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The International Program Team

The ACIS experience begins the moment you talk to one of our International Program Consultants—seasoned, US-based travel wizards who will work their magic to make sure your trip is a success. They’ll listen to your educational goals and your must-see list, make suggestions, and help you choose and customize the perfect itinerary for your group. And their knowledge is the firsthand kind: They spend time "out there" each year, so they know the hotels, bus routes and tour highlights. Count on them for answers, advice and wizardly wisdom from start to finish!

ABBY FORD-STILLE, International Program Coordinator, Chicago

Beauty in Diversity

From a pretty young age my mom always encouraged my siblings and I to travel and explore. Camping trips were scheduled every summer and our weekends were always on the beach or hiking. My mom is an art teacher and has always encouraged me to see the beauty of interacting with people from different cultures. The travel bug really got a hold of me in high school when I went on an educational tour of Italy and Greece, and then two years later when I traveled on an exchange trip to the south of France. After moving from northern California to Chicago for school, I studied abroad in Rome my junior year and have continued to travel as much as possible since then. My latest trips were to Denver for hiking in the Rocky Mountains and a cross-country road trip to San Antonio. I’m planning a backpacking trip through New Zealand for my next big adventure, and couldn’t be more excited!

Mediterranean Life
My favorite place in the world is Sorrento. Nothing beats the fresh food, beautiful and peaceful beaches, and the proximity to Capri, Naples, and Pompeii! My all-time favorite abroad experience was taking a quick day trip out to Capri from Sorrento, swimming in the Blue Grotto, wandering through the Giardini di Augusto, and then sprinting back down to the funicular to catch the last boat back to the mainland!

Travel Tip
Before you travel somewhere new spend a little time doing some research on local events going on in the place you’re visiting. There is no better way to immerse yourself in a culture than to see people celebrate holidays or festivals in a way that is so different than your own! I have stumbled upon unexpected Christmas markets, full orchestral concerts, religious festivals, and so much more!

“You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” —C.S. Lewis

BETH SCHAFFER, International Program Consultant, San Francisco

Great Outdoors
Beth is a Philly girl who craves a wide vista in the mountains. She started out as an architect but turned to selling, planning and operating adventure events applying those design skills. After taking 2016 off to travel Southeast Asia and Nepal, Beth and her husband decided they needed more mountains and outdoor living in their lives. They moved from their roots in Philadelphia to the San Francisco Bay Area in September 2018.

Here Comes the Bride
While at a homestay in southern Cambodia, we stumbled in expecting to learn about the efforts for sustainable homegrown aid, the familial history and more, instead we were whisked into preparations for a 600 person wedding!! We helped stuff red envelopes with 800 Riel for each guest and boxes of treats and wrapped so many fruit platters for the 6am Fruit Walk the next morning. I was swept up by the beauty team which started prep at 3:30am on our front porch. I had the best updo of my life done in under 15 minutes, was stuffed into one of the super tight traditional Khymer dresses, nails painted and makeup done so I could look like a proper female guest. So fancy!! Read more and see pics.

Travel Tip
1: maps.me is the best travel map app! Download the map of you travel area ahead of your trip. Mark your lodging, places of interest, etc ahead of time and they will still be there on your downloaded map (unlike google maps). It uses GPS to locate you and provide directions. No wifi or data needed!
2: Bring a wide scarf. A wide scarf can be a sarong, blanket, pillow, shaw, padding for fragile souvenirs, etc. Not to mention, it’s just a cute scarf to mix up your travel wardrobe.

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” —Bertrand Russell

CAITLIN PEET, International Program Coordinator, Boston
(617) 958-9559

Abroad in Spain

My first international travel was my sophomore year of high school when we took a family trip to Ireland. After that, I took my Spanish studying more seriously and decided that Spain would be my next destination. I studied abroad in Valencia in college and I knew that I wanted to go back the minute I landed back home. I took the year after my college career to go teach English in Madrid, Spain to elementary students and it was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget!

When I was teaching, I wasn’t allowed to tell my students that I speak Spanish. It was always SO fun when they would ask me “¿Hablas español?” (Do you speak Spanish?) and I had to pretend like I didn’t know what they were saying! The most fun was on the last day when I had my goodbye speech all in Spanish and they looked at me with their jaws dropped. Tricked you!

