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The International Program Team

The ACIS experience begins the moment you talk to one of our International Program Consultants—seasoned, US-based travel wizards who will work their magic to make sure your trip is a success. They’ll listen to your educational goals and your must-see list, make suggestions, and help you choose and customize the perfect itinerary for your group. And their knowledge is the firsthand kind: They spend time "out there" each year, so they know the hotels, bus routes and tour highlights. Count on them for answers, advice and wizardly wisdom from start to finish!

AMY DESAMSONOW, International Program Consultant, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1148

How it Began

Amy’s first time traveling abroad was one month after she graduated from Bay State College, starting in Lisbon and making her way up through Spain, including La Coruna and Bilbao. Then followed through to France where she visited St-Jean-de-Luz, Bordeux, La Rochelle, St-Malo, took a quick detour to Guernsey and then back down to Honfleur. Of course she couldn’t leave France without visiting one of the most magical places in the world, Paris. She spent one week there and packed in as much as possible every day, you can never do it all! She was lucky enough to be traveling with people who have spent a lot of times in these regions so she experienced the very best these cities offered and met a lot of locals.

Favorite Destination
Lisbon was one of the most beautiful and lively places Amy has ever been. The people and culture is so colorful, it’s hard not to exude the same spirit when you are there.

Off the Grid
Amy is the happiest when she doesn’t have cell service, her favorite vacations aren’t on the grid.

Travel Tips
Always rent bikes and leave free time to wander around and discover local shops, restaurants and quaint side streets.

“To understand the world and to understand yourself, is one in the same. You must discover more of the world to discover more of yourself.” —Amy

CHRISTINA SPAULDING, International Program Consultant, Chicago

Music and Travel Collide

Christina’s first travel abroad experience was to Italy with her high school orchestra group. She visited Rome, Florence and Venice and had the pleasure of playing at a couple different Italian venues. Not only did she get to visit the Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Vatican City and more cathedrals than you can imagine, but she was also able to experience a Gondola ride through Venice, a Murano glass workshop, making a wish in the Trevi Fountain, and shopping for a leather purse in the markets surrounding the

In Spain for a World Cup Victory
Following Christina’s senior year of high school, she and her sister visited the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain. The Spaulding sisters stayed with the family of an exchange student who lived with them during a year of high school. The trip allowed Christina to experience the Spanish culture first hand - and in a historic way. During the visit, Spain won the Euro Cup! Christina joined the crowds flooding the streets in celebration for their country’s win and calls this experience unforgettable and amazing.

Little Assis with Big Charm
Christina’s favorite destination so far has been Assisi, a small town she stopped at during her visit to Italy. Not only did it have the charm of roman cathedrals, an ampitheater, and tons of little markets, but it was also located up on a hill surrounded by the country side and fields of sunflowers... the cityscape and country side offered the best of both worlds!

“My travel advice would be to take pictures, but don’t hesitate to put the camera down in the fear of missing something. Pictures are great to keep and show your family and friends and look back at years down the road, but you don’t want to just remember your trip through a lens. Travel is so much more thrilling when you dive into the culture and experience your surroundings.” —Christina

HEIDI PETTIT, Regional Director of International Programs, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1112

Black Forest to Lack of Forest

Heidi was born to travel. By the time she was two, she had already lived on two continents. Born in Germany while her dad was in the Air Force, the family moved to South Dakota when she was just one year old.

Don’t Forget the Fruitcake
In Heidi’s family it became a tradition to travel over Christmas. Skiing in Utah, riding roller coasters in Disney World, and laying on the beach in the Riviera Maya are the ways she remembers spending her December vacations.

The Franken Family Vacation
With 5 of them packed into a rental car when she was sixteen, Heidi’s family traveled over 2000 miles through the UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy, reuniting with old friends in Germany and, of course, gaining lots of memories, laughs, and a passport full of stamps!

La Bella Costa
Heidi’s favorite destination so far is Italy’s Amalfi Coast. On her visit there they rented a car and braved the jagged coastline drive for its breathtaking views though Heidi admits that she doesn’t think she ever took her hands off the door handles!

Travel Tip
In the end all you really need is your passport. So pack light, and enjoy your journey!

“I began my ACIS career as a client services representative where I fielded thousands of calls and emails from tour participants and parents. I moved on to work as a tour consultant helping group leaders plan their perfect tour. I think my favorite part of the job is checking in with group leaders after they return from their trip. After months of planning, they deserve the perfect trip and I love to hear that is exactly what they experienced!” —Heidi

JEANNIE PAGE, International Program Consultant, Seattle

When in Seville...

