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Student/Staff Blogs

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Former SIS Students

Ai Doan (College of Mount Saint Vincent)

A Peace of Mind Channel

Ai started this channel with the hopes to build a community of Love, Hope and Support, and she truly believes this is something we all need in our lives today, no matter who we are, or where we come from. Tune in as she shares stories and tips on how you can thrive in life in a simple, yet more meaningful way.


Christine Marrone (The Ohio State University)

Italian Dish is like an audio-guide to cooking Italian food (with cultural snacks along the way). Every episode, we’ll make one Italian recipe together. Meanwhile, your host, Christine, will dish on what it’s really like to live in Italy and be married to an Italian.




Mike Manchester ( Co-Founder of SIS, Host-Family/Service-Learning Coordinator – Lewis and Clark College)

I ended up making a home in Siena, Italy for more than 15 years and change is on the horizon. Wherever I am, I love to wander both mentally and physically all over the place.  This a collection of thoughts and projects that I feel compelled to share.  A long time ago, I left my home to go out and see what else was out there.  I didn’t leave for a lack of love for my family friends or home itself.  I still cherish all of those things and this is a way for me to share things that are important to me with those who I don’t get to see everyday.



Conversations with Mike

Mike, a founding member of SIS Intercultural Study Abroad, is taking some time to sit down (virtually) with former students of the program. As the Service-Learning and Host-Family coordinator for SIS, Mike has worked closely with thousands of students however, rarely has the opportunity to catch up with them long after their study abroad experiences. If you’re interested in seeing what kinds of doors study abroad can open for you, then we encourage you to watch these conversations about life-changing experiences and the people that lived them.

In all of my years working with students I haven’t met a more positive person than Derek. As a student, Derek was one of those rare ones who had a unique blend of motivation and genuine curiosity. He has travelled quite a lot and even lived overseas after college. He now lives in Texas, where he just opened up his own business that you can check out at

Christine’s studies with SIS sent her on a path that led her around the world, only to end up back in Italy.  She now lives in Florence with her husband where they are raising their son.  She has a lot of great insight both study abroad as well as life abroad.  Christine recently started a great podcast where she talks about life in Florence while simultaneously walking listeners through a traditional Italian recipe!  You can check out her podcast at

Erika started studying Italian at The Ohio State University and that eventually led her to study with us at SIS in Siena.  From there, she just never stopped!  Erika spent more time in Italy, near Milan teaching English and now she is simultaneously pursuing a MA degree in Italian from Middlebury while teaching Italian at the Boston Latin School (see her on their website).  Her students are lucky to have such a dedicated and well-prepared teacher!


Mike sits down to talk about gap year opportunities with SIS Intercultural Study Abroad. Spencer was a truly exceptional student that studied abroad himself as a gap year student. Hear what he has to say about his time in Siena and being a gap year student. If you stick around for the whole conversation you’ll also find out how Spencer’s gap year would ultimately lead him to come back to Italy for a Master’s program in one of Europe’s most prestigious business schools.

This time instead of sitting down with a former student, Mike sat down to chat with Michael Broide, a physics professor at Lewis and Clark College and his wife Gigi Rosenberg who is a professional public speaking coach.  Both had the unique opportunity of leading two different groups of students to study with SIS.  Lewis and Clark College is a leader in the field of study abroad among American universities and we at SIS are proud to continue our long-standing relationship with the school.  If you know of any university faculty who are looking to take groups of students abroad then please share this with them because they need to wash this!

Mike found some time to talk with Alex Burnsides about how she discovered a love for history in Siena with SIS and how that would eventually lead to a fascinating career in Digital Primary Resources with Adam Mathew Digital.  Enjoy as they talk about the benefits of living in a place like Siena, surrounded by so much physical and cultural history.


This time Mike linked up with Andrew Barbagallo, another student from The Ohio State University.  Andrew now finds himself in the field of international relations working for The Meridian International Center.  Listen to what he has to say about how his study abroad experience led him to his career and what kinds of things he brought from his experience with SIS into his work.


The first conversation of 2021! Mike sat down with Ai Doan, a former student with SIS Intercultural Study Abroad who now finds herself working in the field of study abroad. Listen to what Ai has to say about eye-opening intercultural encounters and why she thinks that study abroad is so important. ALSO check out Ai’s new podcast where she tells stories from her intercultural adventures abroad! n


Take a dive deeper into the world of SIS and study abroad in general! Mike spent some time catching up with a former student who then became the program coordinator for SIS. Juan Carlos was a fundamental figure on the SIS staff for years before he took the next step in his wildly intercultural life and moved to Antwerp, Belgium. Mike and Juan Carlos talk about their passion for the intercultural life. Both have talked for years now about making a podcast out of their experiences. What do you think? Let us know if you’d be interested in a podcast by Mike and Juan Carlos. Write to us at