Greg Jabaut

Assistant Director of Study Abroad Greg Jabaut can be found all over campus, promoting international experiences to students in presentations, one-on-one consultations, and via email. His expertise in the field of international education is extensive, as is his passion for encouraging students to move outside their comfort zones and explore new things. Want to study abroad? He's your guy!


Name: Greg Jabaut

Hometown: Plattsbourgh, NY

Title: Assistant Director of Study Abroad

Education: I went to Hamilton College and I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies. I did my Masters in Latin American Literature at the University of Albany.


Her Campus Siena: Why did you choose to study that?

Greg Jabaut: My grandmother was born in Spain and came to the U.S. in the 1920s. It had a lot of influence on me. As a small child, I grew up listening to Spanish. I always knew that I enjoyed my Spanish classes the most, with my own heritage. That was what I wanted to study and do something with in the future. That was also why I studied abroad while I was at Hamilton College. I was in Spain for a year, where I ended up studying Latin American literature quite a bit, which snowballed into my Masters work. It all started with abuela, my grandma, and kind of progressed to Latin American studies.


HC Siena: How did your work there lead to your work in International Programs?

GJ: When I was working on my Masters, I had the opportunity to interact with a lot of students. Most of the students coming to that experience were either from other countries--from Latin America, from Spain--or they’ve been there, they’ve studied there, and that’s why they became interested in Latin American literature. What I continued to come back to was our shared international experiences: that’s what we talked about the most, that’s what mattered the most to us, that’s what stood out the most. Even though after I completed my Masters I went on and I taught Spanish for five years--I was a middle school Spanish teacher--always in the back of my mind I knew that what I really enjoyed was the experiential part of teaching and learning and that I wanted to be able to facilitate that for other students. Although I loved teaching Spanish, I thought it was a lot of fun, I was interested more in how students can have an authentic experience so that they can really learn this stuff, and how can I better facilitate that for them. Is it by me standing at the front of a classroom? Probably not.  It’s doing what I did, doing what my friends did: pushing your boundaries, pushing your limits, and actually living in another culture. I fell into this field. After five years I just decided to make a change.


HC Siena: What was your experience transitioning from that sort of position to the one you have at Siena?

GJ: I don’t have a typical path into this field, if there is a typical path. After I finished my Master’s degree, I thought, “I need a real job. I need to make some money.” I took that teaching job in Schenectady. After about three years, I got promoted to Assistant Head of School, but I continued to teach eighth grade Spanish at the same time. I really liked the administrative work, I had this feeling of thinking that I can’t be in middle school forever. It’s valuable, it’s a really important age group for students, if you can capture them in middle school you can capture them forever—but I could see that this wasn’t where my career ends. In 2012, I started looking for different opportunities all over the place. It just happened that in my own backyard is where I ended up getting hired.


HC Siena: What’s your favorite part about Siena?

GJ: Well, the students, obviously. The students are my favorite part. It’s really just being able to have really meaningful dialogue with students—talk to them, see where they’re coming from, understand what their hopes and dreams are and what their career might be. I get to see them do very well—and so many Siena students do very well. It’s very exciting to be a part of that. I like working with undergraduates in general. You can talk to them very openly and honestly in a way you never could do with middle school students.


HC Siena: You mentioned that you studied abroad in Spain. Where else have you travelled?

GJ: I spent a year in Spain. I spent a summer semester in Argentina. I’ve been throughout the Southern Cone in Latin America, so Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, Nicaragua. Lots of Western Europe. Just recently, South Africa for work.


HC Siena: Where do you still want to travel?

GJ: Asia’s really where I want to go at some point. I’ve never been and I think it’s a place I’d like to see more Siena students visit. For me, that’s really the next place.


HC Siena: What was your favorite place?

GJ: Gosh, that’s a hard question. I think that northern Spain is probably my favorite. That’s where my grandmother is from; there’s just something about it that really feels like home in a way that the other places don’t. The most beautiful place, most recently, is South Africa. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful places I’ve even seen. Probably northern Spain is my favorite. I could just be there my whole life if I had to be.


HC Siena: What else do you like so much about northern Spain?

GJ: The food! There’s a sort of hospitality there; the people are just very welcoming. The weather is not too hot, not too cold. Spain is so small—it’s like California, just all folded up. You’re never far from the mountains, you’re never far from the ocean. It’s just all there. It’s such an interesting collection of cultures from region to region. There’s such a distinct flavor that we don’t really have here.


HC Siena: You obviously speak English and Spanish. Do you speak any other languages?

GJ: Just the two! I’ll be working on Brazilian Portuguese this summer when I go there with a group of Siena students.


HC Siena: What are you most excited about going to Brazil this summer?

GJ: I’m really excited to learn, to get a sense of where our own Brazilian international students are coming from. I think, personally, it’ll be such a great opportunity to learn Brazilian Portuguese. It’s such an important language in the world, increasingly important. Also, just to spend time with Siena students and sort of, experience what they experience in a short-term study abroad. Doing the same things that they do, I think, will be very valuable to me as a study abroad advisor.


HC Siena: I know it might be hard to sum up, but what do you think is the overall valuable of an international experience?

GJ: I think there are three benefits that you can point to: personal, academic, and professional. Personally, it pushes you forward as a human being. It forces you to see things from other perspectives. It helps you grow in your tolerance and flexibility and just makes you a better, more understanding citizen of the world. Academically, especially for students that are studying languages, the humanities, or social sciences, and across the board, it gives you a different academic perspective that I think is very valuable. It also helps to teach a lot of the softer skills, like speaking in uncomfortable situations. It’s incredible for that. Professionally, you have multicultural awareness, you have language skills, global problem solving, a predisposition to global mobility. These are all things that are going to help people in the workplace. In those three ways, I think, study abroad is very powerful.


HC Siena: What do you think is the most important thing a student can consider when picking a place to study abroad?

GJ: I think the most important thing that a student can consider is “Is this what I want to do? Is this what speaks to me? Is this where I want to be?” I think that so often students are pulled in different directions—by parents, by friends, by professors. It ultimately boils down to, “What do I want?” If the answer is yes, then you’re probably on the right track. If it’s someone else telling you where you need to go, then I’d worry about that. Hopefully we can help guide them as they come to that decision, but it should be their choice.


HC Siena: What are your plans for the future?

GJ: Keep doing this! Keep working in the field of international education and hopefully getting more and more students to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. Hopefully also to get students who are unrepresented in the field to get them the opportunity as well. Study abroad is only a reality for 5 to 7% of American undergraduates, but about 25% of Siena College students will have an opportunity to have an international experience before they graduate. I’d like to see that number increase to 100% of Siena College students going abroad. I want as many students as possible to take advantage of the opportunity. Hopefully I’ve chipped away at that a little bit.


HC Siena: Describe a day in the life of Greg Jabaut.

GJ: I get up early and walk my dog. I do the normal morning routine and come into the office. I check emails—there’s always lots and lots of emails from students every day. I spend a lot of time on those—helping students troubleshoot issues with applications and whatnot. Throughout the day I meet with students—six, several students a day—to help them with applications, to help them figure out where they want to study abroad. I meet with returnees, our students who have come back, and help them assess how their program went for them, what we might do different. There’s usually something I have to do outside of the office, presenting or talking to someone about study abroad. Around 4:30, it wraps up and quiets down and then I head back home!


The thing I think is important to point out is that there isn’t really a typical day. I meet with different students every day. You never know who’s going to be visiting from another campus that we work with or what students are going to walk through the door that day. Every day is a little bit different, which makes it a lot more fun.