So many study abroad organizations … why should I consider Athena?

International education is about partnerships. None of us can do this alone. Therefore, one of the most important considerations you have is “who will we work with?”

Athena Study Abroad has a vision to be a different type of partner. The difference is in our values:

1. Best of Both Worlds: Exchanges and Providers.

The Athena team excited to be together again!

With the program quality of direct exchanges, and the personalized services of program providers, we truly believe that Athena is the best of both worlds. Our programs are hosted at intentionally-selected and carefully curated smaller partner institutions abroad.  Through Athena’s facilitation, students are enrolled directly into the programs abroad for their academic experiences, and our on-site advisors work at the universities directly, or have a very close working relationship with the institutions.  By avoiding the common practice of students being hosted in a hive of Americans that is separate from the academic institutions, Athena students are given direct access to local and/or visiting students at the university, as well as the academic and extra-curricular offerings of the institution to ensure deep, authentic immersion. Additionally, we give our students high-quality pre-departure advising and preparation, ongoing education, reliable support while abroad, and a wealth of services to assist in the unpacking and unboxing processes post-study abroad once home.

Our commitment to excellence in study abroad stretches beyond our desire to provide quality and personalized study abroad experiences to our students, and extends into our partnerships, both overseas and Stateside.

At Athena, we’re not only committed to great study abroad, but to a fresh assessment of what makes it “great”. We strive to send a diverse group of students abroad, which means prices need to be reasonable, scholarships need to be accessible, and our academic partners should be carefully selected based on educational quality, not simply on name recognition.

We need to see through the myth that an international school will provide great study abroad just because they are large or have a well-known reputation. We need to understand that study abroad pedagogy is more than a vitae, a white board, or an exotic classroom location.

At Athena Study Abroad, we have guiding principles that are the foundation to everything that we do. So, to understand who we are, it’s best to understand what guides us to do what we do. To learn about why we at Athena do what we do, we invite you to peruse our 7 Guiding Principles.

2. Small is Better.

Educators have always known this. It’s hard to keep things personal in large-group settings.

  • Smaller schools are much more likely to treat students personally, which is very important for ensuring the best cultural and academic adjustment experience for students.
  • Low student-teacher ratios make for the best education, especially when it comes to education abroad opportunities.
  • Smaller groups of American students living together creates the setting for an ideal immersion experience abroad.
  • Service providers can’t give personal attention if they have too many students to serve. One can only have so many close friends.

At Athena, we are committed to small. We intend to remain a small organization, working with smaller overseas institutions, while serving a small number of close U.S. schools. We limit our student numbers at our international sites. This philosophy will likely never result in Athena being the biggest organization in the field, and that is perfectly fine with us.  Our goal is not quantity, but quality study abroad.

3. Richness in Partner Relationships.

In our field, companies like ours are often called “third party providers.” A provider is often seen as a supplier, a shelf-stocker, someone who brings you a “product” that you in turn “sell” to others. At Athena, we don’t want to be a “provider.”

We will be your “partner.”

That means we want to know you and your institution’s people, its vision, and its idiosyncrasies. We want to work creatively with you to achieve your goals. We want you to love us, trust us, and always know that we’ll be there. We want you feel that, if Athena is on campus, we are genuinely an extension of your office.

We realize that not all schools want this type of relationship. Some schools simply need providers. But, we also know that we can’t be this kind of thoroughgoing partner to hundreds of colleges. That’s why Athena is committed to staying true to who we are, and looking to have a smaller, select group of partners to whom we can confidently give excellent service.

If you wish to be a part of our Athena family by becoming a partner affiliate, or if you simply want more information about our affiliation agreement, please contact our University Relations Team at

4. Quality over Quantity.

There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to start, build and expand an organization. However, our goals are not simply tied to numbers of students, numbers of partners, numbers of program locations, or numbers of dollars. Yes, we would like to continue to grow … but only because that will help posture us institutionally to provide more creative programs in the future. And, when growth for the sake of growth isn’t your goal, you can become a much more flexible entity with your partner schools, advisors, faculty, and students.

5. We Will Change the World.

The goal of what we should be measured by is the changed lives of the students we serve. Our hope is that students are moved by their new global perspective, and live their lives in ways that will help, shape and improve our world. But it starts at home.

  • We offer scholarships to students who are world changers before they go.
  • We enlist them to be world changers while abroad.
  • We allow students to select the charity where a portion of their program fees will be given.
  • We encourage students upon re-entry to give serious thought to how they can live differently when returning from abroad.
  • And, the Athena staff, as a team and as individuals, is committed to serving our local communities through service projects and civic involvement.

Audacious as it sounds … we’re in this to change the world.

Athena staff giving back to the community

Athena Study Abroad • Big World. Made Smaller. © Copyright 2005 - 2020