Travel Tip
Don’t be afraid to laugh at a situation gone awry. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and as stressful as it could be in the moment, don’t let it ruin your time. One day you’ll look back and laugh at how it shaped your trip!

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” ― Miriam Adeney

CARA SOLLE, Senior International Program Manager, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1165

When the Travel Bug Bites

Cara’s very first steps in travel began with her family camping vacations to destinations throughout the United States on every school break. Soon after taking her first Spanish class and a trip to Mexico, she realized her passion for learning a new language and understanding other cultures. This passion has since brought her across the globe to destinations including Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Japan, Egypt, Thailand, Australia, and the Philippines.

Why Be Simply A Tourist When You Can Be A Teacher?
After completing a study abroad program in Spain, Cara then traveled
for a few weeks in Europe getting a flavor of the diverse continent. Soon after graduating from college, she decided to venture further abroad, this time to the Orient where she taught English for a year in Japan. Cara loved experiencing the unique and fascinating tradition-bound yet highly modernized country, and of course the (delicious) sushi!

From Continent To Continent
Cara’s next international adventure brought her to South America where she spent over 2 years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Paraguay. She soon fell in love with the colorful continent and even decided to spend an additional year living and exploring the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Travel Tip
The best way to get an authentic experience in a foreign country is to leave the guidebook at home for a day and wander the area taking in all its sights, smells and sounds, chat with the locals, and get off the beaten path.

“There are so many incredible places out there to explore, and I am thrilled to share my passion for travel with others who are open to experiencing new destinations and learning about unique cultures.” —Cara

CHRISTINA LAKE, Senior International Program Consultant, Chicago

Music and Travel Collide

Christina’s first travel abroad experience was to Italy with her high school orchestra group. She visited Rome, Florence and Venice and had the pleasure of playing at a couple different Italian venues. Not only did she get to visit the Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Vatican City and more cathedrals than you can imagine, but she was also able to experience a Gondola ride through Venice, a Murano glass workshop, making a wish in the Trevi Fountain, and shopping for a leather purse in the markets surrounding the

In Spain for a World Cup Victory
Following Christina’s senior year of high school, she and her sister visited the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain. The Spaulding sisters stayed with the family of an exchange student who lived with them during a year of high school. The trip allowed Christina to experience the Spanish culture first hand - and in a historic way. During the visit, Spain won the Euro Cup! Christina joined the crowds flooding the streets in celebration for their country’s win and calls this experience unforgettable and amazing.

Little Assis with Big Charm
Christina’s favorite destination so far has been Assisi, a small town she stopped at during her visit to Italy. Not only did it have the charm of roman cathedrals, an ampitheater, and tons of little markets, but it was also located up on a hill surrounded by the country side and fields of sunflowers... the cityscape and country side offered the best of both worlds!

“My travel advice would be to take pictures, but don’t hesitate to put the camera down in the fear of missing something. Pictures are great to keep and show your family and friends and look back at years down the road, but you don’t want to just remember your trip through a lens. Travel is so much more thrilling when you dive into the culture and experience your surroundings.” —Christina

FRANCESCA WILLIAMS, International Program Coordinator, Boston

Where it Began
Coming from a family of travelers, I grew up visiting Europe. My first time abroad was a trip to Italy to visit family when I was five years-old. While we were in the Rome airport, I lost my first tooth! I loved spending time with my family and tried to learn a little Italian every day to better communicate with them. And, of course, I had about three gelatos a day!

Stop to Smell the Coffee
While on vacation in Rome, my friends and I decided to take a day trip to Florence. Unfortunately, it ended up downpouring! Discouraged that our plans had been derailed, we took shelter in a little café. While waiting for the rain to let up, we ended up having the best cappuccinos ever. It just goes to show that sometimes unexpected obstacles lead to the most wonderful and special moments.

Travel Tip
Avoid thinking of your trip as a checklist of sites to see. Don’t rush from place to place – take the long way, stop and smell the roses. Sometimes the best memories are made while wandering and exploring and taking it all in. You never know what you’ll discover!

“There’s nothing more rewarding than witnessing first-hand how travel changes students’ lives. Not only does it let them see beautiful sights of the world, but it fosters a sense of openness about different cultures and ideas that they’ll carry with them forever.” —Francesca

HEIDI PETTIT, Director of Relationship Management, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1112

Black Forest to Lack of Forest

Heidi was born to travel. By the time she was two, she had already lived on two continents. Born in Germany while her dad was in the Air Force, the family moved to South Dakota when she was just one year old.

