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, 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, where she now 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.
Otto is a serial entrepreneur who launched his career on the strength of an overseas experience in Eastern Europe during college. After graduation he moved back overseas, working and living in Moscow, Kiev, Nairobi, Berlin, Seville, and Madrid. He has traveled to over 80 countries and speaks three languages (English, German and Russian) and loves to tell anyone at the beginning of their career that the best thing they can do is get international experience. Otto is a graduate from Cornell University and has a master’s degree from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.
Program Manager, 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
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!