Studying Abroad Changed My Personal and Professional Trajectory

August 10, 2021

~Amy Exah, API’s Senior Director of Enrollment Management

Like many who work in the field of international education, I studied abroad and it truly changed the course of my life.  During my senior year of high school, I was chosen to be an exchange student with a sister school in Shrewsbury, England. I spent 6 weeks studying and living in a quaint English village, with cobblestone streets and a castle, and it flipped a switch in me and opened my eyes to a world of possibilities. I attended the University of Texas at Austin as an undergraduate and studied abroad in Merida, Mexico during my junior year.  I then spent the last semester of my senior year in Ghana, studying theater and dance. After graduating in absentia, I remained in Ghana and founded an eco-tourism village and mango farm on the shores of Lake Volta. I spent the next 9 years focused on this community development work, collaborating with local organizations, local schools, and rural villages. In order to support the project financially, I also began working as a theater educator at the International Baccalaureate (IB) School in Accra, for students in K-12.  It was here that I discovered my passion for global education and pursued my Master’s of Education in Johannesburg, South Africa through The College of New Jersey’s Global Graduate Program.  

The IB program was created 50 years ago “to develop young people…to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect”. My classrooms were incredibly diverse with students from all over the world. The program, with its focus on global understanding and cultural diversity, created an environment that encouraged students to learn from each other. The opportunity to spend time in both the well-endowed international school in Accra and the impoverished rural school systems gave me incredible insight into issues of inequity and the importance of a global perspective in education.  

After almost 9 years in Ghana, I received an opportunity to direct theater programs at other IB schools in Guatemala and Peru and spent the following 6 years in Latin America, practicing my Spanish, exploring the rich cultures of these beautiful countries, and meeting lifelong friends. In 2012, my family and I returned to the United States after almost 15 years abroad.  I was determined to pursue a new career path in international higher education and contribute my unique perspective to the field. 

After I joined API in 2013, I quickly realized that it was exactly what I was looking for. My love for education and my extensive international experience found a home together.  The winding journey of my career brought me to a place where I felt I belonged and could truly contribute. In 2016, I left API and took a position as Assistant Director of Study Abroad at the University of Texas at Austin and was able to complete a circle and give back to the place where it all began.  In April 2020, I was thrilled to return to API, albeit in the midst of the pandemic, and step into my current role as Senior Director of Enrollment Management. I’m grateful to be working for an organization where I can make a direct impact on students’ lives and provide opportunities for global perspectives. I’m inspired by the students who overcome barriers to study abroad and step into the world beyond to share, learn and grow!  As a lifelong learner myself, I’m always curious about what is around the next corner or behind a mysterious door. I believe that I am where I am today because of my commitment to this way of life and am honored to help others find their own unique paths.

Amy Exah Abroad

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