ISA (International Studies Abroad) Reviews | Glassdoor

ISA (International Studies Abroad) Reviews

Updated September 1, 2017
68 reviews

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ISA (International Studies Abroad) CEO Rafael Hoyle Ph.D.
Rafael Hoyle Ph.D.
15 Ratings

68 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • Great people with a solid and overall positive work environment; people here really do care (in 12 reviews)

  • This is nub no effort of upper management (in 5 reviews)

Cons
  • Low pay grade and no real room for growth economically or professionally (in 4 reviews)

  • You end up working long hours and do not receive very much compensation in return (in 3 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. "Academic Records Coordinator"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at ISA (International Studies Abroad) full-time

    Pros

    Good environment and benefits with a solid team

    Cons

    No room for improvement, low salary


  2. Helpful (2)

    "This is a great place holder job until you find a job you really want."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at ISA (International Studies Abroad) full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    You will get to know great people and make friends at this job

    Cons

    I got hired on in one department where I like my work and my supervisors. With in a few months of being hired, we are notified the at the company has been bought out by World Strigheds. I was informed that my current position will be going away and if I mind taking a lower paying job that just became opened do to someone leaving the company. I told that I would take the job on one condition, That as soon as the hire paying position that I was qualified for is available that I be moved there. ISA agreed. I stayed in the position for over 6 months while they hired over three new people for jobs that I was more than qualified for. When I asked why I have not been moved yet, they informed me that they are having a hard time finding someone to fill the position I was currently in.
    So I started looking for a new job right after that meeting and gave them my two weeks noticed. They were able to find someone to fill the position right away

    No matter how much you like your co-works not be able to make enough money to live off of is a big issue.

    Also, there is no movement other than lateral. Let's be real that is not movement at all when there is no pay raise

  3. Helpful (1)

    "A Valuable (yet Sisyphean) Work Experience"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Site Specialist in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Site Specialist in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at ISA (International Studies Abroad) full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    I studied abroad through ISA, which ended up being the single best academic and cultural experience of my college career, and is what ultimately led me to move to Austin for this position. ISA offers very solid, well-reputed study abroad programs that are operated stateside and onsite by extremely talented, empathic and dedicated staff. ISA programs are well-supported by an expert team of specialists, including an extraordinary Health & Safety department.

    ISA hires amazing people who have: a wealth of experience and knowledge, a willingness to work hard, and a natural empathy (for the most part). There is a camaraderie here like nowhere else I've ever worked. However, this company is not directly responsible for the incredible, long lasting bonds of friendship between said amazing people - these bonds are forged by similar individuals over shared experiences at ISA, both positive and negative, but the immediate bond often forms over what people are miserable about. Most of us can realize working at ISA is an experience that won't last forever - and that somehow we'll be better off for it on the other side.

    ISA can be a wonderful incubatory-like place to work, whether you choose to stay in international education or to move on from the field - there are endless lessons to be learned. I gained so much experience I wouldn't have if I worked a university advisor position instead, like communicating daily in a language for which I earned my Bachelor’s degree, or working in tandem with foreign consulates in the US.

    I learned too that I will not stay in this field, so the value in my experiences may be less direct than a person who leaves for a job within the international/higher education realm. However, the toughest experiences are usually the most universally applicable, and I'm grateful to have a few of those under my belt moving forward.

    Cons

    I don't want to completely rehash the cons that already exist on this page, so I'll expand upon the main points:

    • Low Compensation in Very High Cost of Living Areas:
    First, do not even mention in your job postings that you prefer a Master's degree if you are not willing to compensate for advanced education. Second, take the time to reflect upon the potential growth ISA could experience if your ground-work people were paid a decent salary - for example, a 10k increase for those paid under 45k (which sadly I'd estimate to be 60-70% of employees in your Austin, TX, office - a town whose COL grows by the minute each day) would be life-changing. By paying appropriately for the work performed  (taking into consideration that you've skated off easy with last year's overtime law being overruled, as you constantly have mid-30k salaried employees working 50-60 hours a week, free of extra charge to you),  you will see an immediate shift of attitude and a positive correlation in work output, because these employees would be less stressed about their ability to pay rent without donating plasma or some other fringe extra job, and more grounded in their environment to provide better work results for ISA as a whole. 

    • An Environment of Fear and Insecurity:
    Many days I felt the only motivator I had to do my job better was to avoid being called out by anyone in a higher position than me. This totally backfired for my productivity, as I felt constantly afraid that nothing I did was good enough. By incentive to work better, I don't just mean monetary - for me, a life-changing incentive would have been to know that my work was appreciated and that it wasn't done in vain or to satisfy the capriciousness of someone who would ultimately overlook the effort put forth. Beyond disheartening, it's exhausting to feel like your work means nothing, and it's what causes so much of the burnout/turnover. 

