About Us



It all began 19 years ago, in 2000, when Alessio Mazzolini (current COO) decided to sign up for a language immersion program in Oklahoma. While he was there, he quickly became friends with Christian Alyea, who after hearing a strange Italian accent, could not resist Alessio’s invitation to go and visit “La Dolce Vita” country together. Needless to say, as soon as Christian landed in Europe he was blown away by the cultural differences, the languages, and the abundance of lovely Italian food. Alessio’s grandmother was happy to host Christian for 2 full weeks. Christian made many friends while there, one of whom was Leonardo Gubinelli, who 15 years later, in 2016, would become his co-founder for Study Abroad Association.

During most of these 15 years, after Christian’s first trip outside the United States, the passion for traveling and learning from new cultures never left his soul. In fact, a few years after his Italian experience, he returned to Europe and together, with Alessio, moved to Slovakia to study at City University of Seattle in Bratislava, where he gained his bachelor’s degree in Management. Upon his return to the United States in 2009, he went on to open Oklahoma Study Abroad, which still today manages the majority of the study abroad programs in his native state. After seeing the satisfaction and the great results achieved in Oklahoma, in 2016, Christian and Leo decided to join forces in order to bring those experiences across the United States. In 2017, Alessio joined the team and became a shareholder of SAA. Today, more than 100 colleges and universities across the United States collaborate with us, bringing their students to more than 25 destinations worldwide.

SINCE 2009

Since 2009, Study Abroad Association has been committed to customizing the most in-depth and affordable short-term, faculty-led study abroad and service learning experiences. All programs revolve around our values of Education, Authenticity, Sustainability and Affordability.

SAA is a collaborative effort between colleges and universities across the United States dedicated to increasing study abroad participation among students and faculty on their campuses. We’re currently working with over 103 institutions across the United States with enrollment sizes ranging from 1,000 to over 90,000 students.

The SAA Difference.

Most Competitive Prices

We understand that affordability is absolutely essential to ensure that more students have access to travel opportunities. Our goal is to make sure that each program provides the absolute best value without sacrificing quality or authenticity. Long-standing collaborations with local suppliers guarantee our groups the best rates on accommodation, activities, guides and transportation.

Local Authentic Experiences

Our passion is to ensure that all our customers have truly authentic life-enriching experiences.
By collaborating with local farmers, artisans, and educators, we enable all our travelers to have unique experiences while supporting local economies. Whether it’s a visit to a local wine manufacturer, an organic ice cream maker, or a Peruvian textile weaving family, we strive to understand how locals live and how we can learn valuable lessons from them while supporting them to sustain their traditions.

Outstanding Flexibility and Customer Service

Our goal is to make sure that your program is absolutely perfect. We achieve this by providing thorough communication throughout the entire process, with one-on-one meetings, flexibility with modifications, and complete transparency while customizing your program. We are here for you at all times to ensure this is an easy, stress-free, life-enriching experience.

100% Customized Programs

Every SAA program is crafted from scratch to achieve the goals of the professors and institutions we’re working with. An SAA assigned program manager will work hand in hand with the trip chaperone until the itinerary full reflects the course syllabus that the professor envisions.

Fixed Quotes, Prices Never Change

Transparency is key with all of our program prices. There are no hidden fees. From our initial quote, the agreed program price will remain the same. On top of that, we provide payment installments, allowing schools and students more flexibility.

Private Tours

Since every program is 100% customized, it’s essential that you travel with only your group. You will have a full-time group leader dedicated to ensuring your program runs smoothly exactly as you planned without being compromised by other groups’ itineraries and schedules.

Full Coverage Travelers Insurance

Safety is our number one priority. To ensure our travelers are completely protected throughout the program, we include an all inclusive travelers insurance policy. We are working with top specialists in the industry to ensure that every single aspect of our programs comply to our safety, risk management, and emergency protocols.

Centrally Located Lodging & Private Rooming

To experience the local life it’s essential to be based in the heart of the location you’re visiting. All of our places of accommodation are centrally located, allowing travelers ease with travel by foot or public transportation. This provides the possibility of having an authentic experience just a few steps from your door without excessive commute times.

No Tips, No Commission Policy

We make sure to allocate appropriate and abundant payments to all of our suppliers, collaborators and tour guides. Hence, you won’t be facing uncomfortable “tipping situations” to which you are unsure how to best proceed. This not only avoids confusion, but also ensures that quality is not compromised.

Sustainability and Social Impact

“Leave the world a better place than how you found it” is not just a saying for us, but a commitment. We believe and embrace this concept with all our programs, ensuring to visit local communities and projects in need, as well as to establish long lasting relationships and positive impact with everyone we collaborate with along the way. SAA’s Sustainable Six philosophy ensures that we improve the world through travel and leave the destination we are visiting in a better condition than before.

1 – Offset carbon emissions by reforestation projects around the world.

2 – Work with local guides from the countries we are visiting.

3 – Use local transportation in the countries we are visiting.

4 – Stay in locally owned hostels, hotels, eco-lodges and home stays.

5 – Support a local project or NGO domestically.

6 – Complete a service project abroad in the countries we are visiting.


Christian Alyea

Owner, Cofounder, & Business Developer

Christian has been running short-term study abroad programs in Oklahoma, Texas, and New Jersey for more than 9 years. This not only gave him invaluable experience to allow him to go on and co-found SAA, but gave him unique connections worldwide and positioned him as a credible industry expert.

Languages Spoken: English, Slovak, & Spanish

Leonardo Gubinelli

Owner, Cofounder, & Business Developer

Leonardo is a passionate entrepreneur and marketer, starting his career in the travel industry more than a decade ago, when after graduating in International Business and Marketing at the London Metropolitan University, started working for Expedia.

