Making Travel a Career with Stacie Kellermann of Academic Travel Abroad

Turning travel into a full-time career sounds a little bit like winning the lottery: positively dreamy and highly unlikely. “I always wanted to work in the travel industry but I think, like most people, I never really thought it was an attainable career for myself—it was more so a career that a friend, of a friend, of a friend had.” The best way Stacie Kellermann discovered to get your foot in the door? Rely on personal experience.

During her sophomore year of college, Stacie chose to study abroad in Greece instead of taking a required geology course and, while she had to later make the class up at a community college before she graduation, it was that experience that gave her the confidence to apply for a job in the industry of her dreams.

In just two years, Stacie has traveled to Cuba, Italy, and Switzerland with Academic Travel Abroad and there’s plenty more where that came from. She’s here to tell us more about how she got her start, what her job entails, and what she loves most about the travel industry.

Name: Stacie Kellermann
Location: Baltimore, MD/Washington D.C.
Age: 25
Current Title/Company: Program Assistant at Academic Travel Abroad
Education: B.S. in Advertising and Journalism from West Virginia University

What was your first job out of college and how did you land that position?
When it came time to graduate college in May I was short a geology 102 course (I chose to travel to Greece sophomore year instead; what can I say life is full of sacrifices—sorry, Dad!) and luckily my school said I could take the course elsewhere. I packed up and left Morgantown and took a geology course at a local community college while I saved money and worked part-time at a bakery and part-time as a nanny.

I had applied to work at Academic Travel Abroad right after I graduated in December and although they did not currently have any positions available they said they would keep my resume on file and contact me should anything open up (we’ve all heard that one before, right?) but sure enough a few months later I got a phone call and was asked to come in for an interview. And now two years later, here I am being featured on The Everygirl!

Though you studied advertising in college, you landed in the tourism and travel field. Tell us about that transition!
I always wanted to work in the travel industry but I think, like most people, I never really thought it was an attainable career for myself—it was more so a career that a friend, of a friend, of a friend had. I think what helped me get my foot in the door and make the transition out of advertising was my personal and previous travel experience.

If you are looking to break into the industry, just get out there and start exploring. I have found that real life experience is what counts, especially in this field.

“If you are looking to break into the industry, just get out there and start exploring. I have found that real life experience is what counts, especially in this field.”

You joined Academic Travel Abroad in 2013 as a concierge specialist. Tell us about that position: What does a typical day in the office look like?
When I was a concierge specialist I spent my time interacting with the travelers and making sure that they were prepared and equipped with all necessary information to have a fun and educational experience abroad. One of the most unique and rewarding aspects about ATA is that the focus and attention to detail invested in all of our tours—adding another layer to the experience giving travelers a unique and authentic experience abroad at any age.

The great thing about both my former and current positions are that no day is the same, or remotely typical. One day I am facing an Air France pilot strike with groups planning to depart Charles de Gaulle Airport in four hours, and the next day I am trying to obtain Cuban visas for a trip four days away.

Recently you were promoted to program assistant, congratulations! How does your current role differ from your previous?
The easiest way I can think to describe the difference in positions would be to compare it to the front and back of the house at a restaurant. I no longer interface with the travelers, now focus my is on assisting in the proposing, planning, and preparation.

After two years with ATA, you’ve been able to travel to several different countries. Tell us about where you’ve been! How much downtime do you have outside of work?
I have been fortunate enough to travel as a company representative to Cuba, Switzerland, and Italy in my two years with ATA. When traveling for work, especially when traveling along side the customers—you need to be “on” 24/7. I am there to ensure the program runs smoothly, take notes, and provide feedback to help tweak and better the traveler experience. I have done research and development work consisting of going to and eating at various restaurants to see if they are a good fit for our travelers (hey, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it), and to lend a hand wherever and whenever needed. There is no real downtime on tour, except for when you are sleeping!

Academic Travel Abroad is based in Washington D.C.—one of those most expensive cities in the country right now. How do you manage to work in such a costly city on a twenty-something’s budget?
I live in Baltimore and commute on the Marc train to D.C. every day—something I consider as the best of both worlds. Doing this allows me to work in one of the most expensive cities in the country and take full advantage of all the resources it has to offer (while not breaking my twenty-something budget!). The commute often horrifies people, however most of my coworkers are an hour door to door, which is pretty close to mine.

What qualities are most important to embody when working in the travel industry?
In order to be successful in the travel industry you have to be able to prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and be able to deal with whatever is thrown at you.

Best moment in your career so far?
Being able to see the Matterhorn from my pillow. I remember waking up that first morning in Zermatt, opening my eyes and there she was in all her glory. I actually started laughing out loud (yes, to myself) because I was so overwhelmed with happiness. It was definitely one of those moments I’ll remember for a lifetime.

What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
Slow down. Take that gap year (or two!) and backpack across Europe, teach English in Asia, drive across America—be selfish.

Slow down. Take that gap year (or two!) and backpack across Europe, teach English in Asia, drive across America—be selfish.

Stacie Kellermann is The Everygirl…

Favorite part of working in D.C.?
Food Truck Friday! The variety and quality of the food trucks here are amazing—there is always something to eat no matter what food mood you are in.

Dream work destination? 
Egypt, without a doubt. I have wanted to go there ever since I was a little girl.

Go-to tip to stay organized? 
I love making lists. It is the first thing I do when I get to the office in the morning and the last thing I do before I leave in the evening. There is just something about physically crossing off a task that I find extremely satisfying.

Brunch or happy hour?
Brunch and happy hour are two of my strongest vices! 23-year-old Stacie would have easily said happy hour, however approaching 26-year-old Stacie confidently says brunch. Life during your mid-twenties can be rough and Sunday Funday quickly becomes a near and dear friend.

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why? 
My sister. She is my role model and my best friend—and she is always down to split an order of French fries.

 

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