    In this job I felt like Sisyphus, pushing the boulder up the mountain only to be crushed, then having to repeat that task every day for the rest of eternity... if Sisyphus also had someone constantly over his shoulder telling him he's pushing the boulder incorrectly.

    • Confusing and Inconsistent Messages from Executive Management and Between Departments:
    Flexibility and room for change - without transparency and order - is a recipe for chaos. ISA is known for taking risks which is admirable and has taken the company far, but always scrambling to make something work last minute or halfway following through with a good idea, are poor business practices. In the Site Specialist position in particular, this happens so often where an SP will have to drop everything to work on a program they had no idea was going to run, or a last minute marketing effort - this is a huge stress, when instead you could bring every involved party into conversations from the beginning to develop a strategic plan on how to move forward. 

    • Disorganized and Disconnected Job Duties that Distract
    I can only speak from my experience as a Site Specialist, but I'm positive that in one way or another, other departments have experienced the same issues of being thrown a half-baked yet "URGENT" project that debilitates the capacity to perform any other task.

    The Site Specialist role needs to be elevated to something along the lines of "Academic and Cultural Advisor" and all front-line sales duties should be reserved for the departments you already have doing that work. There should be more focus on maintaining and improving the academic and cultural aspects of ISA program offerings, because a pretty poster can't cover up a rotten program (neither can cold-calls).

    Advice to Management

    1. Don't Squander the Brain Power that Already Exists:
    You have incredibly talented people working in every department, a good number of whom hold advanced degrees in International Education and related fields. These are the people who get burnt out and have to leave for better prospects. IF you can’t pay a proper salary, at least let your employees use their knowledge and varied experiences to help you find solutions to problems that come up over and over again. You have so much to gain as a company if you valued your employees more. I think when upper management hears the complaint “employees should be better valued” they automatically think “oh they want a pay raise.” Yes salary is an incredibly important part of this, but what “being valued more” also means is recognizing the particular skills and knowledge an individual is offering you.

    Also by squandering brain power, I am referring to the loss of information from employee to employee after someone leaves the company. I know that when someone leaves abruptly, it is a heavy burden for their colleagues to pick up the slack in addition to their own daily work. Find a way to make more sustainable systems for maintaining information across employee transitions.

    Treat your people better and you can work smarter, not harder, with better results.

    2. Improve Internal Communication Between ISA Departments, ISA Upper Management, and Worldstrides:
    There is an incredible amount of disconnect between all of these parties. Random congratulatory emails from the CEO may be coming from a nice place, but they are inconsistent and vague. One idea could be having an ISA-wide quarterly newsletter (for internal use only) in which each department could provide a short summary in their own words of what projects are in the pipeline, new employees to the department, etc. This would be more helpful (but far less entertaining) than pep-rally style all-office meetings held at inconsistent times throughout the year (and no one remembers anyone else's achievements after their 30-second update is over).

    Take the time to know what each department contributes to the company as a whole. It would be nice for the CEO and other executive management members to get in real face time with their people, and less time in ivory towers.

    3. Be Proactive, Not Reactive. Be Responsive, not Reactive:
    It takes a lot of courage to actually face your flaws and shortcomings in an honest, productive way. Personally, this is the hardest lesson I learned at ISA - but I know the value in taking honest self-inventory and how it can allow for growth.

    By being proactive in program development and maintenance, and by having more strategic ways of promoting ISA programs, you can avoid stressful last minute/short-sighted efforts to reach students for an upcoming term (see above “squandering brain power”). 

    Being responsive instead of reactive means cultivating the patience and willingness to absorb negative feedback, to really consider how you can be the company you want to be. Depending on the same ideas that may have worked in the past, or worse - superficial and short-sighted ideas that fail before they’re even launched - is not the approach you should be taking if you want to stay a leader in this field. 

    4. You Are Not Your Parent Company:
    Worldstrides sells short-term programs that they can still call “trips.” I’m not here to get into their selling tactics because there’s a lot I don’t know.

    Likewise, there is so much about ISA that Worldstrides chooses to overlook or ignore, and instead forces a model that does not work. ISA provides study abroad programs for college credit, and even one month of studying abroad means something - college is not cheap nor not a decision to mess around with, and neither is studying abroad. High-pressure sales tactics and impossible goals for enrollment increases for every site does not work, as it may at Worldstrides.

    What has helped ISA reach the kind of success they have is reputation and word of mouth - there is a certain authenticity that is associated with ISA, an authenticity that will surely shrivel up and die if you continue to push aggressive sales tactics. 

