July 17, 2024

Jose Sainz: All Over the Map

Spring Break is no time to relax at UMW’s Center for International Education. With so many students – and faculty – voyaging abroad in just more than a week, it’s all-hands-on-deck for CIE director Jose Sainz and his team.

Established in 2011, the center is a hub for all education abroad programs – seven of which will take place over Spring Break. CIE will be manning the emergency phone and staying connected to its global partners to make sure everything runs smoothly.

More than one in four UMW students will participate in overseas travel for credit by the time they collect their degrees. That’s due in large part to CIE’s efforts to make sure there is something for everyone – from low-cost exchange programs and short faculty-led trips to semester-long studies to far-flung locales.

CIE is currently celebrating its first Education Abroad Awareness Week in the hope of bringing even more students on board through socials, teas and other events.

“I’d love to have a money tree to provide funding for every UMW student to have an international experience by the time they graduate,” Sainz said. “Emphasis on every.”

Q: How did you end up in this line of work?
A: I am a product of study abroad. I took a year off after high school and spent it as an exchange student in the Midwest. Such a transformative experience still is a very important part of who I am.

Q: What’s your favorite part of the job?
A: Working with students for sure. That was the No. 1 reason I applied to UMW to begin with. Students never stop amazing me, especially when they are able to do something they never thought was possible. Also, I’m very proud of my team – study abroad coordinators Sarah Moran and Sarah Polensky and international student advisor Ann Witkowski. They are all extremely talented and enthusiastic and very dedicated to our students.

Q: What’s the most challenging?
A: It’s always the risk management. Anytime there is a world event, from an earthquake to a terrorist attack, I ask, “Do we have students there now?” We are prepared to support our students, but it is never easy.

Q: What are the benefits of studying abroad?
A: It enhances your global awareness and your academic learning. It develops your leadership skills. It provides personal and professional growth.

Q: What do you say to students who think they can’t afford it?
A: We tell our students they need to be educated consumers. Most programs are fairly in line with what a typical, in-state student would pay for a semester at UMW. Cost is a concern but not a barrier.

Q: Where do UMW students most commonly study abroad? What’s less common?
A: UMW mirrors national trends: United Kingdom followed by Spain, France and Italy. Less traveled are Russia, India or Cambodia, and we hope to launch a program for incoming first-year students to Tanzania.

Q: What’s your favorite place in the world?
A: The green and rugged northern coast of Spain, but I may be biased. Ireland would be second, maybe because the landscapes are so similar.

Q: Is there a motto you live by?
A: Things are never as bad as they look. There’s always a ray of sunshine somewhere. You’ve just got to look for it.