Don’t Forget the Fruitcake
In Heidi’s family it became a tradition to travel over Christmas. Skiing in Utah, riding roller coasters in Disney World, and laying on the beach in the Riviera Maya are the ways she remembers spending her December vacations.

The Franken Family Vacation
With 5 of them packed into a rental car when she was sixteen, Heidi’s family traveled over 2000 miles through the UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy, reuniting with old friends in Germany and, of course, gaining lots of memories, laughs, and a passport full of stamps!

La Bella Costa
Heidi’s favorite destination so far is Italy’s Amalfi Coast. On her visit there they rented a car and braved the jagged coastline drive for its breathtaking views though Heidi admits that she doesn’t think she ever took her hands off the door handles!

Travel Tip
In the end all you really need is your passport. So pack light, and enjoy your journey!

“I began my ACIS career as a client services representative where I fielded thousands of calls and emails from tour participants and parents. I moved on to work as a tour consultant helping group leaders plan their perfect tour. I think my favorite part of the job is checking in with group leaders after they return from their trip. After months of planning, they deserve the perfect trip and I love to hear that is exactly what they experienced!” —Heidi

JAMES LOSITO, International Program Manager, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1171

C'est La Vie

I was born and raised in Berkeley, CA. Lucky for me, my parents understood the value of learning another language and the importance of travel so I was able to travel and actually live abroad growing up. I attended the Ecole Billangue de Berkeley through 3rd grade and learned to speak French there. I spent time in elementary and high school living in Bordeaux, France and took a gap year after graduating high school to live and work in Val Thorens, a ski town in the French Alps followed by an unforgettable experience teaching English in Thailand.

Aside from traveling in my personal life, I actually took a trip to England in 7th grade with ACIS! I remember it vividly and have fond memories of walking through the streets of Oxford after having read The Golden Compass and visiting William Wordsworth’s home in the Lake District, a part of England I never would have thought to visit. From the friends I’ve made and the sights and sounds of the cultures I’ve experienced, I couldn’t imagine my life without the travel experiences I’ve had and am always looking forward to my next trip…there’s too much too see to not keep moving!

Way down in Ko(h)komo
Following my time teaching English in Thailand, a friend and I decided to visit the island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand. We were living in Chang Mai in the North of the country and needed to take an overnight train to Bangkok to fly to the island…overnight being the operative word here. Long story short, we missed our plane because it had left the day before…We stood there stupefied at the airline desk with no idea what to do and had to figure out a way, with our limited Thai, to get to the island. We ended up taking two buses and a commercial supply ship (which was quite a damp experience to say the least given we slept on the ship’s deck while waves crashed up the side) out to reach the island. We arrived on the island in the dead of night/early morning and had to sleep under some benches on the dock until our hotel opened the following morning. It was the most hilarious, random, stressful series of events but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I’ve got photos if you want to see our sleeping arrangements…haha! All’s well that ends well because it was a magical time on that island and I can’t wait to go back!

Travel Tip
Always pack light! It’s rare that I’ve ever thought “I wish I had this…” while traveling. Bring what you love and what you know you’ll wear. Obviously prepare for the weather where you’re headed but like my mom always said “half the stuff and twice the money,” and you’ll be golden!

“…for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…” —William Shakespeare from Hamlet

JEANNIE PAGE, Regional Director of International Programs, West Coast

When in Seville...

With the exception of trips to Montreal with her family as a kid, Jeannie’s first real travel abroad experience was when she packed her bags and boarded a plane to spend her entire junior year living and studying in Seville, Spain. Her mother still doesn’t know where she got the gumption to do that, but somehow the spirit of wanderlust was always with Jeannie. When she landed in Madrid, surrounded by ham legs hanging from ceilings, she knew that her life would never be the same. From that moment on, she had caught the travel bug.

Too many places, too little time!
Spain is of course near and dear to Jeannie because of her time spent living there. As a Spanish major she also studied Latin American history and literature and fell in love with the culture and the continent. That coupled with the great opportunity to practice her Spanish, makes Latin America at the top of Jeannie’s travel list! Peru, Argentina and Costa Rica are all favorites and she hopes to explore more of Latin America. She made her first visit to Asia (Bali) in recent years and fell in love with the island. Now that Jeannie lives on the West Coast, the rest of Asia has made it to her must-see list, with India and Vietnam at the top of that list! As she says: “There’s pretty much no end to the list of the places that I wish to visit and experience. Too many places, too little time.”

