ISA (International Studies Abroad) Reviews | Glassdoor

ISA (International Studies Abroad) Reviews

Updated Aug 19, 2019

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Found 79 reviews

2.9
StarStarStarStarStar
Rating TrendsRating Trends
42%
Recommend to a Friend
35%
Approve of CEO
ISA (International Studies Abroad) CEO Rafael Hoyle Ph.D.
Rafael Hoyle Ph.D.
21 Ratings
Pros
  • "Great people with a solid and overall positive work environment; people here really do care(in 13 reviews)

  • "I learned so much and made my first friend circle in Austin(in 8 reviews)

Cons
  • "Embarrassingly, employees often require a side gig to feel autonomous due to the cost of living in Austin(in 10 reviews)

  • "(in 6 reviews)

More Pros and Cons
  1. "Student worker for ISA"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Global Ambassador 
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at ISA (International Studies Abroad) part-time for less than a year

    Pros

    Great team, very encouraging and supportive staff

    Cons

    I have heard from full-time employees that the benefits aren't great.

    ISA (International Studies Abroad)2019-05-09
  2. "good people, bad compensation and management"

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

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

    Pros

    The people are the saving grace at ISA. Your colleagues are generally goodhearted, adventurous, well-traveled and interesting people that are enjoyable to be around. I made some great friends while working at ISA.

    Cons

    Low low low pay. High turnover due to ill-equipped managers that undervalue skilled employees. Extreme lack of resources / constant "scrappiness" that means using technology that is 2 decades behind the times and extremely inefficient. Overall, the company will just hire recent grads at the lowest rate possible and hope they stay on for a year or two.

    Advice to Management

    Invest more in your people! ISA has the potential to be great if it would just open its eyes to seeing that when you invest in your employees and make sure they are happy, they produce even better results. The longer you keep making everyone do mundane tasks for low pay, the longer you will have high churn and keep having to hire inexperienced recent grads who leave after they realize this place is not as forward... thinking as it markets itself to be.

    Show More
    ISA (International Studies Abroad)2019-07-30
  3. "Graduate intern"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Graduate Intern in Austin, TX
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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

    Pros

    it's a nice place to work

    Cons

    i don't know about the Cons

    ISA (International Studies Abroad)2019-02-07
  4. Helpful (1)

    "Toxic and Nightmarish"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee 
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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

    Pros

    Nice to meet other travelers and help students realize their potential abroad.

    Cons

    - Money is a major issue here (know your worth or strive for better). There is no acceptable excuse here. - Good things Dissolve and - Management has no qualifications to demonstrate leadership anywhere else but here. Worldstrides should consider more stringent reviews and assessments of executive and director levels. The caliber should simply be higher.

    ISA (International Studies Abroad)2019-03-11
  5. Helpful (17)

    "A Terribly Unfulfilling Job Experience"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee 
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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

    Pros

    My direct colleagues were the only motivation to continue working at ISA. My experience at ISA taught me determination, patience, and persistence: the determination to leave ISA and find a job elsewhere, the patience to wait for a better next opportunity, and the persistence needed to do both of these while pulling through what was for me the darkest, most toxic experience of my career.

