CEO & Co-Founder
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 & Co-founder
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
Carla graduated with a Diploma in Events Management. She has always loved putting a smile on people’s faces and making a positive difference in their lives. She previously worked for Woolworths Educational Programmes, where she helped educate learners at schools and residents of multiple communities on healthy living and the environment. She hopes to further make a difference at Connect-123, where she assists in helping others pursue their passions. She hasn’t yet traveled, but aims to visit Thailand soon!
Program Coordinator, South Africa
Kate is no stranger to international internships and studying abroad. After submitting her Honours thesis in French socio-linguistics and literature in 2003, she completed a program abroad in Reunion, where she learnt a lot about litchis, island-style living and French. She returned home with two degrees – one in journalism and one in French – and decided on a career in media. Fast-forward some 15 years later and Kate has enjoyed a few career highlights: She’s edited a number of consumer and trade magazine titles, she’s worked with some of the most influential international brands looking to save the planet, and she’s run a full-house digital marketing agency in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Today Kate works as Program Coordinator and Marketing Manager for Connect-123 in Cape Town, which means she gets to share great stories about the excellent work we do every day.
Program Coordinator, China
Kailin loves traveling and exploring Asia’s diverse cultures. While studying at the College of the Holy Cross, she spent a year living in Beijing, Shanghai and Kunming, where she became fluent in Mandarin Chinese, worked in migrant schools, and participated in self-designed immersion trips to China’s ethnic minority communities. After graduating with a degree in international relations and Chinese studies, she returned to China to participate in a research program in Harbin aimed at the relationship between ethical tourism, culture preservation, and China’s ethnic minorities. She later earned her graduate certificate from the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American studies in Nanjing, China and worked in a rural Bai ethnic minority village near Dali, Yunnan. Going on her fourth year in China, Kailin continues to explore China’s provinces and neighboring Asian countries and is actively involved in Shanghai and Nanjing’s communities through participating in numerous running groups, co-organizing a women’s group in Nanjing, writing for a domestic violence aid program, and fostering rescued animals. Through Connect-123, she’s excited to help students experience unique opportunities in China that she was able to experience as a student herself.
Macarena (Maca) realized the impact of international experience on professional development after attending an English language training program in New York City. Being able to follow her chosen career path, while getting an opportunity to meet new people from different cultures at the same time, is what motivated her the most during her time abroad.
After developing an interest in international organizations, gender studies, culture, and economic development, Macarena won a scholarship to study abroad in Europe, where she chose the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in Spain. In the old continent, she discovered her passion for art history and is currently obsessed with avant-garde art movements.
She is in her final year at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, where she is about to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Sciences with orientation in Communication Planning and Policies.
Maca was born and raised in Buenos Aires, and having been a foreign student herself, she is more than happy to help Connect-123 interns with their own experience working abroad in Argentina.
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!
Born and bred porteña (from Buenos Aires, Argentina), Anahí has studied many things in her academic career: English, Psychology, Literature, and Communications. She was so curious to learn about people and cultures that she traveled around South America, New Zealand, and China. Thinking that that was a great model for personal discovery and growth, she decided to help other people do the same.
Now she’s been working for study and work abroad programs for over 10 years, in both large organizations and with different universities. She has helped many students fulfill their dreams by being their trusted advisor, tour guide, program coordinator and/or support person. She knows well that each student is unique and tries her best to help them achieve their goals.
Recently she realized that there’s a bit of a hobbit in her so she moved to New Zealand to always have a second breakfast with no shame. From there she’s coordinating Buenos Aires and Sydney sites.
Nicolás (Nico) was born and raised in a small town of Argentina called Colón, in the province of Entre Ríos. Since childhood, he showed interest in languages and that’s why he studied English, French, and Portuguese. After turning 15 he had his first international experience at a school located in England and he loved it. So, he wondered why not do it again? And that’s why, two years later, he went to another international school in Vancouver, Canada.
Program Coordinator, South Africa
Robyn (Robs) is proud to be Capetonian born and bred and is thrilled to share her love for Cape Town with the interns and volunteers she works with. Robs danced her way through the first 18 years of her life doing ballet, modern, and contemporary dance. You can still find her on the dance floor every now and then! During her school years, Robs was passionate about working with youth, but never quite knew how to channel that. She decided to take a gap year following graduation. So Robs went to Brazil where she learned the language and embraced the rich culture, including the music, food, dancing, and people. Little did she know, she would be working with gap year students and recent graduates soon enough. After Robs returned from her gap year, she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Archaeology. Psychology allowed her to pursue her passion in working with children, so Robs continued her studies, completing an Advanced Certificate in Counseling, as well as an Honors in Psychology and a postgraduate certificate in Education. Working at Connect-123 gives Robyn the opportunity to combine her calling of educating and empowering the youth of today, while staying true to her roots in interacting with and developing local organizations.
Program Manager, South Africa
Saskia, an award-winning film producer, has worked in production for many years — on television shows and feature films ranging from documentaries to Mad Max: Fury Road. Saskia received a scholarship from the Mandela Rhodes Foundation to complete her Honours Degree at AFDA Film School in Cape Town. After completing her studies, she set out on a career that has led her to work with Hollywood stars and studios, on smaller independent films of her own, crossing the country in search of that perfect location for that perfect shot. She found her niche in developing creative projects and taking them from script to screen, coordinating everything from the initial pitch, to the shoot logistics and extensive marketing campaigns. Her films have reached box office success and won awards at local and international film festivals.
As a self-proclaimed foodie and wine-lover, she spends her weekends feasting on the best the Mother City and surrounds has to offer. Saskia is an avid traveller and adventure-seeker, and recently completed the Camino de Santiago, a 775km trek, on foot, across Spain. She is happy to bring her energy, creativity and love of South Africa to C-123!
Program Coordinator, Spain
Zuzana discovered her passion for traveling and international educational projects during her studies in the Czech Republic and Ireland. She participated in several volunteer programmes in the Ukraine and in Greece and, since she missed the international environment back home, she also organised cross-cultural projects at her university. After graduating with an Arts Studies degree she was offered an internship in Oxford and ended up living in the magical Harry Potter-like town for a few years. Here she worked with international students from all over the globe and helped them make the most out of their time in the UK. Her interest in learning new languages and a very serious need of sunshine lead her to Spain, where she has lived for over a year now. On the weekends Zuzana can (not) be found on and around the nearest mountains, hiking and enjoying the early mornings in nature accompanied by her close friends and, of course, some delicious Spanish food!