We’re continuing the series introducing the team behind AIFS Customized, who create faculty-led study abroad programs for hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the US.
This week, we spend a few minutes chatting with Tracy Dicks, Vice President, based in our London, UK office.
What do you do for AIFS?
I am Vice President of the College Division. I am responsible for various program locations – specifically Australia, Czech Republic, Greece, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa. In my role I work with local universities and our fabulous AIFS staff on site to design and deliver programs for U.S. students and faculty.
How long have you worked for AIFS?
What do you love most about your job?
No two days are the same, it is truly varied and it is wonderful to work with staff to design a program and see it come to fruition. I have held a variety of roles since I started with AIFS and have been able to travel and meet lots of different people which is not the case in many jobs.
What do you love most about working for AIFS?
AIFS has different divisions focusing on areas like AIFS study abroad, ACIS high school travel programs, Au Pair in America and Camp America and everything we do, all the programs we offer, have at their core a focus on cultural exchange – the mission of ‘bringing the world together’ is something we all believe in and it attracts staff who love to travel and meet people.
What do you like most about working with faculty and students?
Meeting new people is always exciting and seeing students discover new things is rewarding.
Where and when did you study or work abroad?
I did a U.S. history and politics degree and my 3rd year was in the U.S – in Pennsylvania. I loved my year abroad, I was able to travel quite widely and experiencing a country, not as a tourist, but by living there for a while gives you a deeper understanding and connects you to a country.
Any advice for faculty thinking of leading a CFL program abroad?
Think about how you can use the site to enhance your teaching – guest speakers, academic field trips etc. Talk to AIFS staff in advance about your plans and your course so that we can give you ‘insider’ tips and suggestions which you maybe have not thought of. Using the site as your classroom will add to your teaching and hopefully fire the imagination of your students.
Any advice for students thinking of studying abroad?
Do it if you can as you won’t regret it. Research the program and the location before you arrive, ask lots of questions and embrace the differences. The tourist highlights are of course great to visit but trying food you have never heard of, watching a local sport or just walking through new areas and people watching are the things which make study abroad so worthwhile and different from going on holiday.
Tell us something about yourself:
I love to travel, read, drink wine, do pub quizzes and watch sport. In the last few months I have got into gardening although I am not sure I have a green thumb, but I am trying.
Where do you plan to travel to next? Why?
New Zealand is somewhere I have always wanted to visit and is definitely next on my list. South Africa is also a favorite but there are always new places to visit and things to discover so it is hard to choose.
Tell us a favorite travel story.
My sister in law is Chinese and my Mum and I visited her hometown for their wedding blessing. Walking behind my brother as he rode a horse (for the first and last time) through the streets in a red silk outfit was an experience I will never forget. On that trip we did the touristy highlights – the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden Palace when visiting Beijing – but staying somewhere where tourists don’t typically travel was certainly an experience. Every morning as we entered the hotel breakfast room one of the staff would run at us with cutlery clearly worried that we would make a mess with chopsticks. That was embarrassing but they were probably right …
An experience that inspired you to travel?
My year studying in the U.S. inspired me to travel and led to this job. Before that I had only really been on a few ‘package holidays’ to Spain with my family but as the U.S. is so vast and varied there were so many different places to visit and it opened my eyes to the possibility of how to turn something I enjoyed into a job.
Tell us your dream trip with an unlimited budget:
I love sport so if I had an unlimited budget (and the time) I would love to travel to watch some of the great sporting events abroad – the Olympics, the World Cup (soccer to you…), the England winter tour (cricket) in South Africa or Australia. Spending a year doing that and eating out in some wonderful restaurants during the trip would be my dream…