    Cons

    I feel responsible for sharing my experience at ISA publicly in hopes it prevents prospective employees, specifically those with prior experience and/or an advanced degree in international higher education, from accepting an offer at this company and making the same, poorly informed decision I did. Poor Leadership: Many people at ISA are "promoted" to positions for two reasons: who they know and/or the fact... they'll never leave the company. Instead of working with employees to develop a path to advance internally many are "promoted" to positions with more responsibility, but no increase in salary. As a result, many ill-trained employees supervise those with a comparable or higher level of expertise in their respective fields. ISA has begun to outsource some of its work to staff in Mexico in what is presumably a move to save money. ISA is struggling as evidenced by former employees whose positions have not been filled and whose responsibilities have been put onto the shoulders of current ones. This is also demonstrated by recent losses of once strong partnerships that ISA used to have prior to their acquisition of Globalinks in 2014 and by WorldStrides in 2015. Negative Outlook: I'd be surprised if ISA were still afloat in five years. I oftentimes wonder how ISA leadership presented the company to WorldStrides and persuaded them to move forward with the acquisition. ISA's desire to be the "cheapest" study abroad option has resulted in a disturbing margin of return, or profit, for some of its programs. More now than ever before is ISA's philosophy quantity over quality. Zero Investment in Staff: ISA is concerned only with turning a profit and staying afloat, so don't expect any opportunities to develop professionally. You'll be limited to online webinars and ISA-led "trainings" on organizing your email inbox – no conferences, networking events, management training, or opportunities beyond ONE, five day site visit every TWO years. In fact, some employees have never been to the sites they oversee. ISA requires employees to sign a contract that agrees to repayment of all trip-related expenses should the employee leave within a year. Together with the no-compete agreement you can expect to be imprisoned to ISA from the start. There is absolutely nothing at ISA that is in employees' best interest. Toxic Workplace Culture and Mediocre Office Environment: Relationships at ISA share one, common denominator – feeling undervalued, stuck, and most of all regretful. It isn't normal for employees to look for a new job within months of starting at ISA, and in some cases after relocating to Austin, Boston, or Denver to do so, to leave the office in tears, to be so desperate so as to leave ISA with nothing else lined up, and it's definitely neither normal nor acceptable for reviews left within the last year to express the SAME concerns as those did five years ago. Wake up, ISA. The office environment at ISA is depressing. Think: old, barely functioning computers, ripped and stained chairs, desks that have been around for ages, and computer platforms and systems which are as outdated as can be. Forget about learning any type of software skills that you can apply in a future position. At ISA you'll stay as stagnant and underdeveloped as the technology you use regularly. At ISA's offices in Austin, there isn't sufficient space for employees to work and parking is so limited that employees have been asked to carpool with one another. Focus on the Bottom Line: If you think you're going into higher education, think again. You're in sales at a struggling company and even with limited to no sales experience, you'll be told to "grow your program" and "do whatever it takes to keep students." Yes, these are actual quotes from ISA senior leadership and management. I appreciate that ISA responds so frequently to these reviews. But if you read their reply carefully you'll sense a defensive undertone. There's always a justification for any complaint or criticism ISA receives. You can expect the same defensiveness, justification, and inaction when addressing concerns to your supervisor. Note that reviews from Global Ambassadors are coming from ISA students, NOT full-time EMPLOYEES, and shouldn't be considered by anyone offered a full-time job at ISA. If none of this resonates, I ask prospective employees this one question: How long did it take from the time you submitted an application to ISA to receive an offer? I bet it took less than three weeks. ISA hires new employees at the same speed that they lose them. Since August 2017 ISA has lost 60+ US-based staff, more than one person a week. If there was ever an indication of where ISA is headed, it's this. WorldStrides is a high school student TRAVEL organization, not an EDUCATION abroad organization – two very different things. To anyone exploring a formal affiliation: do your research and choose accordingly, not only with your students', office's, and institution's needs, but what you value in a potential partner. After all an organization is its people, and more specifically, how they treat them.

    Show More

    Advice to Management

    Your rate of turnover proves "you get what you give."

    ISA (International Studies Abroad)2018-08-15
  6. Helpful (8)

    "Plan Your Exit Strategy Now"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee 
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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

    Pros

    - I learned a lot about what it means to be both undervalued and underpaid, - You can truly learn what it means to be 'scrappy' and make some great connections along the way. - I was able to leverage this work experience to get me where I want to go. - More than anything, I know what kind of company I don't want to work for.

