International Program Development
Steven, an energetic, slightly over-caffeinated American who moved to Cape Town in 2002 with his South African wife and Russian cat, launched Connect-123 in South Africa after ten years of starting and running various businesses in Moscow, London and San Francisco.
While working in finance and venture capital in Cape Town, Steven realized that thousands of local organizations could use the help of skilled, international students and that thousands of students and professionals could benefit from real, hands-on, international work experience. Together with Lea, he developed Connect-123’s experiential learning programs to help students build their international work experience while simultaneously earning university credit. Steven, who now lives in Barcelona, holds a BA in Political Science from Cornell University and an MBA from London Business School.
Program Director, China, Ireland and Spain
Lea, who studied Fine Arts at the University of Stellenbosch, started her career as a game lodge manager in the Sabi Sands. After being offered an internship in Moscow with a top PR and communications consulting firm, she packed her winter coat and ended up working in Russia for three years with top international FMCG brands. During this time of newfound capitalism and opportunity, she also discovered her skills as a networker! However, her love for South Africa led her home, where she worked in marketing, advertising, and trend forecasting, prior to co-founding Connect-123. Lea, who has a natural ability to understand and match organizations’ needs with applicants’ skills, is based in Barcelona.
Program Coordinator, South Africa
Caitlin, with her British and South African roots, knew from the outset that her life would combine adventure, travel and different cultures. While studying French at the University of Leeds, she spent a year traveling and teaching English in the South of France, while consuming too much “fromage”, “baguette” and “vin rouge”! Her summers were spent backpacking and sailing around Europe East and West, and after graduating, a six-month off-road adventure through Southern Africa led to her missing her flight home to the UK and starting a career in the volunteerism industry. An opportunity to go to Hanoi, Vietnam coordinating humanitarian volunteer projects established her love of working with foreign interns, volunteers and local host organizations alike. Now fully based in Cape Town, Caitlin is most happy surfing at Muizenberg, hiking, braaing (South African for BBQ) and showing new people around the beautiful Mother City.
Program Coordinator, Spain
Carolina was in the last year of her studies in Portugal when she decided to do an exchange program in the Czech Republic and became addicted to the adventurous feeling of living abroad! She came back to finish her degree and then packed her bags again, this time for Barcelona. What was supposed to be a quick trip became a true passion for the city, which now she calls home. After working several years in the Barcelona tourism industry, she joined Connect-123, as she realized her life’s mission is to help others gain an international perspective. In her free time, Carolina tries to keep up with Barcelona’s non-stop cultural events, enjoys long tapas nights and, of course, backpacking through new places.
Program Coordinator, Spain
Mireia, who is a native of Barcelona, followed her dream and spent four years studying in the US and playing Division I Basketball! After she graduated with her BA in Marketing from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, she decided to move back to her home country, where she spent several years playing professional basketball in Spain. As a former international student herself, Mireia is uniquely in tune with the potential challenges international students may face, as well as the abundant opportunities for learning and self-discovery they’re sure to encounter. When she is not working, Mireia really enjoys participating in any kind of outdoor activities with her crazy friends, and she also likes to spend hours playing -and winning-, board games with them. She also really enjoys taking part in all the ‘Festes Majors’ in Catalunya!
Program Coordinator, Ireland
In 2006, with a Degree in Fine Art, a TEFL, and her love of culture and adventure, Nikki set off for one year to teach English in South Korea. One thing lead to another, and for the pst 10 years she has travelled, worked, volunteered, studied and eaten her way around the globe! Nikki loves all things holistic, food, music, the great outdoors and new adventures. Finally back in her native country of Ireland, Nikki appreciates having an outsider’s perspective on her beautiful land and is eager to help the Dublin Connectors experience the splendor that is Ireland.
Program Coordinator, Argentina
Paula who holds a degree in journalism, has always had a passion for travel, especially exploring cultures and learning languages. She spent several years working in media, especially radio, when she decided she needed a change – which took the form of a two year long trip throughout Europe and Asia! While working in the US, Andorra, Spain, and Italy, she discovered her passion for working with international people and taking part in cultural exchanges. A Buenos Aires native, Pau enjoys interacting with interns and volunteers from all around the world…and showing them all that her city has to offer!
Program Coordinator, South Africa
Proudly South African, hopelessly idealistic and dedicated to seeking out new experiences, Robyn set out on her wanderlust adventure after completing her Media Communications degree in the UK just over a decade ago. Her adventures include running long haul steam railway tours across Europe, Southern Africa, the Middle East, Japan and South America. She discovered her passion for teaching along the way helping as a volunteer teacher at a local nursery school back in South Africa when the vuvuzela’s called her home in 2010. After completing her CELTA qualification, Robyn backpacked around South America, settling in Bogota, Colombia where she worked as an English teacher and trainer. During the summer months she returned to Europe to work with young future leaders from all over the world as an EFL instructor and camp counselor. With Africa always calling, Robyn’s itchy feet took her through South East Asia before she returned and worked with small start-ups and NGOs in both a training and operational capacity. She still runs holiday school programs for local NGO and considers working with Connect-123 as being one of her greatest achievements and adventures to date! She loves helping facilitate incredible experiences for participants and working closely with host organisations and local NGOs to help build incredible learning experiences for others.
Sarah’s passion for cultural and educational travel was sparked by her first experience of studying abroad in Limerick, Ireland ten years ago. After graduating with a BA in Political Science from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she returned to Ireland to study Intercultural Studies at Dublin City University. With experience working in primary and secondary education, cultural exchange, and marketing for an international education organization, Sarah founded a freelance business aimed at supporting small businesses and nonprofits to use social media and digital marketing to their fullest potential. Recently relocated to Buenos Aires after a few years in Dublin, Sarah is looking forward to getting to know the many barrios, discovering new foodie spots, and exploring the cultural arts scene in Argentina.