Feeling “At Home” With Foreign Travel

 Margo Kopec '01 (CLAS) in front of the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland, Nov. 2014.
Margo Kopec ’01 (CLAS) in front of the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland, Nov. 2014.

Five years ago, Margo Kopec ’01 (CLAS) was teaching English in Castellón de la Plana, a city of 180,000 people on Spain’s Mediterranean coast, when she came up with the idea for a company. The parents of many of her students had been telling her that they wanted to send their children abroad to learn another language, but couldn’t afford it. With a Spanish friend, Kopec decided to start a cultural exchange program to provide reasonably priced opportunities to study abroad for European children like her students who were looking to broaden their horizons. Go Inspired was born.

Kopec knew the value of foreign travel from personal experience. Although her rigorous double major in journalism and political science at UConn prevented her from studying abroad, she decided to make up for that missed opportunity by spending two weeks in the summer after her graduation backpacking around Europe, visiting Germany, Italy, and Spain—the country she now calls home. “I fell in love with Europe,” she said. “I left there after two weeks trying to figure out how to get back there, because I had enjoyed it so much.”

First, though, she decided to put her journalism major to work, spending a few years in San Diego and New York working for a company that published scientific journals. But she soon found herself bored with scientific journals and dreamed of returning to Europe. After quitting her job, she spent five months as an au pair in Italy, and then enrolled in a master’s program in Peace, Development, and Conflict Resolution at the Universitat Jaume I in Castellón.

It was while pursuing her master’s and teaching English that Kopec met her future husband, a Spanish software programmer. The two travel frequently — Kopec has visited 26 countries — and the pace only picked up after Kopec founded Go Inspired. The company now has offices in the United States and Spain, and offers study- and live-abroad programs in 10 countries, including China, India, Ecuador, and the United States. In addition to language immersion experiences, the company offers courses in design, dance, and yoga, as well as volunteer opportunities.

As much as she misses the U.S., though, Kopec’s heart is now in Europe. “I love the European lifestyle. They don’t have so much stress compared to Americans. There’s public transportation, public services. Health care is provided, education is provided. It’s just a more relaxed way of life.”

After seven years in Spain, Kopec and her husband recently moved to Zurich, Switzerland, where she teaches English at a private boarding school and helps manage Go Inspired. One of the first things she did after moving was join the Zurich chapter of the UConn Alumni Association. After all, it was at UConn that she first got the travel bug. “I came from a small town in Connecticut,” she said. “And going to UConn just opened doors for me.”

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