    5. Remember Who You Are as a Company:
    You are ISA, the bright friendly charismatic study abroad provider who promotes a genuine agenda in increasing the number of university students who go abroad. You are loved for providing excellent customer service and peace of mind for thousands of students and parents. You have great programs around the globe (“The sun never sets on the ISA empire”) and incredible onsite staff who make a student’s experience abroad so special and memorable. This is why you have so many returned students become Global Ambassadors and also future ISA employees. You have an incredible international network of people.

    I would like to address Rafael Hoyle, CEO, by first saying that I admit I do not know the nature of your work or what is discussed in closed door meetings, so I will try not to make too many assumptions but rather offer some advice - you know what makes ISA a wonderful study abroad provider. I think deep down you may also know that those values and ideals are breaking down as you feel the growing pains of the WS acquisition. I can’t imagine what your conversations with WS are like, but I hope that you can convey the “spirit of ISA” to those executives and encourage them to learn about the company from your point of view. You can make it clear than certain WS systems or protocol will probably NOT be fruitful for ISA for xyz reasons. You know ISA. Don’t let this incredible network of people and students worldwide fall apart to cheap selling tactics & corporatized education. Yes, being a business who “sells” academic experiences is messy, but I truly believe that you can do so (and with more success) by focusing on people first. I guarantee that by strengthening relationships with universities here and abroad to create more academically-sound programs will help you go much further than a disorganized heavy-sales approach.
    --
    You may answer this review or not, but before posting a canned response, I encourage you to sit with this feedback and think about the direction the company is going.

    I write everything here with nothing but truth and authenticity - there is no room for pettiness or holding a grudge. My time at ISA was filled with incredibly low moments, but I say with confidence now that I am a better and stronger person for learning how to own up to my mistakes, but more importantly, how to take all sorts of criticism and examine it for the truth - these are hard lessons.

    My wish for ISA would be for them to take the initiative to learn the same lessons because this company has the potential to have a very bright and prosperous future if they choose to self-reflect, grow from within, and properly invest in their (not-yet crumbling) infrastructure of employees and programs.

    ISA (International Studies Abroad) Response

    Jul 13, 2017 – HR Business Partner

    Thank you for taking the time to leave us feedback. As pay is a common concern across the board with any company, WorldStrides and ISA has made strides to ensure that competitive and livable wages... More


  4. "Working as a Global Ambassador is a great side job"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Global Ambassador
    Current Employee - Global Ambassador
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at ISA (International Studies Abroad) part-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    You can word whenever you want, and you get to decide what you do to get your hours.

    Cons

    Your fist ten hours of work are without pay. You also only get paid at the end of the semester.


  5. "Regional Director"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Director, Regional Sales Management in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Director, Regional Sales Management in Austin, TX
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at ISA (International Studies Abroad) full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Great first job out of college. I learned so much and made my first friend circle in Austin.

    Cons

    Not much. It was a great place to work.


  6. "Global Ambassador"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Talk about your study abroad experience, professional development, meet new friends

    Cons

    Check is at the end of the semester


  7. Helpful (5)

    "Site Specialist"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Site Specialist in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Site Specialist in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at ISA (International Studies Abroad) full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Incredible coworkers, but the company culture sustains itself. This is nub no effort of upper management. I think employees bond over their ridiculous workload and poor pay.

    Cons

    Low pay grade and no real room for growth economically or professionally. Intense workload and the company is happy to give you more responsibility without compensating you financially. They want 2+ year commitments, but the way they value their employees doesn't align with that idea.

    Advice to Management

    Invest in your employees. Lake days and Christmas parties don't pay the bills. Austin's COL is outrageous given the pay and such minimal raises don't afford your employees the ability to stay and then you're offended or shocked when they leave. Invest in your seniors and learn to properly train them. Employee retention would be so much higher if you bumped up to the low 40s. You'd truly be amazed.

  8. "Logistics Account Executive"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    Pros

    Lots of tools to help you as well as coworkers. Uncapped earning potential.

    Cons

    Expected to work very long hours


  9. Helpful (2)

    "Springboard Job"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - University Relations Representative in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - University Relations Representative in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at ISA (International Studies Abroad) full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Some of the most amazing people I've had the pleasure of working with; to that it was a really great mix of personalities.

    Clearly getting the opportunity to travel (however this is limited to very specific roles).

    The 2 greatest pros are the ability to truly affect the lives of college students by getting them overseas to open their minds AND getting to live in Austin (only office during my employment)

    Cons

    Vastly underpaid
    Business decisions seemed to be made with a "flying by the seat of our pants" mindset; very knee jerk reaction to most things (direction changed often).
    Drowning in nepotism
    No real road-map for success beyond the role you're hired for -- this might have changed through the acquisitions/company expansion

    Advice to Management

    From what I hear - things have changed a little since I worked there so the only advice I could probably give that might still stick would be pay your people as (at least for Austin) housing has just skyrocketed disproportionally to wage averages.


