Susan Staley, Founding Director

Susan had her first gap experience during a traditional gap year after high school. She lived with a host family on a farm in the Central Valley of Chile, an experience which instilled in her a passion for learning, an insatiable cultural curiosity, and a strong sense of courage and independence. As an undergraduate student she was awarded a Center for Global Health Scholarship, which allowed her to conduct independent research in Northeastern Brazil, utilizing contacts she developed on her own. During college she took a gap semester to study abroad at Peking University in Beijing, China, expanding her interest in cultural exploration. Susan earned a bachelors degree in Latin American Studies and Spanish from the University of Virginia and a masters in Latin American Studies from the University of New Mexico. She speaks Spanish and Portuguese.

Susan began her professional career in international education in 2012, leading summer and gap semester programs in Asia and Latin America. She honed her skills as a facilitator of cultural learning and mentor while trekking through the Himalayas, snorkeling in the Galapagos and building toilets in rural Cambodia alongside gap year students. She went on to direct a multi-country study abroad program in Europe for five semesters, building relationships with local organizations, managing logistics, developing risk management plans, and teaching while traveling throughout Europe with groups of college students. Susan has supported over 200 students through the process of self-discovery through international education.

In 2015, Susan founded Free to Roam Adventures to curate intentional gap year and study abroad experiences customized to meet the goals of clients. She enjoys working closely with individuals to curate experiences that challenge them and equip them with the confidence and motivation to pursue their goals. Susan continues to travel regularly, vetting potential gap year opportunities, practicing her language skills, and exploring new, as well as re-discovering favorite destinations. Susan is a member of the Gap Year Association's Advisory Board and a L.E.A.D Girl Scout Troop Leader. When not traveling overseas, she enjoys exploring wilderness areas around the United States, from the Appalachian Mountains of her native Southwest Virginia to the deserts of the Southwest and beyond. Susan resides in Nashville, TN.

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