How Emily Howland ’09 turned a Hispanic studies and English major into an international adventure trip job.

By Anna Pickrell ’14

When Emily Howland graduated from Macalester in 2009 she took with her degrees in Hispanic studies and English, memories of a semester abroad in Ecuador, and an open mind. After working with Amazon Watch in Ecuador after graduation, Howland is now employed by Adventures Cross-Country (ARCC), an organization that leads middle school, high school, and gap-year students on summer language, multisport, and community service trips around the world.   

In her role as regional director for programs in Ecuador, Peru, Spain, Morocco, and the Galapagos, Howland’s job varies depending on the time of year. “I wear a lot of hats,” Howland said. “When summer comes, that’s when I’m busiest.”

ARCC leads teenagers on trips to countries as diverse as China, Turkey, and France, as well as on domestic trips to California, Hawaii, Alaska, and Colorado. The students who go on these trips don’t necessarily have wilderness adventure backgrounds. Instead, they’re “average teenagers who simply want an exciting and fulfilling summer experience,” says the ARCC website.

Depending on the trip’s location, students stay in tents or small hostels and cook most of their food as a group. From communicating with parents to planning itineraries to translating, Howland still frequently applies Mac-acquired skills to her life today as she leads others across cultural boundaries.

“My Hispanic Studies major taught me not only how to read and write in Spanish, but how to think about Hispanic culture in a really dynamic way,” she said. “That’s something I still find relevant to the programs at ARCC.”

Her comfort with Hispanic culture is a major asset to the organization, as Howland calms student fears about living among residents of indigenous villages and reassures villagers about having American students living in their homes.

“We have an ongoing relationship with the communities we visit,” she says. “We’re the social event of the year … and we really try to base trips on things that are worthwhile” for everyone involved.

One such trip is the Ecuador and Galapagos Service Adventure, which has students doing community service work in Quito and the Andean Highlands, zip lining through a cloud forest, whitewater rafting the Jatunyacu River, and exploring the Galapagos Islands.

Living in Ecuador during her junior year was another helpful experience Howland had during her Mac years. Having herself experienced life as a nervous student new to a foreign country, she recognizes the anxiety students feel facing such a trip and has the leadership skills necessary to guide them through it. “There are a lot of nerves going into it, for sure,” she said. “But part of the reason I’m so passionate about what I do is that studying abroad changed my life.”

Macalester’s emphasis on multiculturalism was another vitally influential element of her education, she says. At Mac the San Francisco native befriended students from across the globe. “It was so unexpectedly wonderful that I had all of these international friends at Macalester,” she said. “It totally affected what cultures I wanted to be surrounded by in my life.”


March 23 2012

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