    Cons

    - I've held off for a while on writing this review for some time as I wanted to really step away from ISA and give it an honest review. Months later and I can firmly say that ISA is NOT your average work environment, and there is honestly nothing that I look back on and really miss. - I don't want to beat a dead horse - it's clear that everyone is underpaid..but we sort of know this going in to it. Lack of... upward mobility is what I find most concerning. I switched departments and saw no increase in pay despite taking on significantly more responsibility in a department that sees no sense of normalcy. I asked on multiple occasions to take on more responsibility and was left with false promises from my team lead. - ISA traps young professionals in a 2 year non-compete clause (in ENTRY-LEVEL positions, mind you) that would take just about anyone out of the third-party study-abroad game should they choose to leave the company. I highly recommend you navigate your long-term professional trajectory before you take a job here. Most are qualified for higher education/administrative positions once they leave, but it can otherwise be tricky if you're not identifying both a pathway out and some transferrable skills. - I often describe ISA as a place full of recent college graduates who play professional. The lines between personal & professional are so blurred at this company, but when middle-management is mostly comprised of mid-20 somethings who are given no formal management training (or raises, for that matter), it's hard to establish workplace guidelines. People were often far more fixated on what time someone got in to the office than the work they were actually doing. - The negative undertones that run rampant throughout this company are toxic. On my first day, I was out for drinks with my new colleagues and they spent the entire time complaining about their jobs & the company as a whole. They told me that 'soon enough I'd be doing the same and no one really stays longer than 2 years'. This was my very first day.

    Show More

    Advice to Management

    - You can't pick and choose when you want to be a higher-education institution or a for-profit company ; if you're going to have noncompete clauses of such length, you should at least have competitive wages. - Invest in middle management. Reassess upper management and their value to the company...some are literally just family and placeholders. You aren't a mom & pop business anymore. - The mean girl... undertones have to go. There is so much badmouthing of colleagues, students, jobs, pay, etc. that it's overwhelming. My department was particularly toxic, and I honestly dreaded going in to work by the end of it. After this job I did some serious self-reflecting and was a bit nervous that I had no idea what professionalism was after ISA but I realize when a company sets the tone for a positive, inviting and professional work environment, employees thrive. Keep a real pulse on your departments and what is going on within them. - CREATE PATHWAYS OF UPWARD MOBILITY! I cannot repeat that enough. - Quit making impulsive decisions and focus on improving the systems you already have in place. - Realize how good of a workforce you have. I was as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as all your employees coming in. They believe in what they're selling... it's time to align your company values to the actual product.

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    ISA (International Studies Abroad)2018-05-30

    ISA (International Studies Abroad) Response

    May 31, 2018HR Business Partner

    Thank you for taking the time to leave feedback on your experience with ISA as we value any and all feedback. Since the WorldStrides/ISA merger, departments and processes have continued to evolve as we are now part of a 1300+ strong organization. Career progression is one of our top priorities and we have been working diligently across all divisions to ensure a clear career ladder is in place. I'm sorry to hear that you feel a non-compete agreement is "trapping" anyone as this is a standard practice among many businesses across multiple professional fields. As a young professional, I'm sure this is something you will encounter again as you progress throughout your career. Thanks to the support of WorldStrides, we have been able to implement a more robust Management Training program and continue to fine tune this to better meet our needs. I do understand your frustration with some business decisions seeming "impulsive" but once you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, these decisions do become clearer. Thank you for the time and effort you put in while working at ISA and we wish you nothing but the best in your future endeavors! Personal note from ISA Managing Director: I agree with some of what is said but not so much with other parts. I believe some of our strength can certainly be attributed to recent structural changes, and perhaps a bit more even to the recent advancements in reporting lines and practices. Our organization’s strength can also be attributed to our management’s very intentional efforts to expose and address weaknesses in employee performance (including our own management team's performance!). At the same time, we are also getting better at recognizing talent and strength. The efforts have paid off in a number of ways, one being that we have the lowest turn over in our history, which is not easy to achieve in an Austin economy where the unemployment Is less than 4%. We would like to think our low turn-over is not due to people feeling trapped as mentioned in the review, but because people want to be here. Certainly our talented folks could go out and find plenty of new jobs in this economy. When people do leave, we think their time and experience here usually has helped them to get another position. We will continue working to improve by recognizing our own weaknesses and leveraging our own strengths. I’ve personally see how this formula has helped us over the course of the last twenty years to become one of the leading study abroad providers in the world. Yes we were mom and pop at one point in in time. Ironically, our beloved parent company of WorldStrides were also mom and pop, founded by an 8th grade history teacher, whose talented nephew is now the WorldStrides highly respected and admired CEO. We are proud of our origins and will hold on to some of the essential elements of a family business while also adopting cutting-edge practices, strategies and technologies that will allow us to continue developing and growing our organization. As to the comments about ISA’s senior management, I strongly feel the criticisms are unfair and inaccurate. Most members of ISA senior management report directly to me, and it has been the great pleasure of my 20-year career at ISA to work with such talented and hard-working group (sometimes too hard working). I am grateful to them for a number of reasons, one being that they have helped me improve on my weaknesses as I have helped them to improve on theirs. We have done our best to lead an organization that has served well over 100,000 students. Certainly it won’t take us as long to serve the next 100,000. We were pleased to read that you are among those who leveraged your experience at ISA to get you where you want to go. I sincerely wish you the very best and remain hopeful that over the course of time you will look back more positively on your experience with us. Thank you for your contributions to ISA and WorldStrides.

