Meet Jalan Gunning (she/her/hers), our new Student Advising & Enrollment Coordinator. We’re thrilled to have Jalan on our team as of June 2023 and recently had the opportunity to get to know her a bit better.
Tell us a little about your background.
I grew up in Raleigh, NC surrounded by a village of strong willed women who taught me everything I needed to know to be able to navigate the world that surrounded me. My mom, grandmother, and great-grandmother were, and still are, the examples of what I hope to become. I take pride in all of the “firsts” that I’ve achieved thus far. I am the first in my family to attend college (North Carolina A & T State University) and graduate, the first to have obtained a passport, and the first to study abroad.
I am, and always have been, an extrovert. I enjoy talking with people that have similar interests and asking questions to gain a full understanding of the topic at hand. I also found that, when given the opportunity, I am comfortable in front of a camera being recorded. These traits are what drew me to go to school for Journalism and Mass Communications. I dabbled in radio, tv production, and writing content for various blogs and websites.
While in school, I declared Spanish as a minor. I knew that to really learn the language, I needed to immerse myself in it. I didn’t think I would ever be given the opportunity to study abroad as there were so many barriers. After extensive research, fundraising, and asking a host of questions, I went to Barcelona, Spain in 2019 through this very program, Barcelona SAE. One of the best experiences of my life!
Upon returning from Barcelona, I joined Teach For America (TFA), a program that develops and supports equity-oriented change makers in the classroom. Educational inequity is deeply rooted in systemic racism and, to this day, continues to be an issue. My time in the classroom was focused on giving my scholars nothing but the BEST education. In addition, it was important to me to assist in developing the whole child which means also aiding in building their problem solving skills, time management, and a host of other essential qualities.
Tell us about your role at Barcelona SAE.
It is my responsibility to answer any and all questions that prospective students may have. I have the pleasure of being the first point of contact for students who request more information either on our website or at an in-person study abroad fair. In addition, my role expands to cover visa processing. The majority of our programs require students to stay in Barcelona longer than 90 days. This means a visa is required. The visa process can be excruciating, so it is important to me to provide the necessary tools and pertinent information in a timely manner to ensure students feel supported.
Why did you choose to work for Barcelona SAE, and what do you love most about your job?
Post graduation, I moved to Charlotte, NC where I made it my mission to provide equitable educational opportunities to black and brown students as a teacher. My experience opened my lens to question how I could have a greater impact on who I choose to serve. It is rare to hear about studying abroad in the African American community. I found this is simply due to the lack of conversations about it. I have now made a commitment to have those conversations within my community. It is my mission to let others who look like me know the possibilities when it comes to education abroad. As the first point of contact for prospective students, I am able to fulfill my mission on a daily basis.
Pre pandemic, data was showing that less than 7 percent of students in the United States who were studying abroad were black. In my new role, I hope to aid in the increase of that percentage. This new role has me excited to have necessary conversations and make connections with students from all over the U.S., especially those who attend historically black colleges and universities.
How do you feel like you are best able to connect with students?
In 2019, I found myself at a study abroad fair when I came across the Barcelona SAE table. I was just browsing and had no real intentions, at the time, to study abroad. Fast forward to June, I’m in Washington, D.C. applying for my visa, and then, in September, I’m on a plane to the place I’d only seen in the Cheetah Girls movie! Years later, I am still thankful for every excursion and day trip, my host family whom I still keep in touch with, and all the food I was exposed to! I feel I am best able to connect with students because I have gone through the entire journey they are getting ready to embark on. I know what support is needed in order to have a smooth transition abroad and back. I am genuinely excited to be able to relive and talk about my experiences with students who want to complete this life changing journey and answer any questions they may have!