Emerging Educator Spotlight Series
These short interviews feature Study Abroad Careers readers, allowing YOU to share your own career experiences with the community, whether it's a job search, graduate school, or an entrepreneurial journey.
Q. What’s Culture Deep, Inc.?
A. We're a digital education company--which means all/most of our resources are available online and in digital form. That's how we work. What we do is... we create tools to help students translate their study abroad experiences into lifelong, concrete skills.
Q. How about you? Could you share a little about your background and connection to intercultural work?
A. I grew up in an intercultural family, so that's naturally always been my lens.
For example, my mom has incredible cultural intelligence. So, we grew up around a lot of cultures and had to learn early how to adapt and apply nuance to everything. Now, I just automatically assume all of my interactions are intercultural, even when the differences aren't immediately apparent.
And then, because my dad is from Liberia, I spent a big part of my childhood in the U.S. organizing with immigrants and exilees to end the Liberian civil war. That experience taught me that you can do a lot of what we typically think of as "internationally focused work" without even using your passport.
Q. What about your passport? What overseas experiences have you had?
A. I've had some really meaningful experiences abroad. The most life changing ones have been:
Q. So what prompted you to launch Culture Deep, Inc.?
A. There were two big pulls to starting Culture Deep, Inc. and focusing on after study abroad work, specifically.
The first was that I had been really involved in youth rights advocacy since I was a teenager. And at some point, I started noticing how much adults would parade us [young people] around as having all of this potential--but then they never really gave us the tools or education we needed to live out that potential. That observation became an obsession and I did tons of research--even a dissertation--trying to imagine new tools and systems and resources to change that.
The second was coming back from living and working abroad in non-heritage countries. I really wanted to bring parts of the culture back with me, but I wanted to make sure I was doing it respectfully and not consumptively. So, I started writing and researching and having all of these conversations and--because my brain works in flow charts and lists--I created a bunch of tools for myself. When I started sharing those tools with friends, they responded pretty positively.
Then, of course, I started making the connections between how much we talk about study abroad as this amazing educational / skill-rich experience on one hand, but--on the other hand--how few tools students actually have to really tap into the full potential of study abroad. So, things just came full circle.
Q. What do you hope returned students take away from your website?
A. The website is always evolving. But in an ideal world, it would be incredible if it were the first place all students went after coming back from abroad--because they still have work to do.
One thing that's always frustrated me is that sometimes we talk about study abroad as an end in and of itself. But it's not. It's just a means to a certain set of skills, experiences, relationships, and so on. As a student--after you get back from abroad--you have to find ways to make your skills a habit, to keep having new experiences that challenge you, to keep building on your relationships with folks from other cultures, and a few other things. Our goal is to make tools that help students do all of those things and more.
Q. How can study abroad advisors benefit from After Study Abroad?
A. One of our biggest goals is to take the pressure off of advisors who genuinely want to offer great after study abroad support, but can't because they're stretched too thin to actually design the full curriculum.
Not to mention how powerful it is to create an environment where prospective students can see their peers articulate the exact skills they got from study abroad or their specific plan for integrating their experiences into their everyday lives. For students and parents that's inspiring--and pretty recruitment worthy!
Here's how you can engage and get the most out of our tools:
Q. What's on the horizon?
A. Our big picture plan is to expand beyond just after study abroad and create tools for the whole process--before, during, and after--so students can really make all of the connections they need. That's a ways away though. Right now, it's all about creating more resources, talking to people so we can understand where the gaps are, educating folks about why it's so important to do this work after they get back, collaborating with really smart people, and a bunch of other things.
The coolest thing that I'm most excited about, though, is that we've decided to create an internship program for anyone in the Chicago area who's starting to explore the idea of a study abroad career. You can learn more at: https://afterstudyabroad.com/internship/