Academic Experiences Abroad provides international, educational immersion on a local level to bring people around the world closer to understanding and appreciating one another.
As travelers, we are guests in the communities and homes we visit. AEA encourages respect for and learning from locals, practicing responsible travel and actively increasing our positive impact on people and planet.
How did AEA get started - and Why?
It may be hard to imagine a time when few people from the United States were visiting Asia, but Academic Experiences Abroad (AEA) founder and director, Sam Brier, remembers it well. In fact, he was there. After spending nearly a decade working with universities and NGOs in Japan, China, Laos, Thailand, and East Timor, he returned to the US in 2003 with a vision of establishing an educational and experiential avenue for cross-cultural exchange and understanding. At the time, China and the US were at odds over the Spy Plane incident, the Bird Flu was all over the news, and very few Americans were traveling to Asia.
In 2005, in an effort to create unique programs and facilitate meaningful connections for university groups traveling to Asia, Academic Experiences Abroad was launched. After just one year of successful programs, university partners began asking us to create programs to Brazil, Ghana, and Europe, so we started exploring those possibilities. As our clients’ needs have evolved, we have grown too, expanding our services while always keeping in mind the original mission. Today, AEA continues to facilitate connections and offer unique, customized, faculty-led programs. But our programs are no longer limited to Asia; they are available throughout Asia, Europe, Latin America, Oceania, the Caribbean, and parts of Africa.
Our travels impact people and planet – for better or for worse.
From the resources we consume to the people we meet, the cultures we engage with to the foods we eat. Our travels are not just about us.
We want our impact to be “better” rather than “worse.”
Prioritize local needs in your program planning.
Are they having a drought in the region you want to travel? Should you consider an alternate destinations? Do they want or need support in local schools or clinics? Will you be more of a burden than a blessing? AEA develops and maintains strong relationships with our in-country managers and team. Together we are constantly assessing whether or not our programs are collectively beneficial.
Know your role.
You are a guest in someone else’s country – and sometimes in their home. Learn about and respect their customs and culture. Be open to discussions about your own.
Learn from a local. There’s no better way to learn about a place, culture, challenges, and triumphs than from a local. AEA can arrange special visits and guest lectures with entrepreneurs, experts, artists, and more.
Consider your footprint. Carry a reusable bag and water bottle whenever possible. Limit purchases that involve excessive plastic. Ask AEA and your hosts if there are other ways to help.