With the exception of trips to Montreal with her family as a kid, Jeannie’s first real travel abroad experience was when she packed her bags and boarded a plane to spend her entire junior year living and studying in Seville, Spain. Her mother still doesn’t know where she got the gumption to do that, but somehow the spirit of wanderlust was always with Jeannie. When she landed in Madrid, surrounded by ham legs hanging from ceilings, she knew that her life would never be the same. From that moment on, she had caught the travel bug.

Too many places, too little time!
Spain is of course near and dear to Jeannie because of her time spent living there. As a Spanish major she also studied Latin American history and literature and fell in love with the culture and the continent. That coupled with the great opportunity to practice her Spanish, makes Latin America at the top of Jeannie’s travel list! Peru, Argentina and Costa Rica are all favorites and she hopes to explore more of Latin America. She made her first visit to Asia (Bali) in recent years and fell in love with the island. Now that Jeannie lives on the West Coast, the rest of Asia has made it to her must-see list, with India and Vietnam at the top of that list! As she says: “There’s pretty much no end to the list of the places that I wish to visit and experience. Too many places, too little time.”

Travel Tips
Roll with the punches, laugh often and take every opportunity to connect with strangers.

“I am so fortunate to be able to work at ACIS for a 2nd time in my career. There is nothing more rewarding than watching students’ eyes open to the greater world around them. To witness them experiencing new cultures so different from their own, you can literally see them change in front of your eyes. I smile ear to ear when I hear about our students going on to study abroad in college. That’s when I know we’ve made an indelible mark on their lives and their future journeys.” —Jeannie

JESSICA RICCI, Senior International Program Manager, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1164

The Travel Bug Bites Again

Jessica started travelling a little later in life. Initially, she visited cities in the US, usually to visit family or friends; she recalls it was a definite plus to have a brother who lived in Juneau, AK! Next, it was resort vacations to Mexico and the Caribbean, until finally in 2006, Jessica went to Europe for the first time. She spent three weeks in Italy stopping in many of the major cities and visiting a little town named Pianella in the Abruzzo region where her grandfather was born! She saw his birth record in the original volume from 1912, the house he was born in, learned about art and history in Rome, Florence and Venice, and she was forever changed.

A Love Affair with Language
Jessica started her undergrad career as a Russian major and graduated with a degree in Biology! She then spent the next 10+ years working in the non-profit sector. After her 2006 visit to Italy, she decided to pursue a master’s in Italian—only problem—she didn’t speak the language. Jessica spent the next year working during the day and learning Italian in her spare time before entering into a master’s program at Middlebury College in Vermont. After a summer on the Middlebury campus, she journeyed to Florence for the academic year to study at the Universita` di Firenze. Jessica took advantage of her time in Italy—it was the perfect jumping off point to other countries such as England, Spain and Russia!

Expanding Horizons
During her years at ACIS, Jessica has continued to explore the world adding new destinations from Spain to the UK to Peru, China and more. Once the dream was to live in Italy, maybe now it’s to visit each of the continents!

“I love Italy and knew before I finished my master’s that I wanted to find a way to share my passion for Italy—and for travelling—with other people. I am so happy that with ACIS I can fulfill my goal!” —Jessica

JILL FEDERSCHNEIDER, Regional Director, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1116

The Travel Itch You Can’t Scratch

Jill first traveled abroad her sophomore year of college on a 10-day trip to Brussels to study NATO and the European Union. During her stay, she took day trips to Amsterdam, Bruges, Paris, and Leuven, and from there she knew this was not going to be her last visit abroad. Walking down streets brimmed with history and culture gave Jill the inspiration to see what else the world had to offer. Next thing she knew, she was interning in Paris for a semester in college and touring Europe on her weekends, and she hasn’t stopped traveling since!

A True Wanderlust
Jill has never been anywhere she hasn’t loved, so choosing her favorite destination almost seems unfair. The world is an amazing place. (Later she admits that she holds quite a fondness for Paris, Japan and Spain!)

From Ireland to Israel and Everywhere in Between
Jill has been studying the French language since she was five, so she has known for a long time that she was going to have a multi-cultural future. Jill also studied at St. Angela’s College while on a 2-week educational trip to Sligo, Ireland. To top it off, after graduation Jill spent 10 days touring Israel learning about the history of the Jewish culture and its roots in the country. As someone who loves to learn, she can’t stop finding new things to absorb! Her latest project has been teaching herself Spanish.