Travel Tips
Roll with the punches, laugh often and take every opportunity to connect with strangers.

“I am so fortunate to be able to work at ACIS for a 2nd time in my career. There is nothing more rewarding than watching students’ eyes open to the greater world around them. To witness them experiencing new cultures so different from their own, you can literally see them change in front of your eyes. I smile ear to ear when I hear about our students going on to study abroad in college. That’s when I know we’ve made an indelible mark on their lives and their future journeys.” —Jeannie

JESS MAYOTTE, International Program Manager, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1219

How it Began
Jess studied in Ireland for a semester in college and traveled all over Europe while abroad. Her list is never complete (Australia, Costa Rica, and Thailand are up next!), and there will be many other places Jess will travel to - maybe she’ll see you there!

Cycling and Cheese Wheels
Jess’s favorite country to visit is the Netherlands. Last April, she biked across the Low Countries, taking in the beauty of the tulip-covered countryside and eating lots of cheese and pancakes along the way.

Travel Tip
If you don’t wear it at home, you won’t wear it on your trip. And always pack your toothbrush in your carry-on.

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” —John A. Shedd

JESSICA RICCI, Director of Relationship Management, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1164

The Travel Bug Bites Again

Jessica started travelling a little later in life. Initially, she visited cities in the US, usually to visit family or friends; she recalls it was a definite plus to have a brother who lived in Juneau, AK! Next, it was resort vacations to Mexico and the Caribbean, until finally in 2006, Jessica went to Europe for the first time. She spent three weeks in Italy stopping in many of the major cities and visiting a little town named Pianella in the Abruzzo region where her grandfather was born! She saw his birth record in the original volume from 1912, the house he was born in, learned about art and history in Rome, Florence and Venice, and she was forever changed.

A Love Affair with Language
Jessica started her undergrad career as a Russian major and graduated with a degree in Biology! She then spent the next 10+ years working in the non-profit sector. After her 2006 visit to Italy, she decided to pursue a master’s in Italian—only problem—she didn’t speak the language. Jessica spent the next year working during the day and learning Italian in her spare time before entering into a master’s program at Middlebury College in Vermont. After a summer on the Middlebury campus, she journeyed to Florence for the academic year to study at the Universita` di Firenze. Jessica took advantage of her time in Italy—it was the perfect jumping off point to other countries such as England, Spain and Russia!

Expanding Horizons
During her years at ACIS, Jessica has continued to explore the world adding new destinations from Spain to the UK to Peru, China and more. Once the dream was to live in Italy, maybe now it’s to visit each of the continents!

“I love Italy and knew before I finished my master’s that I wanted to find a way to share my passion for Italy—and for travelling—with other people. I am so happy that with ACIS I can fulfill my goal!” —Jessica

JILL FEDERSCHNEIDER, Regional Director of International Programs, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1116

The Travel Itch You Can’t Scratch

Jill first traveled abroad her sophomore year of college on a 10-day trip to Brussels to study NATO and the European Union. During her stay, she took day trips to Amsterdam, Bruges, Paris, and Leuven, and from there she knew this was not going to be her last visit abroad. Walking down streets brimmed with history and culture gave Jill the inspiration to see what else the world had to offer. Next thing she knew, she was interning in Paris for a semester in college and touring Europe on her weekends, and she hasn’t stopped traveling since!

A True Wanderlust
Jill has never been anywhere she hasn’t loved, so choosing her favorite destination almost seems unfair. The world is an amazing place. (Later she admits that she holds quite a fondness for Paris, Japan and Spain!)

From Ireland to Israel and Everywhere in Between
Jill has been studying the French language since she was five, so she has known for a long time that she was going to have a multi-cultural future. Jill also studied at St. Angela’s College while on a 2-week educational trip to Sligo, Ireland. To top it off, after graduation Jill spent 10 days touring Israel learning about the history of the Jewish culture and its roots in the country. As someone who loves to learn, she can’t stop finding new things to absorb! Her latest project has been teaching herself Spanish.

Star Sightings
You never know who you’ll meet when you’re abroad. Jill met Dustin Hoffman while he was filming Last Chance Harvey in London!

Travel Tip
There’s no such thing as a wrong turn- every step is a new adventure!

