2013: The Year in Review

Another whirlwind year has come to a close. While we welcome the adventures that 2014 will inevitably bring, we want to reflect on 2013 with our annual Highlights List  featuring the events, destinations, and people that made this year so incredible.

Spanning the Globe: Several education and law groups enjoyed professional exchanges with counterparts in Myanmar, and demand remained strong in Cuba, where we facilitated over 50 people-to-people and professional groups to Havana and points beyond. Europe was bustling with a renewed interest in the prehistoric caves in southwestern France, an exploration of Downton Abbey film locations, a family adventure in Switzerland, and a look at the legacy of Olympic Park in London. Close to home, art lovers descended on Seattle’s rich art scene and enjoyed visits to private collections.

spanning-the-globe

Giving Back: Staff volunteered their time and talents this year in a variety of ways, and for two charities close to our hearts. The Fund for Education Abroad (http://www.fundforeducationabroad.org/) benefited from Team CET’s run in the Cherry Blossom 10K in the spring.

Meanwhile, five ATA staff members volunteered for Tourism Cares (http://www.tourismcares.org/) joining 600 other tourism professionals to clean up Coney Island, New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

giving-back

We share our story! ATA produced a new corporate video this year. Partners shared their experiences working with ATA and their stories of meaningful and engaging travel that the trips brought to others.

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New Faces:  We welcomed a great group of professionals this year!

From top left to the right: Tim Ambrose,

Top left to right: Tim Ambrose, Sales Director; Megan Horrigan, CET Intern; Stacie Kellerman, Tour Communications Specialist; Joan O’Neill, Tour Communications Specialist; Kara Nichols, FEA Fundraising & Admin Coordinator; Kevin Hoercher, Reservations Specialist; Kimberly Sine, CET Middlebury in China Programs Manager; CET Hector Cruz-Feliciano, Brazil Programs Manager. Bottom left to right: Natalie Pascale, Tour Communications Specialist; Shelley Jessee, CET Director of Marketing; Allegra O’Donoghue, CET Middle East & North Africa Programs Manager; Leya Brown, Reservations Specialist.

Significant Milestones: In January, President Kate Simpson celebrated 25 years at ATA. Overseeing a company engaged in constant evolution, she reminisced about the many companies she has served, all while working at ATA. Never a dull moment, even after 25 years!

Kate Simpson

In May, we celebrated Dave Parry’s 80th birthday. The party was an extended family reunion, a real who’s who of ATA staff and clients who were here in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and in more recent years.

Dave-Parry-Birthday

None of our successes would be possible without the partners and travelers we serve, and the dedicated tour managers and colleagues we consider part of our ATA family. We are grateful for all of you this holiday season!

holiday-season

Happy Holidays!
CHASE
Chase Poffenberger
Executive Vice President

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Vietnam: My Experiences

 

vietnam-istock_000001893968medium1I first visited Viet Nam in 1994 as a new employee of ATA and then again leading Smithsonian Study Tours’ first tour to country the following year.  Since then, I’ve returned to graduate school, studied Vietnamese language, history and culture, and even started work on a doctoral dissertation examining border trade between China and Viet Nam.  In all that time, I’d never actually made it back to Viet Nam.  I’d come close – Cambodia, Thailand, even looked over into Vietnam from the Friendship Gate close to Pingxiang, China, but I hadn’t been able to make it back for nearly 14 years. 

Finally, in October, 2008, I was able to make the trip.  People who’ve traveled there a lot told me I wouldn’t recognize the place, and based on my experience in China, where I frequently visit, I was expecting a complete transformation.  I was very pleasantly surprised.  To be sure, there were changes – the ride from the airport into Hanoi at midnight was along an elevated highway, crowded at the time with motorcycles overflowing with flowers headed to the wholesale flower market.  14 years ago, the road to the airport was at places unpaved and meandered through villages and farms.  There are now skyscrapers in Hanoi, mixed in with the elegant old French colonial buildings.  But it’s still recognizable as Hanoi.  Unlike their counterparts in Beijing, the Vietnamese haven’t torn down the vast majority of their city and replaced it with a hodgepodge of oddly shaped, hyper-modern buildings, or row after row of identical apartment buildings.  The old quarter looks very much as it did when I first explored it:  chaotic and colorful.  There are more cars on the road, and many, many more motorcycles, but it still feels like Hanoi. 

The biggest change I noticed was in the people.  Part of what I loved about Viet Nam when I first visited was the people  — friendly, smiling, welcoming.  They’re still that way, thankfully, but now there’s a sense of optimism and confidence that I didn’t detect before.  People in their 20s and early 30s have grown up and come of age in a period of relative openness and unprecedented economic growth, and they seem to have the feeling that anything is possible.  In the early 1990s, there was a lot less certainty.  Doi Moi had just begun, and no one was sure what would happen.  They seemed tentative, wide-eyed toward the outside world.  No more.  At least in the places I visited – admittedly all very much on the beaten track – people were hip, connected, well-informed and cosmopolitan.  I, being none of those things, felt a little out of place!

14 years ago on my first trip to Viet Nam, I received no fewer than 3 proposals of marriage from young women (none of them serious, but then again they probably weren’t completely unserious) who foresaw that their lives in Viet Nam would be bleak; this year I received none.  I like to think that this is not (only) because I am old, fat and generally unattractive but rather because the Vietnamese themselves like where they are and where they are headed.

Chris Roper
Senior Program Manager

Academic Travel Abroad 

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