Mitch Gordon is from upstate NY and lived in Taipei, Taiwan for four years before moving to San Francisco, where he currently resides. Mitch is an entrepreneur, starting a number of companies in the field of education. His most recent company, Go Overseas, has quickly become the most trusted resource on the internet for researching study, teach and volunteer abroad programs around the world. Mitch is currently an MBA candidate at Berkeley.
Go Overseas is a Yelp!/Trip Adviser style review site listing every volunteer, study, teach and intern abroad program in the world. They’ve quickly become an authority in their field through a number of unique marketing and promotional campaigns.
MO: Are you seeing an increase in the number of people who want to study and volunteer abroad? If so, what do think the increase can be attributed to?
Mitch: We absolutely are. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly the reasons for this. The obvious reason is the economy. There are less opportunities in the US, so people are looking for more opportunities to gain experience abroad. This might be in the form of a volunteer program, a teaching job in Asia, or an internship abroad. The most interesting trend, in my opinion, is that more and more students are choosing less traditional locations. At Go Overseas, we’d seen indications of this, and a recent NY Times article confirmed it. People are realizing that spending time in native English speaking countries has less tangible benefits. Studying abroad in China or India, for example, is an experience that can both change your outlook on the world and help your career.
MO: I met my British husband while traveling through Thailand over 11 years ago and we’re dying to go back. Do you have any advice for (slightly) older traveler looking for a deeper traveling experience abroad?
Mitch: First of all, that’s great to hear! “Meaningful Travel” is a hugely growing trend. It’s called many different things: Voluntourism, ecotourism, volunteer vacations, etc. The point is that many people (including you!) are looking for more than just a vacation. People want to give back and contribute. It’s not completely selfless, the sense of fulfillment and accomplishment gained from these type of experiences is incredibly empowering. I also don’t think age has anything to do with it. Many volunteer trips have 20 and 50 year olds on the same trip. The important thing is to choose a reputable organization. Here are the two things I would look for: 1) An organization that does good work in an area you feel passionately about 2) An organization that will take care of you and place you in a safe environment. This is where the reviews at Go Overseas come in! We have ratings and reviews for every volunteer program in the world. Remember to come back and review your volunteer program after you’re done!
MO: What specifically inspired you to start Go Overseas? Did you have any travel experiences of your own that motivated you to create a site that encourages others to see the world?
Mitch: Think about how people choose study/volunteer/teach abroad programs: Most people have more information when they buy a TV from Best Buy than when they choose a study or volunteer abroad program. That’s a big risk to take when you’re flying halfway across the world, not to speak of the financial commitment. This was a problem I wanted to solve. I wanted to help people make more educated and informed decisions when choosing between programs abroad. I also wanted to encourage more people to “take the leap”. I think more people will spend time overseas if they know they have chosen a reputable organization that will take good care of them. I’ve spent a lot of time abroad and the experiences have completely changed my life. I studied Chinese in Taiwan and spent nearly four years living there. Taiwan is like a second home to me. I’ve also traveled extensively throughout Asia.
MO: It seems that you would want your staff to have some traveling experience. How did you go about putting together your team?
Mitch: First, we wanted people who believe passionately in what we do. My co-founder and CTO Andrew Dunkle has travelled to over 30 countries. Our Marketing Director, Tucker Hutchinson, is very well traveled. The rest of our team rounds out an extremely diverse and well travelled team. I also wanted to create an open and caring company culture. We enjoy working with each other, but we also push each other really hard. We’re constantly thinking of ways to make our site better and more useful to our users. Our mission is to try and help everyone in world feel comfortable with pushing their personal boundaries by spending time overseas.
MO: Are there any traveling trends that you’re seeing? Any places that are increasing in popularity that were less appealing a few years ago?
Mitch: As I mentioned earlier, “off the beaten path” countries are becoming much more popular. Also, more and more people are combining some type of volunteer/service based work with their vacation. We always hear that Generation Y really wants to do more meaningful work, that they want more meaningful careers. I take that approach with my life, and I know many of my peers do as well. I think this approach is beginning to affect our wider society. As for specific countries: the obvious ones are India, China an Brazil. I also think people are becoming less intimidated by the prospect of visiting Africa.
MO: What’s been the most exciting thing about having your own company? Is it different than you anticipated it would be?
Mitch: It’s exciting coming to work every day knowing you can work on something you love. It’s great not to be a corporate cog, and to feel like you’re making a difference. There are so many things about entrepreneurship I love. Since this is my 2nd company, it’s been both easier and more difficult at the same time. I also genuinely enjoy helping other entrepreneurs get off the ground. People were incredibly helpful when I was starting my first company, Reach To Teach. Starting a company takes very long hours… I work many more hours than I used to work in my corporate job at PwC. It’s not uncommon at all for me to work 80 hours a week.
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