“My first trip to Europe was as a student, and I remember the excitement like it was yesterday. It’s really fulfilling to know that the work we do here at ACIS is providing students with the same eye opening, life changing experiences!” —Jill

JULIE FRATARCANGELI, Director of International Program Development
1-800-888-ACIS x1169


After spending time in Italy studying subjects such as Italian opera and perfecting her language skills, Julie hopes to someday return to live under the Tuscan sun. For now, she finds pleasure in her frequent trips to her ancestors’ homeland.

All in the family
Julie believes that growing up in an Italian-American household has made her the person she is today and her upbringing has greatly contributed to her passion for Italy. She has always been curious about her family roots and that curiosity and desire to learn about the past was only enhanced after her first trip to Italy when she was just eight years old. Since that first family vacation to the country of her heritage—visiting historic sites, churches and numerous relatives— Julie has made about 20 or so return trips to Italy.

“Travel is a fantastic way to learn more about the cultures, people and places around the globe! I love to travel and find that the most exciting part is knowing that a week or so later I’ll have some of the best new memories stored away from my experience.” —Julie

KELSEY REBHAN, International Program Coordinator, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1129
A Breath of Fresh Air 
Kelsey has visited Colorado, Wyoming and Utah with family when she was young, traveled to Spain, France and Italy and studied abroad in London England for a semester in college.
However, her most memorable travel destination was Ireland. When she was fifteen she participated in an art program in Wexford Ireland for three weeks. Having loved that experience, she traveled back a few years later to work and live in Dublin Ireland for a total of 5 months. By fully immersing herself within Irish culture, working and interacting with Irish people she was able to understand the culture, current news within the country, and the language slang. Her experience in Ireland was incredible and continues to fuel her passion for travel.

Luck of the Irish
When Kelsey was a sophomore in High School her English teacher would give her and her classmates magazines about art, poetry and writing; they would read them when they had finished in-class assignments. Kelsey looked at one just like all the others; she skipped over the first few pages of advertisements for summer programs and made her way to the arts section of the magazine. That day she had ample time, so to fill time she decided to flip back through the advertisements before class ended. That was where she found an advertisement to study art in Ireland for three weeks. That random action that she normally didn’t do gave her an experience of a lifetime and that specific trip was a defining adventure that sparked her love for not only Ireland but travel in general.

“One of the best sayings I’ve been told, and my travel tip is ‘be here now’. The meaning behind it is simply to be present and to appreciate every little moment, no matter how insignificant it may seem. I’ve gone by this saying for years; forgetting the electronics, taking out the headphones and really immersing myself wherever I am and connecting with the people around me and I encourage everyone to do the same, both traveling and in everyday life!” —Kelsey

LIZ COKEING, International Program Coordinator, Chicago

History Buff

Liz was born and raised in New Jersey and spent nearly every summer traveling the country going to every historical site with her US History teacher mother and visiting art museums with her Art History buff father. This included just about every battlefield, president’s house, historical landmark within a 300 mile radius of their house in New Jersey. Liz’s mother is also an ACIS group leader and took her on 7 trips to Europe with ACIS where she fell in love with travel. Liz moved across the country to attend the University of Minnesota and then moved to Chicago after graduation.

Snow is Glistening
On one trip when we were on a bus going through the Alps after a snowstorm, we got the bus driver to pull over and give us black trash bags and went sledding down a hill on the side of the road and had a snowball fight. A huge part of travel is making the best of every situation!

Travel Tip
Make a resolution to go somewhere new every year, even if it isn’t far! There are tons of cool things to do without going too far from home and you can learn more about the history of you own area.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” —Mark Twain

LIZ TYRRELL, Regional Director of International Programs, Chicago
Educational Explorer
Liz grew up traveling around the country with her family – from Yellowstone to the Florida panhandle, there weren’t many places that their trusty van did not traverse on one of their annual family vacations! She caught the international travel bug when she was in high school, spending several weeks volunteering in Mexico and on a homestay trip to Russelsheim, Germany. In college, she studied abroad in both Salamanca and Toledo, Spain, and continued on to backpack across Europe. Even as she continues to check places off her list as she travels for ACIS and on her own, her list of new places to see just continues to grow…

Amateur Tour Consultant Turned Pro
Liz’s career with ACIS has given her the opportunity to travel with teachers and see students across Europe, Latin America, and even far flung locales like Turkey and South Africa. Some of her most memorable moments traveling with ACIS: the shrieks of delight when her safari vehicle spotted a leopard in Kruger National Park; conquering her fears of heights in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia; spotting Prince Harry while in London! Liz also travels often with her family, and encourages her kids to keep accumulating stamps in their passports.

