Though she has lived in the Boston area for almost 10 years, Hillary Sabbagh grew up in New Hampshire. 

“I lived in a small farm town,” she said. “I remember always wanting to find a way to see the world beyond my own backyard.” 

These days, travel is a major part of Sabbagh’s life and career. As Director of International Programs at Stonehill College, she is responsible for connecting students with classroom, internship, research and service-learning opportunities across the globe. 

While Sabbagh continues working to find new ways to help Skyhawks fly away from the nest and experience everything this world has to offer, here are 10 things to know about her. 

“I’m a firm believer that if every person spent two weeks in another country, the world would be a better place,” Sabbagh said.

1. She has always worked in international education. Sabbagh joined the Stonehill community in 2023. She previously worked at Northeastern University and Suffolk University. “I originally planned to become a high school Spanish teacher, but I fell in love with this work through a graduate assistantship I had with the International Programs office at Rivier University,” she said. 

2. She wants you out of your comfort zone. Sabbagh hopes that all students who can take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad do so. “I’m a firm believer that if every person spent two weeks in another country, the world would be a better place,” she said. “Leaving home allows us to see people for who they are and not necessarily where they’re from. Traveling also enables students to get outside their comfort zone. They return home having grown. Witnessing that is one of my favorite parts of this job.” 

3. She is on a mission. Since she started working in higher education, Sabbagh has made it her mission to break down barriers that some students might face when choosing to study abroad. “I invest a lot of time in helping connect students with scholarship opportunities,” she said. “I want them to know that having a travel experience can be possible, even if they don’t think it is.” Travel scholarships cited by Sabbagh include the Fund for Education Abroad, the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, and grants offered by Stonehill College.  

4. She wants to expand Stonehill’s horizons. “International travel obviously took a pause during the pandemic,” Sabbagh said. “Now that study abroad is back in full swing, I’ve tried to help diversify our offerings with programs in Asia, Africa and South America.” 

5. She does her homework. Sabbagh regularly goes abroad to visit the sites where Stonehill students live and learn so she can vet them on behalf of the College. “It’s an important part of my work,” she said. “We want to make sure that the places we send students will provide them a positive and enriching experience.” 

In her free time, Sabbagh loves to travel. As of 2024, she has been to 36 countries and hopes to visit many more places in the future.

6. She has helpful travel tips. Sabbagh recognizes that some students might have questions about leaving the comfort of home to go abroad. “I always tell students that everything will still be here when they get back,” she said. “I also try to share with them what a unique experience it is being in another country as a college student. People who have concerns can ease into study abroad by doing a short-term summer program, a week-long travel seminar during spring break, or going abroad with friends.” 

7. She can navigate the system. In addition to assisting Stonehill students as they plan to travel abroad, Sabbagh also provides immigration support to international students who are studying at Stonehill. “Once they’re on campus, I help them ensure they’re following visa regulations,” she said. “We currently have several dozen international students here. Many of them are student-athletes and they come from all over the world.” 

8. She is a leader in her field. In December 2023, Sabbagh reached the end of her two-year term as co-chair of the Boston Area Study Abroad Association. This organization provides international educators in the area the chance to engage in professional development experiences with other practitioners in their field. “The community of people who work in international educational is tight knit,” Sabbagh said. “It’s a small world. It’s nice to be able to make connections and call upon people from likeminded institutions so you can share best practices and ideas.” 

9. She caught the travel bug as a student. When she was in school, Sabbagh studied abroad three times. In high school, she went to the Dominican Republic. As a college student, she studied in Spain. While in graduate school, she lived in Mexico for a time. “I still remember how helpful my study abroad advisor was in college,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be the same sort of resource for my students. I want to make sure they’re comfortable, happy and excited about going abroad.” 

10. She is striving for 40 by 40. As most people might assume, Sabbagh enjoys traveling in her free time. Thus far, she has been to 36 countries. “I’m hoping to reach 40 countries by age 40,” she said. Some of the places she has particularly enjoyed visiting include Morocco, Greece and Colombia.  

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