Star Sightings
You never know who you’ll meet when you’re abroad. Jill met Dustin Hoffman while he was filming Last Chance Harvey in London!

Travel Tip
There’s no such thing as a wrong turn- every step is a new adventure!

“My first trip to Europe was as a student, and I remember the excitement like it was yesterday. It’s really fulfilling to know that the work we do here at ACIS is providing students with the same eye opening, life changing experiences!” —Jill

JULIE FRATARCANGELI, Director of International Program Development
1-800-888-ACIS x1169


After spending time in Italy studying subjects such as Italian opera and perfecting her language skills, Julie hopes to someday return to live under the Tuscan sun. For now, she finds pleasure in her frequent trips to her ancestors’ homeland.

All in the family
Julie believes that growing up in an Italian-American household has made her the person she is today and her upbringing has greatly contributed to her passion for Italy. She has always been curious about her family roots and that curiosity and desire to learn about the past was only enhanced after her first trip to Italy when she was just eight years old. Since that first family vacation to the country of her heritage—visiting historic sites, churches and numerous relatives— Julie has made about 20 or so return trips to Italy.

“Travel is a fantastic way to learn more about the cultures, people and places around the globe! I love to travel and find that the most exciting part is knowing that a week or so later I’ll have some of the best new memories stored away from my experience.” —Julie

LIZ TYRRELL, Regional Director of International Programs, Chicago
Educational Explorer
Liz grew up traveling around the country with her family – from Yellowstone to the Florida panhandle, there weren’t many places that their trusty van did not traverse on one of their annual family vacations! She caught the international travel bug when she was in high school, spending several weeks volunteering in Mexico and on a homestay trip to Russelsheim, Germany. In college, she studied abroad in both Salamanca and Toledo, Spain, and continued on to backpack across Europe. Even as she continues to check places off her list as she travels for ACIS and on her own, her list of new places to see just continues to grow…

Amateur Tour Consultant Turned Pro
Liz’s career with ACIS has given her the opportunity to travel with teachers and see students across Europe, Latin America, and even far flung locales like Turkey and South Africa. Some of her most memorable moments traveling with ACIS: the shrieks of delight when her safari vehicle spotted a leopard in Kruger National Park; conquering her fears of heights in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia; spotting Prince Harry while in London! Liz also travels often with her family, and encourages her kids to keep accumulating stamps in their passports.

Travel Tips
My most important travel tip is to keep your sense of humor as well as your sense of adventure. Often, travel “glitches” can turn into memorable adventures if you approach them in the right way. My second most important travel tip - pack to carry on!

“Travel is important for everyone to experience, but I think that it is especially valuable for teens to see a world outside of their own as they start to form their world views as adults. I truly believe in ACIS’ proclamation that 'travel changes lives'. Having had the opportunity to experience educational travel myself, I know how important travel is in obtaining a broadened perspective and a respect for other cultures. It’s very exciting to be working for a company which brings that experience to so many people.” —Liz

LYNNE FREEMAN, Regional Director of International Programs, West Coast

Yes, There Will Be A Quiz

Lynne’s interest in places far away developed from a grade school geogra-phy project on all 50 states. After doing a report on each state, its capital, population, geographic boundaries, products produced, etc., her interest in geography kept spreading on to other places.

Not Your Traditional Calamari Dish
Italy is Lynne’s favorite destination. Not only does she love the country’s architecture and the way it stands the test of time, influencing the interior and exterior designs of today, but she also loves the Italian food. Lynne’s culinary adventures have gone so far as to try black spaghetti – the pasta and fish dishes made with squid ink found in Venice.

Travel Tip
Be flexible and travel with a good attitude.

“I became interested in educational travel while working at a university in Oklahoma. I organized four groups to travel to Europe and quickly realized the value of an organized trip where you visit and learn about all the important sights. Traveling helps us to be more accepting of other people, cultures and world views.” —Lynne

NICOLE WEGSCHEID, International Program Manager, Chicago

Travel Enthusiast

Since Nicole was young, she was the family member that wanted to move away from her suburban neighborhood in Minnesota. She felt a strong push to explore new terrain outside of the great white north, especially places that reached temperatures above freezing 90% of the year. Her life goal is to reach all seven continents whether it be by land, sea or air. So far she has touched three continents and had the incredible opportunity to reach 17 countries. In college, she studied abroad in Rome, Italy for 5 months and immersed herself in the Italian culture. There, she learned about European art, history and most importantly, the food. She continues to grow her passion for travel and is setting her sites on Asia for her next big adventure.