Travel Tips
My most important travel tip is to keep your sense of humor as well as your sense of adventure. Often, travel “glitches” can turn into memorable adventures if you approach them in the right way. My second most important travel tip - pack to carry on!

“Travel is important for everyone to experience, but I think that it is especially valuable for teens to see a world outside of their own as they start to form their world views as adults. I truly believe in ACIS’ proclamation that 'travel changes lives'. Having had the opportunity to experience educational travel myself, I know how important travel is in obtaining a broadened perspective and a respect for other cultures. It’s very exciting to be working for a company which brings that experience to so many people.” —Liz

LYNNE FREEMAN, Director of International Programs, West Coast

Yes, There Will Be A Quiz

Lynne’s interest in places far away developed from a grade school geogra-phy project on all 50 states. After doing a report on each state, its capital, population, geographic boundaries, products produced, etc., her interest in geography kept spreading on to other places.

Not Your Traditional Calamari Dish
Italy is Lynne’s favorite destination. Not only does she love the country’s architecture and the way it stands the test of time, influencing the interior and exterior designs of today, but she also loves the Italian food. Lynne’s culinary adventures have gone so far as to try black spaghetti – the pasta and fish dishes made with squid ink found in Venice.

Travel Tip
Be flexible and travel with a good attitude.

“I became interested in educational travel while working at a university in Oklahoma. I organized four groups to travel to Europe and quickly realized the value of an organized trip where you visit and learn about all the important sights. Traveling helps us to be more accepting of other people, cultures and world views.” —Lynne

MIRANDA PORTO, International Program Coordinator, Chicago

Family Outings 

Miranda blames her travel agent mother for passing the travel bug onto her—of course, there are worse afflictions to have. She’s originally from Chicago but has lived in 6 different states. Every opportunity they had, her mom would take her family on vacations all over the country and eventually all over the world. When Miranda graduated college, she knew she wanted to travel like she never had before, so she embarked on a long-term solo trip throughout Southeast Asia and Europe, with a quick jaunt to Central America. So far Miranda has had the opportunity to travel to 42 states and over 20 countries, and hopes to keep that number climbing.

Luck in Laos
Backpacking across Asia warranted many crazy and interesting stories—like a 12 hour turned 36 hour bus ride from Laos to Vietnam. One of her favorite memories was stumbling across the Festival of Lights (Boun Heua Fai) in Luang Prabang, Laos. The festival is to wish good luck for the future and to pay respect to the spirit of the waters. The locals dress in traditional garb and parade towards the river with illuminated boats handmade with bamboo and banana trunks and decorated with candles and money. Watching the over 2,000 boats float slowly down the mighty Mekong River as drum beats and chanting permeated the air is something she’ll never forget.

Travel Tip
The best travel experiences are when you get off the beaten path and go where the locals go. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals for recommendations—most of the time they love helping visitors and being able to share their country with you. For instance, while she was dining at a restaurant in the Basque country in Spain, she started chatting with the chef who ended up giving her a long list of recommendations of tapas joints and restaurants to check out during her trip. She ended up having some of the best meals in her life at places you would never find online.

"Travel has truly changed my life. It has given me new perspectives and allowed me to learn about the world in a firsthand way. You can watch and read about different places, but not until you get there and explore can you really understand and appreciate a different way of life. Travel has made me more open to new experiences and more accepting of viewpoints that differ from my own. I think everyone should have the opportunity to learn about the world in the ways that I have." —Miranda

NICOLE WEGSCHEID, International Program Manager, Chicago

Travel Enthusiast

Since Nicole was young, she was the family member that wanted to move away from her suburban neighborhood in Minnesota. She felt a strong push to explore new terrain outside of the great white north, especially places that reached temperatures above freezing 90% of the year. Her life goal is to reach all seven continents whether it be by land, sea or air. So far she has touched three continents and had the incredible opportunity to reach 17 countries. In college, she studied abroad in Rome, Italy for 5 months and immersed herself in the Italian culture. There, she learned about European art, history and most importantly, the food. She continues to grow her passion for travel and is setting her sites on Asia for her next big adventure.

