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AIFS Abroad Announces New Leadership and Strategic Plan

October 28, 2020 – The American Institute For Foreign Study (AIFS), a global cultural and educational exchange organization headquartered in Stamford, CT, today announced a new Executive Director and a new strategic realignment for its study abroad programming.

Emily Merson, co-founder and current CEO of Global Experiences, a leader in international internship programs that was acquired by AIFS in 2019, has been named the new Executive Director of AIFS Abroad, effective January 1, 2021. Merson succeeds Paul Watson, a 40-year veteran of international and higher education who is retiring after having spent the previous 14 years in the role.

“I would like to thank Paul for his leadership during our period of unprecedented growth,” states William L. Gertz, Chairman and CEO of AIFS. “We are very excited about the considerable energy and creativity that Emily will bring and excited for the enhancements to our already successful international education programs. From opening new education centers around the world to offering virtual internships and new online opportunities, AIFS will be at the forefront of study abroad program expansion post-pandemic as we have been for nearly six decades.”

AIFS Abroad (formerly AIFS Study Abroad) will bring together three world-class programs for college students already offered by AIFS, under one umbrella. AIFS Abroad will now consist of the traditional AIFS Study Abroad programs, AIFS Customized Faculty-Led programs and Global Experiences International Internship programs.

Earlier this year, AIFS Abroad formally partnered with Fairfield University as its new school of record, offering an even broader range of opportunities for innovative programming, including the creation of Global Education Centers in several locations including London. The goals of AIFS Abroad will include unparalleled support for university partners along with dynamic and innovative program delivery, both virtually and abroad.

The announcement comes just before International Education Week (November 16 to 20), the joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, designed to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn and exchange experiences.

Merson will bring several initiatives with her to AIFS Abroad, including integrated career readiness strengths-based programming as well as the ongoing Global Experiences Green Initiative, created to offset the environmental impact of international education and strive for a carbon-neutral program by 2025.

Global Experiences, founded in 2001, is a leader in providing college and university students with career-enhancing international internship programs in Australia, Europe, Asia, Latin America, the United States and virtually.

Founded in 1964, AIFS is one of the oldest and largest cultural exchange organizations in the world. With offices in 6 countries, AIFS organizes cultural exchange programs for more than 50,000 participants each year. Programs include college study abroad, international au pair placement, international camp counselor placement, high school study/travel and insurance services. Since 1964 more than 1.5 million students and teachers have participated in AIFS programs worldwide.

For more information about AIFS Abroad, please visit