    Show Less
  7. "Working at ISA"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee 

    I have been working at ISA (International Studies Abroad) full-time

    Pros

    Great job experience out of school

    Cons

    -low pay and few promotional opportunities

    ISA (International Studies Abroad)2018-05-29
  8. Helpful (5)

    "No sense of urgency, poor executive direction"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at ISA (International Studies Abroad) full-time

    Pros

    Work environment is friendly and casual. Still, the relationships you have feel connected by the underlying bond that you are disconnected from your worth and are under-compensated.

    Cons

    There is little to no sense of urgency at ISA -- especially during obvious opportunities to improve or build upon ideas. Management has failed to recognize (or even identify) time and money-saving opportunities and instead frantically offer poor experiments that ignore any invitation for dialogue or discussion. The chain of command is so bizarre at times — you are better off avoiding approval for a project and... implementing the ideas yourself.

 Oftentimes, the (undeserving) employees who receive praise are those that display obsequious loyalty rather than skilled leadership or contribution. Similarly, the employees that stay the longest are those whose maladaptive behavior has given them no opportunity elsewhere. The company culture ebbs and flows, but more often than not, it quickly becomes toxic and characterized by low morale.

ISA will exploit the labor of those employees whose quality of life suffers under low compensation. This is the classic example of being a cog in the machine and working to make your boss richer. Embarrassingly, employees often require a side gig to feel autonomous due to the cost of living in Austin. Not to accommodate their lifestyle, but simply to generate a decent savings. It would seem fitting to reassess this low base salary and find employees that fit the higher commensurate criteria all together.

 Most executive management have faked their leadership abilities when the company was small, and now that they have to report outside of the company, their unprepared behavior is being exposed. Needless to say, time is catching up with these individuals.

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    Advice to Management

    If you are unprepared or unfit to be a leader, it would seem wise to start evolving or step aside.

    ISA (International Studies Abroad)2018-05-28
  9. Helpful (2)

    "Sr. Graphic Designer"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Graphic Designer in Austin, TX
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at ISA (International Studies Abroad) full-time for more than 10 years

    Pros

    People and environment were great

    Cons

    Limited resources for creative work

    ISA (International Studies Abroad)2018-03-27
  10. "Global Ambassador"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Global Ambassador in Remote, OR
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at ISA (International Studies Abroad) part-time for more than a year

    Pros

    You make your own schedule, you can really make this as often or as infrequent as you would like

    Cons

    Gets pretty boring, you are paid minimally,

    Advice to Management

    Increase the pay and send out cool stickers

    ISA (International Studies Abroad)2018-03-22
Found 79 reviews