Getting Down to Business in Study Abroad With Jeff Palm of CISabroad


I'm back with another long awaited video interview from last summer (no, not 2012…2011. My slacker status is pretty secure.) After a little arm twisting, I convinced my former boss (and pal) Jeff Palm to sit down and chat with me about study abroad: choosing providers, reigning in costs, and making the most of the experience.

I love any chance to talk candidly with someone about the "business" of study abroad and Jeff definitely knows his stuff.

Jeff is the Executive Director (and Founder) of the Center for International Studies (CISabroad). After starting his career in university admissions, he then transitioned to international admissions where he worked on bilateral exchange agreements. By chance, he met an agent* in Sweden who would become his business partner, launching CIS together back in 2000. Back then, there weren't nearly as many providers as there are today, so this was a pretty risky venture for Jeff. But, alas, a risk worth taking. CIS has grown to be a comprehensive program provider/international education organization with programs around the globe of various durations, structures, and academic options. When I worked for Jeff at CIS, I helped launch the Student Advising Center (lovingly called, the SAC), training advisors to work with students through the decision, application, and pre-departure process. It was a challenging experience for me…and I'll never EVER underestimate the power of face to face advising again. Making a connection over the phone is tough work! I digress…back to Jeff.

Don't tell anyone…but Jeff didn't actually study abroad in college. Put down your pitch forks! As a college athlete and small town kid from Wisconsin, he wasn't really aware of the opportunities back then. But now, Jeff has seen the world and worked with thousands of students to make their study abroad dreams a reality.

Here are some of the topics we tackle during the interview:

  • Not all providers are created equal. How do you vet and pick an exceptional provider?
  • How do we make programs more financially accessible?
  • Should study abroad be free? My opinion: no. Listen in to find out why!
  • With faculty-led and short-term programs becoming more and more popular, are program providers becoming obsolete?

Of course, this wouldn't be a proper study abroad blog if we didn't have some advice for future study abroad students. Here are Jeff's top picks for making the most of your study abroad program:

Maximizing Your Study Abroad Experience - Tips from Jeff

  1. Get out of your study abroad bubble - get involved in something local, do an internship, or volunteer
  2. Call attention to it on your resume and cover letter - you have to sell it to the hiring manager
  3. Watch out for the Grammar Police! Make sure to proofread (and have others proofread) your applications for mistakes. That's one way you'll easily be eliminated from a large stack of applications for one position.

Bonus advice from me: Meet the locals and try to learn the language! I took independent French lessons when I studied in Geneva (because my program didn't have French courses available) and I spent a month in France taking 8 hours of French per day. It's 10 years later and my French abilities are pretty dismal, but I can understand and read it pretty well. Hmmm...might be time for a sabbatical so I can rafraichir mes competences de langue francaise.  

And as I ask all my guests on Inside Study Abroad, I prodded Jeff for his dream study abroad destination if he could do college all over again. Where would he go: Scandinavia to explore his cultural roots. Boom! We'd call him a Heritage Seeker today! 

Thanks so much for spending some time with us, Jeff!

You can connect with Jeff on LinkedIn 


*Pst...About agents - If you were hoping thinking this meant a Jason Bourne-type CIA operative, I'm really sorry to disappoint. In the world of international admissions (think students who go to another country to get their entire degree...not just shorter term study abroad), an agent contracts with universities to help recruit students in their local country/region to pursue their degrees abroad. Universities in the US and all over the world use agents to help them cover a broader recruitment area and help bridge the cultural and linguistic divide.




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