University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) study abroad programs stand out for their excellence due in large part to the onsite Resident Directors (RDs). Each is a cross-cultural subject matter expert who performs the essential role of overseeing all onsite program operations — absolutely everything, from A to Z.
So, what does that look like?
On the surface, RDs represent our higher education nonprofit in the host country’s city, campus, and local community. In the background, their responsibilities don’t stop at the successful management of the administrative needs, but also the continuous improvement of our award-winning international education programming. Each director holds a minimum of a graduate degree and has extensive experience in international studies through their professional work history. They handle all operations from scheduling of courses and activities to hiring staff and faculty, plus any office management, banking, and accounting needs. Most of their time is spent organizing and supervising student-centered elements such as group arrival, orientation, housing, course registration, health and safety, immigration matters, and internships.
They even extend their help to extra-curricular cultural immersion opportunities, which take the form of students volunteering in the local community, participating in field trips to areas outside of their host city, finding language partners, and more.
That’s the daily workload.
An important balancing act
Even after considering all administrative tasks listed above, deep down, what motivates each director is your student’s success. RD’s are committed to giving American students a meaningful experience and each one has a goal to make their transition into the study abroad program and culture as smooth as possible. They love sharing their cultures and languages with eager students. For some people who are traveling internationally for the first time, the RD is an invaluable asset.
RDs personally know the ups and downs of the study abroad experience. They have lived the curves of the culture shock charts and each director can relate to your student’s journey because they have experienced it themselves — both previously as a student and now a professional. RDs walk alongside the students on this meaningful journey, providing expertise, support, and care, while giving them adequate space for students to grow and learn on their own.
Knowing that daily life — from moving, living, learning, eating, and everything in between — is going to be completely turned upside down, student well-being is a top priority for USAC. RDs play a large role in preparing for each struggle and sweet accomplishment. This starts well before students arrive on-site: There is extensive pre-departure advising for students through a combined effort by USAC program advisors and the health and safety team. This support takes the form of personal and group advising sessions, health and safety webinars, location-specific resources, and comprehensive insurance coverage. The material is delivered with RD feedback about the nuances of each program location.
On site, RDs take the lead on student wellness. Directors hold the door open for questions and support; deliver detailed multi-day orientations; share resources to support student needs, such as access to local online and in person medical care and mental health counselors, cultural adaptability advice and learning tips; and connect students to any relevant professionals, clubs, and organizations on campus and in the community.
RD interaction is life-changing for students
The RD role sets USAC apart in the international study abroad field and reflects our deep commitment to student success, wellness, and intercultural learning. The directors accompany students on the full-circle study abroad experience — complete with its best days and the challenging ones. Their job is complex, highly valued, and incredibly appreciated by students, colleagues, and partner universities. It requires patience, energy, focus, integrity, precision, adaptability, humor, heart, and much more.
Enrolling in a USAC program is a life-changing experience.
We are grateful for our RDs: Abhishek, Carlitos, Carlos, David, Eliana, Francesca, Gozde, Ibon, Jan, Jeremy, Jessica, Jorge, Jum, Laura, Luis, Miriam, Patrick, Robina, Sara, Sebastian, Simona, Stefano, and Wentao. Thank you for all you do to represent USAC well and to provide superb service and care to USAC students all over the world!
In their own words
As Fall 2023 semester starts, we asked RDs what they look forward to when welcoming hundreds of new students to their program locations, and what fulfills them about their job. Not surprisingly, they expressed how much they love to showcase their cultures, to see students’ eyes light up when they see the sights they have only known online or in textbooks… and to observe the inevitable growth students experience abroad. RDs feel most fulfilled when they are able to help students to immerse in the culture, to learn both in and outside of class, to overcome challenges, and to become better versions of themselves as a result of their time abroad with USAC.
“I look forward to seeing students’ faces when they arrive on-site because it means: ‘I made it, I am in Madrid.’ And then the last day of program, when students say goodbye with happy faces of satisfaction after achieving their goals, because it means: ‘I really made it.’Sara, USAC Madrid, Spain RD:
“I enjoy working with motivated young adults from many different backgrounds and universities and help them progress academically and become fluent in the French language. We are also lucky to work with wonderful colleagues, locally and from all over the world.”Robina, USAC Pau, France RD :
“Whenever a new group of students is about to arrive, I am extremely curious about what they will be like, what interests they will have, what topics we can talk about, and what things they will tell me about their life in the United States. Their first days in the program are complicated for them and they need our help to adapt to their new environment and integrate into the group with their classmates and they are willing to share time and their concerns with me.Ibon, USAC Bilbao, Spain, RD:
In these first days I have the opportunity to talk a lot with them and learn about their interests and needs, and I become an important figure in their adaptation process. It is a moment I enjoy very much because I feel very useful for them.”
“I enjoy seeing how students are so open and willing to learn and embrace a new language and a new culture … Through the years working with USAC, I have witnessed how so many students have grown after studying abroad. I have seen how they have a better understanding of the world and become more open to new lifestyles.”Carlos, USAC San Ramon, Costa Rica RD:
“I am excited to get to know my new students, to touch their lives enriching their study abroad experience. Having the chance to influence a student and open up their mind for new areas of study or culture for their future is great! It’s fulfilling to see students happy and satisfied about the quality and balance of the program, immersing in Italian culture, speaking with locals, living ‘like a local’ but preserving their own values.”Gozde, USAC Verona, Italy RD:
“What fulfills me most is helping students understand a whole new culture and a new international living environment. Living abroad allows students to see and understand what they consider ‘normal’ and learn about how others live in a way that is much more profound than just studying about it in the US. I love seeing students explore those topics with professors, host families, new local friends, and with me. … And to see them get excited about future opportunities to travel, live or study abroad again after this study abroad program ends. “Laura, USAC Valencia, Spain RD:
“One of the most fulfilling aspects is seeing the very noticeable growth in students. Whether it’s a summer, semester, or year, USAC students flourish when they’re abroad. Often, it’s a culmination of ‘little wins’ — things like figuring out which bus or train to take, finishing a group project for class, running errands in a new city, taking that first solo trip, and forging new relationships. When USAC students arrive on site, I tell them that they will depart as better versions of themselves, and it’s an absolute pleasure to support students on this journey.”Jeremy, USAC England RD:
“It is always motivating to receive a new group of students, to see their faces excited for a new adventure, sharing with a different culture. The best thing I can do as RD is to try to guide them in the best possible way so that they have a good academic experience, mixed with an unforgettable life experience. Each group is unique and different, and I always learn a lot from them.”Carlitos, USAC Heredia, Costa Rica RD: