AIFS Study Abroad Blog

Meet the team: Jessica Lees, Program Manager

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 Jessica Lees, Program Manager, who is based in our London, UK office.

With Citrus College faculty and students in Kyoto, Summer 2019

Hi Jessica, what do you do for AIFS?  

Planning and overseeing our faculty-led programs in Japan, Italy, Germany, Austria and Scandinavian regions.

How long have you worked for AIFS? 

Five years – I joined AIFS in November 2015.

What do you love most about your job? 

I love planning and researching new destinations & activities. Also, the people I work with- our global AIFS community and US coordinators, faculty, and students – and playing a role in facilitating student and faculty’s study abroad experience.

What do you love most about working for AIFS? 

AIFS’ work culture and commitment to cultural exchange.

What do you like most about working with faculty and students? 

Collaborating with faculty in the development of their programs. Reading or speaking to students in their reflections of what they learned, loved and gained on their study abroad program.

Where and when did you study or work abroad? 

I have spent a lot of time overseas: Newcastle, NSW, Australia 2002-2003, Seville, Spain 2003, San Remo, Italy 2004, and most recently, two years in Yokohama, Japan 2013-2015 before joining AIFS.

Cherry Blossom season in Gumyoji, Japan

Any advice for faculty thinking of leading a CFL program abroad? 

Make known to colleagues on your campus about your future study abroad – they may have useful contacts or experiences.

Any advice for students thinking of studying abroad? 

Take advantage of the opportunities you have to combine travel and education. Even a short experience can be life changing!

Tell us something about yourself: 

Though I have lived in London for the past five years, I grew up in Pennsylvania. I have also lived in Charleston, Boulder and Portland.

Where do you plan to travel to next? 

The list is growing, but in 2021 I hope to return to Kyoto and Bali and also discover somewhere new.

Tell us a favorite travel story: 

I don’t know if I have a favorite travel story, but my (now) husband and I spent a year backpacking through India and Southeast Asia before getting married. Being from different countries, it seemed the only option to be together for an extended period of time and a good test of our relationship! I have a lot of favorite memories of that trip. 

Taj Mahal, India

A favorite book/movie/restaurant or experience that inspired you to travel? 

Paul Theroux’s Great Railway Bazaar and Old Patagonian Express.

Tell us your dream trip with an unlimited budget: 

Island hopping in the South Pacific or an unlimited budget in Japan would make quite a trip!

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