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.
Director of Student Development
Brett N. Steenbarger, Ph.D. is Teaching Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, where he teaches brief therapies and multicultural counseling to doctoral interns in psychology and residents in psychiatry. Dr. Steenbarger graduated from Duke University and received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from the University of Kansas in 1981. After working in Student Counseling at Cornell University, he joined the SUNY Upstate faculty in 1985 as a full-time faculty member and also as Director of Student Counseling and Associate Dean of Student Affairs. In his faculty role, Dr. Steenbarger has published over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and co-authored several standard reference works in psychiatry on the topic of brief therapies. He also taught in an adjunct faculty role at Syracuse University in their Department of Counseling, offering courses in human development, multicultural counseling, and mental health counseling. In 2003, he moved to a part-time faculty role to begin working in finance with traders and portfolio managers, applying short-term psychological methods to the coaching of professional money managers. Since then, he has worked with dozens of financial firms and authored five books and hundreds of articles on topics related to trading psychology and human performance.
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.
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!
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.
Originally from the UK, Sarah has lived in Dublin for the past 15 years. With a background in Education and a Masters in International Development, Sarah has significant experience with volunteer management, including managing cross-cultural teams in Cambodia, as well as volunteer teams working in Refugee and Migrant Centres. In addition to facilitating long-term overseas placements across Africa and Asia, Sarah has also been a Freelance Trainer, delivering pre-departure training to volunteers to support them on topics such as cross-cultural working and global education.
Hailing from the UK, Adi’s Jamaican and Bosnian heritage encouraged a sense of wonder in the richness of other cultures. Wanting to see and listen to other perspectives took her on travels to Southeast Asia and India, where she taught English and then later, in Manchester, worked to resettle and educate refugee secondary school students and also as a student experience supervisor. With a degree in Philosophy, Adi now lives in Barcelona and loves getting to the heart of what each intern is hungry to gain from their global experience with Connect-123. She strives to ensure that each intern feels connected and embraced throughout their experience.
Program Coordinator & Preceptor
Chris is a board certified Recreation Therapist and Child Life Specialist. She spent her formative years in England, Brazil, and South Africa, and returned to the US to attend Ithaca College where she graduated with a degree in Recreation Therapy. She then moved to Boston for 10 years where she worked with populations such as stroke/TBI, pediatric behavioral psych, special education, and pediatric burn care. Chris credits her upbringing as a “third culture kid” with giving her a culturally sensitive perspective that encourages creativity, patience, empathy, and connection – characteristics she is excited to help students evolve as part of their international experiences. She is passionate about program development and loves mentoring students in her role as preceptor for Connect-123’s Child Life Practicum program in Cape Town.
Sabethyelle (Sabe), originally from Brazil, has a degree in tourism and is also a Certified Tour Guide in Brazil and Ireland. Sabe’s first experience abroad was as a Program Activities Counsellor in the US and, for the past several years, she has worked supporting international students in Ireland. In her free time, Sabe also works as a mentor volunteer for students learning English.