15 Amazing ISA CP Resident Staff: Part 1

ISA’s Custom Programs division is celebrating its 15th year in service to U.S. universities for their faculty-led and partnerships study abroad programming. Join us for this series of 15 things as you imagine, develop, and implement your own custom programs abroad.

1. ISA Cape Town – Ouma Mpela & Sarah Lowe

ISA Cape Town Resident Director, Ouma Mpela

ISA Cape Town Coordinator of Custom Programs, Sarah Lowe

 

What is the cultural site or activity you most enjoy sharing with students?

OM: The Hector Peterson museum in Soweto; it commemorates the 1976 student protest against the mandatory use of Afrikaans as a language of instruction for black schools.

SL: I love going to Robben Island to see where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Taking students there gives them a great insight into South Africa as a whole and contextualizes it so well; most students come away really moved by the experience and I love being able to witness that.

What has been the most interesting academic visit or guest lecture you have been a part of for a CP?

OM: We had a Human Rights Activist who talked about the rights issues around the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process and its limitations, and what the sentiments on the ground are 15 years after the advent of democracy. She also brought in issues of social justice, including the impact of the AIDS pandemic and the mass migration of Zimbabweans and other neighbors into South Africa, touching briefly on the xenophobia that flared up in 2008-09. She was a really good speaker and facilitated interactive debates where students who had read and attended their lectures on South Africa Political history felt they were able to connect dots on loads of issues.

SL: UMN runs a great CP where they discuss identity, through contextualizing their own identity within the South African experience. Seeing the change in students’ perspective of South Africans and themselves is truly an amazing experience.

What advice do you have for faculty leaders?

OM: I encourage faculty leaders to rely on their resident staff; it can be hard to if they try to do everything – the academics, taking care of students, negotiating the local culture(s). While it’s very important to be adaptable with small details once you’re on site, it’s equally as important to make sure everything is confirmed (through ISA or own your own with your professional contacts) before the program comes so your course runs smoothly.

SL: We work really hard to make sure things run smoothly and to solve any problems that may arise, so have faith that whoever is working with you on your CP will be able to find a solution! It can be really stressful having a large group of students to “take care of” on your own, so make sure to take some time to enjoy the ride!

2. ISA Granada – Marisa Revelles

ISA Granada Resident Director, Marisa Revelles Moyano

 

What is your favorite cultural site or activity you most enjoy sharing with students?

I love to see the faces of the students when they see the Mirador de San Nicolás for the first time, seeing Granada by foot – the Alhambra, the Palace of Carlos V, with the Sierra Nevada mountain range on their left and the vega of Granada on their right. Each new groups to catches the emotion of this area. And the Albaycín activity ends with an amazing flamenco show in the Sacromonte… there are no words!!

What has been the most interesting academic visit or guest lecture you have been a part of for a CP?

The Alhambra; an Andalusian city. It’s a complex of palaces and forts where the royal court of the Nazarí kingdom once lived. The most beautiful parts are the interior spaces of the palaces. It generates a new landscape, but is totally integrated in nature. It is quite a wonder, and as the guides on our academic excursions say, it’s truly “food for the soul.”

What advice do you have for faculty leaders?

My personal advice is that faculty members come and visit the cities and the places they are considering including as part of their program before the program is developed. It’s important to “live the experience” before the group comes as a whole. We want to make sure they get the full feel and experience of the city for their program while they’re here!

3. ISA Seoul – Jeehye Lee

ISA Seoul Resident Director, Jeehye Lee


What is your favorite cultural site or activity you most enjoy sharing with students?

I love taking students to see Jeju Island. The traditional family structure on Jeju is matriarchal, with haenyeo (female divers) as the economic providers for the family. However, due to recent economic development efforts by the Korean government, there are very few haenyeo left. I love seeing students learn about this transition, as well as other aspects of the traditional culture of Jeju-do.

Also, on our hikes, I get to talk to my students very closely, and help them work through things. Sometimes we are physically helping one another on the climb parts, and afterwards I feel like we have a strong bond.

What has been the most interesting academic visit or guest lecture you have been a part of for a CP?

We had a CP this year with just a few days in Seoul. I would have loved to have them in my city for longer, but I admire what they did with the program in such a short time. They focused on real estate development, so I learned a lot from their guests and visits about commercial and residential efforts in Seoul.

What advice do you have for faculty leaders?

Between your ISA staff in Austin and the local expertise offered by resident staff, we can prepare for even the smallest details of each program. Any research and visits you can make to the country  beforehand, will make the program even more successful – and we’re always happy to host you for a site visit!

4. ISA Shanghai – Amy Zhang & Shirley Wang

ISA Shanghai Resident Director, Amy Zhang
ISA Shanghai Assistant Resident Director, Shirley Wang

What is your favorite cultural site or activity you most enjoy sharing with students?

AZ: The Great Wall in Beijing! I always enjoy the hiking, beautiful view and the amazed look on the students’ faces!

SW: The west lake in Hangzhou. It’s really beautiful and relaxing, making everyone leave worries behind!

What has been the most interesting academic visit or guest lecture you have been a part of for a CP?

Both: We contract a guest lecturer who talks about China as an Emerging Market; it’s fascinating not only because of the content of the lecture but also because of all of the intercultural communication and understanding between the students, their professors, and their guest.

What advice do you have for faculty leaders?

AZ: Relax and enjoy! We’ll help keep such a big city from being overwhelming – and we’ll have a lot of fun!

SW: You must try the delicious Chinese food! Beijing duck, Shanghai Xiaolongbao…

5. ISA Valencia: Manuel Gutierrez

ISA Valencia Resident Director, Manuel Gutierrez


 

What is your favorite cultural site or activity you most enjoy sharing with students?

The gastronomic tour en La Barraca de Toni Montoli, because I get to see the students enjoy the huerta (orchard and farm) of Valencia; being in such close contact with nature is truly a wonder. Equally, going with the students to Morocco is a great experience, because I get to see a side of each one of the students that I don’t normally see, especially when we are all in it together in the desert.

What has been the most interesting academic visit or guest lecture you have been a part of for a CP?

The guest lecture and visit that we arranged for Purdue’s CP in Valencia, ‘Water in Mediterranean Landscapes.’ It was related to water consumption and management in this area and it opened my eyes to some of my own local systems.

What advice do you have for faculty leaders?

Though you’ll maintain your professionalism as the professor, try to enjoy the experience by seeing through the enthusiastic eyes of the student. Also, never stop communicating with the ISA Directors during the program – we want to be of help in every way possible!

 

Melissa Stone is a Program Manager for ISA Custom Programs. Melissa works with programs in Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, France, and Jordan.