Interview with a study abroad guru!
By: Triptrotting Team
Did you ever study abroad or would like to study abroad? We recently interviewed the President and Founder of studyabroad101.com, Mike Stone, who shared with us his love for traveling, tips for studying abroad, and experiences starting a venture based on his passion. Check out the interview.
Q: Tell us about yourself
A native Bostonian, I graduated Tufts in 2007 with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Communications and Media Studies. A high school trip to France became the “gateway” to my travel addiction, as well as my decision to invest savings in experiences over material goods. I had the opportunity to study abroad twice in college, Melbourne, Australia, and Talloires, France, where I later returned and taught a global citizenship workshop for high school students. I enjoyed working in the marketing industry through my experience in account management at Arnold Advertising, in Boston as well as Melbourne, Australia. I am also extremely passionate about documentary filmmaking and social entrepreneurship, and I am still very active in various Tufts alumni service groups.
Q: What is your job and what do you like about it?
I am a co-founder and President of Abroad101, the first and largest study abroad review website. Study abroad changed my life, but when researching programs, my friends and I felt completely overwhelmed since there were no online resources offering insider student reviews. I love the fact that my team and I are building a community that can help returning students share their experiences so more future students can choose the best program for their needs. I am a huge proponent of molding a career around your passions and strengths while finding an opportunity to serve a demonstrated need and positively impact society. If every student studied abroad, our world would be a significantly more informed, accepting, and dynamic place. The fact that our website encourages such global citizenship provides more adrenaline than coffee any day!
Q: How many countries have you been to? 13 – US, Canada, England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Israel, Spain, Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Japan
Q: What do you like about the Triptrotting idea?
I love how Triptrotting facilitates and expedites cultural acclimation via connections with like-minded individuals. The type of reciprocity that results from two travelers sharing an interchangeable host/visitor relationship is remarkable. I really appreciate having insider information about foreign destinations before I arrive, ranging from the best “hidden gem” restaurants to museums and events. I also really enjoy hosting out-of-town friends and experiencing my own city from the unique, novel perspective of a tourist. The traveler’s mentality is always more adventurous, and you don’t need to leave your neighborhood to experience the thrill of a vacation. I think it’s awesome that Triptrotting helps form these connections, and ensures that people can avoid the tourist traps and truly “live like the locals do”!
Q: What are some tips you could give your members about studying abroad?
Don’t settle for a program that is less challenging than what you can handle. Studying abroad is all about re-defining your comfort zone. Do some reflection on your personal limits and what you want out of your experience, so that you can select the program that will provide the infrastructure to expand your comfort zone. This enables less inhibition to take risks, embrace a new culture, and return from your experience with more confidence and a heightened global perspective. I would also recommend diving head first into the local culture as much as possible. Take courses with local students, join a student organization, live with a host family, or get a job or internship to avoid “The American Bubble.” As I wrote in a recent blog entry, “One of the biggest complaints we hear from students when they return from their time abroad is ‘I wish I got to know more locals and further integrate into the culture.’ In other words, we all have a desire to experience our new foreign home as a local…but it can be difficult to be ‘in the know’ if you are busy adjusting to the new culture and haven’t yet mastered the language.” More reason why we love what you are doing at TripTrotting!
Q: What inspired you to start your own venture?
I had an idea that combined personal passion with genuine demonstrated need in an emerging market, and I couldn’t not make this my life. At Tufts, I knew a lot of people who either didn’t go abroad at all (“I’m an Engineer, so it’s impossible.”) or went on the wrong type of program (“I wanted to pick up Spanish, but my classes were with all Americans!”) because there was so little access to student program reviews. I remember sifting through paper evaluations, reading reviews from 5, 10 years ago, thinking, “There has to be a more efficient way to share this information across schools.” The “dealbreaker” was when I came across an evaluation from the early 90’s that advised students on a new way to stay in touch with family back at home. “Try e-mail. It’s like snail mail, but way faster and free!” I then convinced two childhood friends to join me, and we traded traditional job offers to work out of a basement and pursue our dream venture.