  10. Helpful (9)

    "Overworked and Underpaid"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Austin, TX
    Recommends
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at ISA (International Studies Abroad) full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    While your coworkers at ISA are amazing, I wish I could say the same about upper management. The honeymoon period at ISA is sure to be sweet, but it won't be long before the frustrations of the company start to boil within you. The company was never known for it’s generosity, but ever since the merger with World Strides things have only gotten worse, and the once amazing culture is surely on the decline. ISA is notorious for underpaying its employees. The sad part about it is that they acknowledge it on this very website by saying "You know your paycheck when you sign up", but just because we know we’re underpaid doesn’t make it any more acceptable. Unfortunately, that’s entirely in the hands of upper management who each make 6 figures, while the rest of us struggle in the mid to low 30 thousands. Most employees have had to pick up second jobs delivering stranger’s groceries with Favor, driving with ride share companies, or babysitting in their spare time. So, after working a full 8 hours many people drive directly to their next job to work another 4 hour shift somewhere else. There are also several employees who cannot afford to own a vehicle, making it difficult to get a second job, which makes their situation even more difficult. Meanwhile we would watch the executive team drive to work in new BMWs or a trendy new Mercedes.

    Continuing on the topic of payment, the benefits are far too expensive. It’s nice to have insurance, but it’s better to have insurance that you can afford and that covers procedures you need. The insurance provided through ISA does not cover nearly enough, and it’s not unusual for people to have to choose between going to the doctor/dentist or paying for rent on time because they can’t afford both. Employees have brought these concerns to management many, many times in the past but they only thing they would ever tell us “We’re working on it, things will get better”. We waited for years. It never got better. It got worse as Austin grew more expensive, and now they’re dealing with a mass exodus as once loyal employees are forced to quit and pursue better paying positions. But at the end of the day ISA doesn’t seem to mind losing so many employees. Their business model focuses on cheap labor.

    Upper management also has a habit of being fairly unethical in terms of how they treat people. For example, it’s not unusual for people to be given a “Promotion” into a mid-level management role, but never receive a raise, compensation, or any real training in how to execute their new role. This is because all promotions are called “Lateral moves” internally. This means that some mid-managers are amazing at supporting their team, while others flounder, grasping for power and an opportunity to throw their weight around, until their subordinates eventually get fed up and demand a new supervisor. With so many people quitting recently significant strain has been put on employees, especially since many of the now vacant positions are being absorbed indefinitely by others members of the team. This means twice the work, with none of the compensation. ISA is trying to save money by working people to the bone. Overtime has also become quite common, but you’re not allowed to claim any of it because it would cost the company too much.

    Speaking of how ISA spends money, there are several examples of executives trying to put the cost of the company directly onto it’s employees. I used to be part of the Green Team, and the former CEO (Gustavo) once approached us and asked if we thought solar panels would be a good idea. Naturally, we all thought it would be great. He then asked how much we would be willing to pay for them directly from our own pockets. We said $0, because that’s not our responsibility. He wanted the lower power power cost, he wanted the green energy tax credit, and he wanted employees to pay for it. Things are better with the new CEO, but still not great.
    There are two reasons to work for ISA: 1- To get experience in your chosen field. 2- To quit.

    Cons

    ISA has some of the most genuine people working for it, and your coworkers are sure to be a joy to see everyday. Since I have left ISA I am happy to say I have made some great friends who I still see every week and regularly invite over. It's a company where the employees can go to work and know they are working in a field they are passionate about, and you are sure to gain a lot of experience in a very short period time. This is a great stepping stone to something much better, and I can confidently say I would not have my current position without having worked at ISA first.

    Advice to Management

    Treat your employees like people, and give them a livable wage. Also, a little transparency would be nice. You kept telling me you had “big plans”, and “things would get better”, but they never did. If you want to keep employees you need to pay them, you need to tell them your plans, and you can’t keep so many secrets (That’s how rumors get started). People don’t know what’s happening and it’s causing huge amounts of anxiety. Also, don’t take credit for the once-amazing culture. You didn’t build that. We did. Though our shared experiences, interests, and struggles. Emphasis on “Struggles”.

    ISA (International Studies Abroad) Response

    Nov 8, 2016 – HR Business Partner

    Thank you for taking the time to give us this feedback. You are correct in that every employee who agrees to work with ISA is aware of their salaries in advance of starting with the company and we... More


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