July 23, 2024

Jill Hyman: Global Guide

Jill Hyman hails from Philadelphia, but some of her most life-changing moments happened in a rural Chinese village.

Jill Hyman, study abroad coordinator for UMW's Center for International Education.

Jill Hyman, study abroad coordinator for UMW’s Center for International Education.

“Studying abroad made me who I am today,” said Hyman, who spent a college semester in Beijing nearly a decade ago. While in China, she held a panda cub, trekked rice terrace fields, stayed in tiny hostels and shared traditional meals with locals. “Meeting people from all walks of life, thousands of miles from home, was a really meaningful experience.”

Since 2019, Hyman has helped globetrotting students plan their own overseas adventures, as the study abroad coordinator for University of Mary Washington’s Center for International Education (CIE). The Center also aids international students – there are currently more than 50 on campus – as they acclimate to life in the United States and at UMW.

“The personal, academic and professional growth that living and learning abroad facilitates is the key to developing global awareness and understanding,” said Hyman, who earned a bachelor’s degree from American University and a master’s of international education from The George Washington University.

At Mary Washington, with more than 150 programs in 60 countries, Hyman guides students through every aspect of the study abroad process, including navigating COVID protocols for international travel. CIE has monitored the ever-evolving situation, she said, working closely with government agencies, healthcare providers and academic counterparts in foreign countries since the start of the pandemic.

As International Education Week kicks off next Monday, Hyman said she feels hopeful and heartened that UMW students are beginning to travel once again.

“Our doors are open,” she said. “We’re ready to help you go abroad!”

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Q: How many UMW students are studying abroad this year?
A: We have 10 this fall and two dozen next semester, including one at sea. There are also faculty-led trips going to the Galapagos, Guatemala, Jamaica, England and Poland during spring break.

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: Seeing UMW students come to my office, anxious and unsure, and then return brimming with confidence. They often serve as CIE peer advisors after studying abroad, so it’s a privilege to get to know them better.

Q: Most challenging?
A: It was stressful when we brought our students home at the start of the pandemic, but I feel like the worst is behind us.

Q: What is one of your favorite travel memories?
A: In 2015, my husband and I got engaged in Ireland. We drove all over backroads in a rented car, seeing as much of the country as we could. He proposed on the last day, at sunset under a rainbow on the Cliffs of Moher. We dined at Knappogue Castle that evening.

Q: Where do you want to go next?
A: I have to pick one? My top five are Poland, Peru, Scotland, Taiwan and South Africa.

Q: What would surprise people about you?
A: I’ve seen all 807 television episodes and 13 movies in the Star Trek franchise. Live long and prosper, fellow nerds!

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.