By Amanda Thomas
Baylor’s newest study abroad and exchange student adviser has travel experience to spare.
Jimmy Ilseng, who graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in literature and linguistics, spent years traveling through Eastern Europe and Northern Africa as a member of the Peace Corps after spending time as a ski instructor in Colorado.
Ilseng moved to Avon, Colo., following his graduation. He was waiting on his invitation to join the Peace Corps — a decision that could take six to 12 months. Ilseng said he packed only what he could fit into his Toyota Camry before he set off for Avon, where he had friends. He wanted to take his time making the transition from college to real life. Once there, Ilseng received a job teaching snowboarding at Beaver Creek Resort, where he lived in a four-bedroom condominium with nine other people.
“It was honestly one of the better, but short periods in my life,” Ilseng said. “There was ski and outdoor gear everywhere — it was awesome.”
After two ski seasons, he received his invitation to the Peace Corps, moving to Romania in 2006.
In the Peace Corps, Ilseng taught comparative literature on the secondary and university level, American history and civics on the secondary level, and English as a second language to ninth-graders. Ilseng also worked with the Romanian Ministry of Education to develop local and national academic competitions for secondary students, including public speaking, creative writing and thespian competitions.
“All three of these competitions evolved into sustainable programs and are conducted to this day,” Ilseng said.
During his sojourn, Ilseng also traveled to Morocco, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Turkey and Lebanon.
He said one of his fondest memories was arriving in Budapest, Hungary, with two other volunteers and discovering the Sziget Island on the Danube River two days before the island opened for an arts and music festival called the Sziget Festival.
“Randomness or synchronicity, I don’t know, but we ended up seeing Radiohead, Gomez, Tool, Manu Chao and more bands with 500,000 other people from across the globe,” Ilseng said. “Me and two fellow Peace Corps volunteers had literally arrived in Budapest with no plans and nowhere to stay and nothing to do. It was a score and a half.”
After three years volunteering for the Peace Corps, Ilseng returned to Colorado and was later accepted to Vanderbilt graduate school. There, he enrolled in the International Education Policy and Management program. Ilseng graduated from Vanderbilt in May 2011 and started work at Baylor in December.
Ilseng said he decided to take the job at Baylor to be closer to home.
“I have family in Austin and Dallas,” Ilseng said. “I am getting back to family and friends. It’s a full circle.”
Ilseng said he believes his traveling and love of culture have helped him gain knowledge he uses to advise students. In his new position, Ilseng helps them choose where they want to study abroad and determine what they want to gain from the experience.
Green Bay, Wis., senior Mollie Munro has been Ilseng’s student worker since he arrived at Baylor. Munro helps Ilseng prepare students for their study abroad experience and gives them advice. Munro, who is going to Africa with the Peace Corps in July, said she enjoys hearing Ilseng’s Peace Corps stories and advice.
“He is helping me prepare,” Munro said. “He is really a great resource to have.”
International student relations coordinator Melanie Smith occupies the office next to Ilseng’s. She said Ilseng fits the role of study abroad and exchange student adviser well.
“He is an extraordinary person for that position because of his extensive knowledge,” Smith said. “His guidance will help the students’ experience.”
At Baylor, Ilseng said he plans on helping students get the best international education and experience they possibly can.
“There is a place for every student,” Ilseng said. “I set up students for success.”