The Next Extreme Sport
On her most recent international excursion, Nicole travelled to Leon, Nicaragua to check out the world’s next extreme sport: Volcano Boarding. Her hostel tour guide led the troop up 2,388 feet to the summit of the Cerro Negro volcano, the world’s most active cinder cone volcano. Once they reached the top, she hopped into an orange jumpsuit and fastened science goggles to her face and hopped on her trusty wooden board that would take her straight to the bottom in 10 seconds. It was the thrill of a lifetime sledding on top of volcanic rock and ash only to escape with a couple of scrapes and bruises.

Where to Next?
Nicole is itching to hop on the next plane to just about anywhere. She has trips to Las Vegas and Washington D.C. in sight but she is searching travel blogs for a new international adventure. As for 2018, she is looking to Nepal and Thailand in search of new cultural experiences.

“I believe each and every person should travel somewhere new at least once a year. It doesn’t have to be far but adventure is empowering. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone because once you are out, that is where real change happens. The best stories are found between the pages of your passport, so just go!” —Nicole

TOM HEIGHAM, Regional Director of International Programs, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1146

Life Lessons From Mom

Whenever Tom informs his family of his next trip abroad, his mother usually gives him an uneasy chuckle, reminds him not to like it too much, not to fall in love, and to remember that his family still lives in Boston. Tom reminds her that she first introduced him to travel.

Sunshine State To Sunshine Sea
At the age of 6, Tom began a persistent campaign to convince his family to vacation at his grandparents’ in Florida. Eight years and nine trips later, he had mastered the sunshine state and had an insatiable desire to see and experience more. Partial to warm weather and white sand, he and his family toured 6 different Caribbean islands’ beaches in 7 days, falling in love with the new cultures and environments, the pastel-colored houses and the laid-back attitude.

Jungle Fever
Tom’s favorite destination is Montezuma, Costa Rica.

Travel Tip
Always expect the unexpected and be open to change. Sometimes the best parts of a trip come from spontaneity. Those are the random moments that you’ll look back on with a smile and be able to say, “Do you remember the time when…”

“I couldn’t agree more with the ACIS belief that “Travel Changes Lives.” I recently backpacked throughout Costa Rica with a friend, and upon my return to the states, I realized that I needed to help other people experience the things that I had. As fate would have it, I’ve found ACIS. I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to help others see the world, and I am excited to share my experiences with you and help you plan your next life-changing adventure!” —Tom

TRICIA HOLDA, International Program Consultant, Boston
1-800-888-ACIS x1117

How it began...

Tricia’s first time overseas was to Hull, England as part of a study abroad program. She then studied with two programs in Annecy and Strasbourg in France. She had started and finished over half of her degree toward Elementary and Special Education, and studying abroad absolutely turned her life upside down in the best possible way. Funnily enough, she had avoided language learning before then, but then became a linguist. Her eyes and heart were opened and she began to really see the world and the amazing people in it! She became fluent in French, then Italian, and finished her degree in International Affairs.

“Amore” at first sigh
It was during Tricia’s first study abroad semester in England that she lived with two Italian girls and first traveled with them to Italy, which began her obsession with everything Italian – an obsession that eventually led her to move to Italy right after college graduation. She taught herself Italian from “Italian for Dummies” and felt fluent after about 6 months (thanks in large part to her foundation in French). She stayed in Rome for almost 6 years.

Family reunion
Because of her innate drive to move to Italy and learn the language, she and her parents traveled to the small mountaintop village of their ancestors (that they learned about in 100 year-old letters written in Italian between her great grandfather and the family he’d left behind in Italy when he moved to the U.S.). When they asked around in the ‘piazza’ about their long-lost family members, they discovered their cousins that had been lost from their family history for a century! She visited them frequently through-out her years in Rome and they remain in close touch. She feels this is why she was “meant” to go to Italy all along!

“In all of my international travels over the past two decades, I’ve always had my ‘travel angels’.Whether it’s some-one that has popped up in a train station asking if I need help if I looked confused, someone that told me I’d dropped my passport somewhere, someone that caught a thief trying to pull something out of my bag, or even the lifelong friends I’ve made along the way. They’ve just always saved me in big or small instances when I needed it. And not too strangely, this sounds very much like the ‘travel angels’ that are our ACIS tour managers!” —Tricia