Susan Staley, Founding Director of Free to Roam Adventures, has a diverse range of experience in the gap year world from from her own gap year experiences, working as a gap year program leader, to her current role as a gap year and international education consultant.
After high school, Susan spent her gap year living on a farm in the Central Valley of Chile, an experience that instilled in her a renewed academic motivation, the courage to take risks, and an insatiable cultural curiosity. At the University of Virginia, Susan spent a summer performing independent research in Brazil and a semester studying at Peking University in Beijing. Two years working for a non-profit serving migrant farmworkers’ piqued Susan’s interest in a career in international development, which meant a return to academia for a masters; though not before another gap experience — 3 months of solo backpacking and working in the South Pacific (New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji). A recipient of the U.S. Department of Education’s Foreign Language & Area Studies Fellowship, Susan earned a masters in Latin American Studies with a focus on community development from the University of New Mexico.
Susan began her professional career in international education leading summer and gap semester programs throughout Asia & Latin America. She honed her skills as a facilitator of cultural learning, educator, and mentor, supporting over 150 students through the process of self-discovery. Susan assisted in the development of new programs in Peru, Ecuador and Nepal, and facilitated course meetings for students earning college credit during their gap year. In 2015 Susan founded Free to Roam Adventures to assist clients in designing custom gap experiences that equip them with the confidence and motivation to pursue their goals in college and beyond. She has consulted with a range of clients from pre-college and mid-college gap year students, to families, and universities.
Susan continues to travel regularly vetting gap year opportunities, and serves as an adjunct faculty member and director of Northwood University’s Semester in Europe program. She has spoken about gap years at high schools, USA Gap Year Fair, and NACAC Fairs. Susan resides in Nashville, TN.