The Next Extreme Sport
On her most recent international excursion, Nicole travelled to Leon, Nicaragua to check out the world’s next extreme sport: Volcano Boarding. Her hostel tour guide led the troop up 2,388 feet to the summit of the Cerro Negro volcano, the world’s most active cinder cone volcano. Once they reached the top, she hopped into an orange jumpsuit and fastened science goggles to her face and hopped on her trusty wooden board that would take her straight to the bottom in 10 seconds. It was the thrill of a lifetime sledding on top of volcanic rock and ash only to escape with a couple of scrapes and bruises.

Where to Next?
Nicole is itching to hop on the next plane to just about anywhere. She has trips to Las Vegas and Washington D.C. in sight but she is searching travel blogs for a new international adventure. As for 2018, she is looking to Nepal and Thailand in search of new cultural experiences.

“I believe each and every person should travel somewhere new at least once a year. It doesn’t have to be far but adventure is empowering. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone because once you are out, that is where real change happens. The best stories are found between the pages of your passport, so just go!” —Nicole

TOM HEIGHAM, Regional Director of International Programs, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1146

Life Lessons From Mom

Whenever Tom informs his family of his next trip abroad, his mother usually gives him an uneasy chuckle, reminds him not to like it too much, not to fall in love, and to remember that his family still lives in Boston. Tom reminds her that she first introduced him to travel.

Sunshine State To Sunshine Sea
At the age of 6, Tom began a persistent campaign to convince his family to vacation at his grandparents’ in Florida. Eight years and nine trips later, he had mastered the sunshine state and had an insatiable desire to see and experience more. Partial to warm weather and white sand, he and his family toured 6 different Caribbean islands’ beaches in 7 days, falling in love with the new cultures and environments, the pastel-colored houses and the laid-back attitude.

Jungle Fever
Tom’s favorite destination is Montezuma, Costa Rica.

Travel Tip
Always expect the unexpected and be open to change. Sometimes the best parts of a trip come from spontaneity. Those are the random moments that you’ll look back on with a smile and be able to say, “Do you remember the time when…”

“I couldn’t agree more with the ACIS belief that “Travel Changes Lives.” I recently backpacked throughout Costa Rica with a friend, and upon my return to the states, I realized that I needed to help other people experience the things that I had. As fate would have it, I’ve found ACIS. I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to help others see the world, and I am excited to share my experiences with you and help you plan your next life-changing adventure!” —Tom

TRICIA HOLDA, Senior International Program Consultant, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1117

How it began...

Tricia’s first time overseas was to Hull, England as part of a study abroad program. She then studied with two programs in Annecy and Strasbourg in France. She had started and finished over half of her degree toward Elementary and Special Education, and studying abroad absolutely turned her life upside down in the best possible way. Funnily enough, she had avoided language learning before then, but then became a linguist. Her eyes and heart were opened and she began to really see the world and the amazing people in it! She became fluent in French, then Italian, and finished her degree in International Affairs.

“Amore” at first sigh
It was during Tricia’s first study abroad semester in England that she lived with two Italian girls and first traveled with them to Italy, which began her obsession with everything Italian – an obsession that eventually led her to move to Italy right after college graduation. She taught herself Italian from “Italian for Dummies” and felt fluent after about 6 months (thanks in large part to her foundation in French). She stayed in Rome for almost 6 years.

Family reunion
Because of her innate drive to move to Italy and learn the language, she and her parents traveled to the small mountaintop village of their ancestors (that they learned about in 100 year-old letters written in Italian between her great grandfather and the family he’d left behind in Italy when he moved to the U.S.). When they asked around in the ‘piazza’ about their long-lost family members, they discovered their cousins that had been lost from their family history for a century! She visited them frequently through-out her years in Rome and they remain in close touch. She feels this is why she was “meant” to go to Italy all along!

“In all of my international travels over the past two decades, I’ve always had my ‘travel angels’.Whether it’s some-one that has popped up in a train station asking if I need help if I looked confused, someone that told me I’d dropped my passport somewhere, someone that caught a thief trying to pull something out of my bag, or even the lifelong friends I’ve made along the way. They’ve just always saved me in big or small instances when I needed it. And not too strangely, this sounds very much like the ‘travel angels’ that are our ACIS tour managers!” —Tricia