your perspective as Resident Director?

Working in the States for many years gave me the chance to understand the way American universities work, and teaching at DU helped me to understand the way American students work, think and do things. Because I’ve seen how American universities interact with their students and how things are presented academically and socially, I’m able to apply tons of things in Granada and to help my ISA students have the best possible experience when they come to our site.

Opened in 1993, Granada is one of ISA’s oldest and most-established program sites. What are some of the things that make ISA Granada unique?

Granada is the perfect size [for a study abroad student], with only 250,000 inhabitants. It is easy to walk, but big enough to get lost if you want to. There are tons of cultural activities, concerts, theater, sports activities, etc. Granada is a university town, has almost 70,000 university students which makes the city a lively place. It is one of the eldest universities in Spain after the University of Santiago de Compostela and the University of Salamanca. It is an inexpensive city due to the number of young people living in it, as we have the biggest ERASMUS population in Europe! Granada is number one destination for European students who study abroad!

Granada has the perfect geographical location, as we’re only thirty minutes from the Sierra Nevada ski resort and one hour from the Mediterranean Sea. You can ski in the morning and have a glass of sangría by the sea in the afternoon. And I can’t forget the gastronomy – such delicious food. What else can you ask for?

You actually did your graduate and undergraduate of the University of Granada. How has the university changed since you were an undergraduate?

Everything has changed for the better at the University of Granada. There are more academic opportunities than ever before; you can get your degree in pretty much any field of study without having to leave the city. The programs are more focused on practical application instead of so much theory. There are thousands of opportunities and financial aid for students to study abroad and to do internships in sister-universities all over Europe, which we didn’t have. The student/faculty is much smaller now, so you get better quality relationships with faculty and better classes. In my opinion, we were much more committed than this new generation. We had to be. Things were more difficult for us, from setting up an English-speaking “intercambio” to traveling abroad. If you did get any of these things, you were so happy and so grateful.

Tell us a little bit about the new volunteer/internship opportunities now available in Granada through ELAP.

We have been offering ELAP in Granada for a few years now, and were among the first in ISA sites in Europe to do so. There are some great placements available for ELAP students, such as a medical NGOSs, a nursery school, acancer prevention center, hotels and something called the Euro-Arab Educational Foundation – a group that works to establish cultural and economic relations between Spain and the Arab world.

What are you most proud of?

My staff.

What is one thing about you that people might not know?

When I was in college, I took all my free electives at the University of Granada Medical School. If I couldn’t be a philologist, I would have loved to be a physician like my father. Also, I speak four languages (Spanish, Norwegian, English and French) and am the happiest under water. I love to dive and got my PADI certificate in Colorado and my Open Water Test in Moorea (French Polynesia).

Finally, what do you like about working for ISA?

The moments – every single one of them with my students and my staff. The chats, the confidences, the laugher, the tears, the hugs, the learning, the challenges, the changes, surprises and emotions of having such a dynamic job. I still get butterflies in my stomach when I get a new ISA group, and I can feel their excitement, their fear, and desire to be alive.

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