A master's degree became a passport to world travel for Alexandra Errante ('13).
After graduating with a Master of Arts in Intercultural Relations (now the International Higher Education and Intercultural Relations program), Alexandra Errante's career path has taken her around the globe.
In her role as a Customized Tour Consultant at Go Ahead Tours, part of EF Education First in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she’s using the skill set she developed at Lesley to communicate with travelers and colleagues from diverse cultural backgrounds on a daily basis. Recently, she’s shifted into a product development role, helping customers to custom design their own group travel experiences abroad.
How did she use her Intercultural Relations expertise to break into the tourism industry? She fills us in below.
When did your interest in travel and world cultures begin?
I’ve always been curious about other cultures—I began traveling at a very young age. My parents have a huge passion for travel, and my sister and I inherited this passion. They’ve always had an interest in trying food from different cultures and listening to world music, so I grew up with an appreciation for both. It’s this appreciation that inspired me to learn more about different cultures.
What drew you to Lesley’s Intercultural Relations program?
For undergrad, I was a global studies major at Providence College. When I began looking at master’s programs, intercultural relations seemed like a natural fit for expanding my passion for exploring world cultures.
What course (or courses) did you find to be the most meaningful to your career and why?
Intercultural Communication has helped me in my role as a Customized Tour Consultant at EF Education First, and even helped me to move forward in my career. My job requires communication with different departments and countries on a daily basis. I’m constantly adjusting the way I approach and communicate with each of my colleagues using the skill set I gained from my Intercultural Communication class.
What was the focus of your thesis, and does it relate to your current work?
When I was student we didn’t have a thesis, but we took two consecutive semesters of Dimensions and Methods of Cultural Exploration, in which we focused on one community group in the Boston area, conducted research, and created a thesis based on a topic within this cultural group. I chose the LGBT community, and focused my work on researching “biphobia” within the group.
This led me to do further research in my independent study, during which I focused on travel trends regarding the LGBT community. I was able to tie together some of the work I had done during Dimensions and Methods with something that was relevant to what I was doing at work. Part of my job is exploring different niche markets that would be a good fit for our travel company. From my independent study, I found that the LGBT community was a significant part of the travel market that my company could find opportunities in.
What does a typical day in your role at EF Education First look like?
Every day is different, which is what keeps my job exciting. I used to speak with customers directly, but now I’ve taken on more of a product development role. I spend a lot of my day creating completely new tour itineraries for coordinators of small travel groups that would like a customized experience. I work with several different departments to produce and manage these tours.
Where have you traveled as part of your job?
In my four-and-a-half years working at EF, I’ve had the opportunity to travel on five tours to nine countries and four continents. These destinations include: Spain, Morocco, Italy, England, Turkey, Kenya, Thailand, Cambodia, and Peru. I’m due to travel again this spring, and I’m hoping that my next destination will be India.
What are some of your favorite experiences gleaned from traveling on the job?
Meeting EF customers who are as passionate about travel as I am is truly inspirational. I’ve made very good friends who I still talk to—even four years later. Traveling on tour has not only allowed me to see the world, but also to experience our product firsthand. It allowed me to grow in my role because I have a better understanding of how we do our best to make sure our customers’ experiences are educational, authentic, and something to be remembered for their entire lives.
Has your degree changed the way you interact with colleagues, customers, and the people you meet through your travels?
Yes, it has made me much more mindful of people’s differences, no matter their profession, role, cultural background, etc. My Identity course taught me a lot about the different ways in which we identify ourselves through various community groups that are not limited to cultural heritage or racial background.
How have your studies helped you to make a bigger impact at EF?
I feel that my Intercultural Relations degree has allowed me to offer a different, and hopefully more insightful, perspective on projects that I’ve been involved with.
How do you hope to expand your career in the future?
I would like to continue in the travel industry, and apply my expertise gained from my Intercultural Relations degree and experiences at EF to a career in product development.
Any advice for students considering an Intercultural Relations degree?
One of the best parts of the Intercultural Relations program is that you can create your own path with diverse elective, independent study, and thesis courses. I would recommend taking advantage of having a small cohort, and doing what you can to learn about your peers who are just as passionate about intercultural relations as you are. Networking with my classmates is how I got my job at EF, and it truly changed my life forever.
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