#StudyAbroadBecause no one ever regretted it

by Stasia Lopez / Mar 28, 2015 /
Stasia Lopez's picture

Brooke Roberts has captured attention with her audacious personality, get things done attitude, and no-nonsense approach to career, entrepreneurship, yoga, travel, and life. After building a successful career in international education, Brooke became one of the youngest female executives in the youth travel industry tripling the Go Abroad team, reach, and revenue in just three years. Throughout her career, Brooke has slowly nurtured her own blog InsideStudyAbroad.com to become a leading resource for aspiring and current professionals in international education and youth travel. Less than two years ago, Brooke launched her own startup company YogaTravelTree.com, creating international yoga adventure retreats and yoga teacher trainings with a worldwide audience of over 75,000 across the web. In addition to her work in travel and yoga, Brooke has also been the keynote speaker at numerous events including delivering a TEDx talk at Kenyon College. Brooke recently launched her own web and podcast series where she talks about the world of yoga, travel, and the intersection of your passions and profession. Connect with Brooke as @thenewdorothy on Twitter and Instagram and learn more at TheNewDorothy.com.


Brooke Roberts. #StudyAbroadBecause…no one ever regretted it


What motivated your decision to go abroad (studying/interning/working)? How/why did you choose where to go?

My curiosity about travel really started with my bookworm tendencies growing up. I wasn’t raised in a family that traveled internationally or domestically. We were a low-income rural family. Travel was a luxury reserved for the country club folks. Not us.

So when my high school Spanish teacher announced she’d be taking a group of students to France and Spain that summer...something inside me knew I had to be a part of that experience. I just knew it in my gut. Making it happen was a combination of persistence (fund raising), discipline (saving every penny I earned in my part time jobs), and good old fashioned luck.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school and study abroad became my number one criteria for selecting a university to attend. I went on a lot of campus visits and insisted on meeting with the study abroad office everywhere I visited. My sights were set on a very global college experience - where I went didn’t really matter to me.

During my second semester of college, I studied in Switzerland simply because I saw a flyer on the bulletin board in my dorm. It has a cheesy clipart of a person skiing and said “Study Abroad in Switzerland!”

I grabbed the flyer...and 3 months later I landed in Geneva. My global college career began...

Later in college, I’d study for a summer in France and another semester interning and studying in London. All of these experiences supported my goals of learning French and working in international politics and defense. Ironically, all of these experiences helped me figure out that I wasn’t really that excited about a career in government/political work. ;) But that was an equally valuable lesson to learn.


What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?

My study abroad experience in Switzerland my freshman year was a perfect storm of terrible. If it could go wrong, it did. I think it was also the first time I thought about how these experiences could be facilitated better - both logistically and to support real learning. Studying abroad alone as a first year student set me up for failure - way too much challenge; not enough support. Added to that, my program was canceled when I arrived and I had to enroll in another program a week late. I missed orientation, they ran out of housing (I was placed in a convent…yep, the kind with real nuns), they offered no French courses (which is why I had gone to Geneva in the first place)…it was a cluster. And I cried a lot.

But it’s also my favorite study abroad experience. I learned an incredible amount about people, about crossing cultures, about optimizing even the worst experiences for a positive impact, about my own abilities to create a life and identity for myself very far from the farmland I grew up in.


Brooke Roberts. #StudyAbroadBecause…no one ever regretted it


What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad?

Since I was a freshman studying abroad, I was limited to very intro level classes. I took Psych 101 with people from all over the world - Russia, Palestine, India, Croatia…and me, the lone American. As we learned basic psychological principles and theories, each was discussed and debated from a different perspective and context. My friend Amir who grew up in the Gaza Strip just couldn’t get behind some principles of what we were learning, saying, “Everything is different when you grow up in a war zone.”

Taking that class was when I transformed from a tourist to a meaningful sojourner. I stopped collecting places and started experiencing them. I stopped maneuvering around the people when I was abroad to mingling with them. I saw for the first time that my perspective and identity in the world was so small…and I could live a more rich life if I could see the world through the eyes of others.


Has your experience helped you get to where you are today? If so, how?

Absolutely! For two reasons:

1. Being abroad helped me figure out that you have to optimize any situation you’re in. I don’t believe that anyone in any situation can pick themselves up from their bootstraps. The world can be a terrible place and nothing is ever that simple. BUT I do believe that most of us live in a world where we can make things happen despite our circumstances. We can see our situation and keep incrementally improving it. None of us have to wait for our parents, our boss, the hiring manager, the editorial board, the admissions committee, whomever…to make big moves in our lives and our careers. The internet has made our ability to do what we want to do completely flat and accessible.
We don’t need permission. Study abroad taught me to stop asking and waiting for it.

2. Study abroad helped me execute on my ingenuity and creativity in new environments, with new people, toward new goals. These are skills I use every single day as an entrepreneur.


What advice (on finances, the experience, networking, etc) would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad?

The biggest barrier for many students is the cost of going abroad. But everything is a trade off. There are more affordable ways to study abroad (less sexy locations, non-western countries, exchange programs, etc.). But these programs often have less handholding, less frills, less of that “all inclusive” feel. But they cost less. So if this is an experience you really want to pursue, if it’s something that to your core you know needs to be a part of your life and narrative, then make it happen. Be willing to sacrifice some things to make it your reality.

Get creative with your funding option. We live in an tremendous time where your reach and access to more and more people is unrivaled. Work for it. Hustle for it. Tell your story in person, online, and to anyone who will listen. Utilize the online and real life networks (which are free!) around you to win people to your cause and help make your goals reality. You just have to do it better than most people to make a big impact. But do you want it that much?


Brooke Roberts. #StudyAbroadBecause…no one ever regretted it


How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?

It wasn’t until I left Kansas that I realized I had a cultural identity. But I was often shamed for it …”You’re so American. You’re too country. That’s so girly. You’re too white.” From a lot of angles and perspectives, I found myself apologizing for who I was. And it wasn’t until I returned to Kansas as an adult, after traveling and working all over the world that I appreciated my cultural identity. Have cross cultural experiences that help us see the flaws, the raw nature of all humans. None of us are perfect. None of us see the world through completely unbiased eyes. My travels helped me default to see the good, to see the up side, to seeing the possibilities even when things seem impossible. It gave me faith that we can all do better and be better.

#StudyAbroadBecause…no one ever regretted it.


Want more?

Read our interview with Brooke, on How to Be an International Education Rock Star

and our interview about Inside Study Abroad



Stasia Lopez is the Global Education Editor for Wandering Educators and is also a Career Consultant at the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Western Michigan University and earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Stasia is passionate about international education, travel,  and loves working on a college campus. She’s lived in four different U.S. states (Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and also studied and lived abroad in Rome, Italy. Stasia lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Fernando.


All photos courtesy and copyright Brooke Roberts