Languages Spoken: English, Italian, & Spanish

Alessio Mazzolini

Chief Operating Officer

Alessio is an enthusiastic person that loves to travel and discover new frontiers. His passion for travel started at a young age, where he had the chance to discover new places, cultures, and meet incredible people that changed his life.

Languages Spoken: English, Italian, Spanish & Portuguese

Resham Shirsat, LEED AP

Sustainability Advisor

Resham is the Director of Education for Sustainability at Valencia College in Orlando. Her 10+ years of professional experience has focused on designing and implementing sustainability initiatives and projects for the public and private sector both locally and internationally.

Languages Spoken: English, Hindu, & Spanish

Tanith Fowler Corsi

Sales & Board of Advisors

Currently working as Assistant Director at the Graduate School at Hood College, a small liberal arts college in MD, Tanith brings over 20 years of work experience of international higher education in the Washington, DC area at various universities, non-profit organizations and in international education companies.

Languages Spoken: Bilingual in English & French, Conversational in Italian & Spanish

James Adkins

Sales Advisor & Art Professor

James first experienced the wonders of study abroad during a semester in Italy. Holding a BFA and MFA in Sculpture, when not working in his studio he has been teaching Studio Art and Art History courses at the collegiate level since 2013. Inspired by his semester in Italy and subsequent time spent in France, he helped to establish new study abroad departments at two different colleges.

Languages Spoken: English & French

Sevin Gallo

Sales Advisor & History Professor

Sevin journeyed to Turkey for a study abroad program in college, and has been committed to international education since that first adventure. She has a PHD in Modern Middle East and Latin American Comparative World History, and a BA and MA with a European History focus. She taught Middle East and has taught World History and directed the Global Studies Degree program at Northwest Arkansas Community College since 2013.

Languages Spoken: English & Turkish& Portuguese

Paulo Tavares

Account & Product Manager

Paulo is a linguist and a firm believer in learning through travel.
In 2013, he was awarded a BA Honors in French and Spanish, and it was during his Erasmus program in France and Spain, as part of a year abroad experience, that he understood the life-changing benefits of traveling. Studying abroad will help you develop personally, professionally, and academically in order to succeed in today’s world.

Languages Spoken: English, Portuguese, French, & Spanish

Dr. Francesco Restuccia

Account & Tour Leader Manager

Francesco is a PhD in Philosophy of Art and a professional Tour Leader. He grew up in Rome and Milan, but during his studies he lived in Paris, Berlin, and São Paulo, Brazil. Since 2014, Francesco has been leading programs for SAA programs to Italy with Christian.

Languages Spoken: English, Italian, French, Spanish, & Portuguese

Federico Orpello

Account Manager

Federico has a passionate and an optimistic outlook on life and a curiosity to explore the world. He continually strives to expand his knowledge and understanding of different environments and cultures. He enjoys being challenged by new opportunities and continually strives for excellence in all endeavors.

Languages Spoken: English, Italian and Spanish

Marco Basilissi

Chief Financial Officer

Marco grow up in Italy between vineyards. He has a degree in Economics and Business, and a master degree in Business Management. He is an accountant, a passionate wine producer, a chef and enthusiast for all cuisines, and is always ready for new challenges.

Languages Spoken: English & Italian

Marketing del Bueno Agency


Marketing del Bueno, “the good marketing” is a marketing agency based in Ecuador and led by a bilingual experienced and passionate team, that conceptualizes marketing for benefits aimed at society. They are located in the innovate co-working space called Impaqto, in central Quito. Where they have access to additional resources such as top developer and other specialists.


Bergen Community College
Brookhaven Community College
Cedar Valley College
College of Central Florida
Community College of Morris
Community College of Philadelphia
Connors State College
Dallas County Community College District
Eastfield College
El Centro College
Flagler College
Florida Consortium International Education
Florida Eastern College
Florida Gulf Coast University
Florida International University
Florida Keys Community College
Florida – Seminole State College
Florida Southwestern State College
Florida State College Jacksonville
Georgian Court University
Harrisburg Area Community College
Hawaii Community College
Hillsborough Community College
Hudson Valley Art Association
Huston Tillotson University
Indian River State College
Mercer County Community College
Methodist University
Miami Dade College
Middlesex County College
Mountain View College
Murray State College
North Lake College
Northeastern State University
Northampton Community College
Northern Oklahoma College
Northwest Arkansas Community college
Oklahoma City Community College
Oklahoma State University
Pensacola State College
Polk State College
Raritan Valley Community College
Redlands Community College
Richland College
Rogers State University
Rose State College
Seminole State College Oklahoma
Seton Hall University
Southwest Texas Junior College
Southwestern Oklahoma State University
St. Johns River State College
Tulsa Community College
University of Central Oklahoma
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
University of West Georgia
Valencia College
Virginia Wesleyan University
Warner University


Director Robyn Brighton
Service Learning and Study Abroad
Valencia College

Director Stephanie Goad
International Programs
Northeastern State University

Dean Michelle Foster
Dean Academic Affairs
Valencia College

Dr. Amanda Smith
English Professor
Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Dr. Brian Cowlishaw
English Professor
Northeastern State University

Dr. Sam Magrill
Music Professor
University of Central Oklahoma

Dr. Leah Oxenford
Biology Professor
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

James Adkins
Art and Humanities Professor
Community College of Morris

Nathan Carpenter
Director of Center for Global Education & International Services
Northampton Community College

Rayshell Clapper
Literature Professor
Diablo Valley College

Lindi Kourtellis
Interim Study Abroad Director
Valencia College

Carol Reyes
Director of Global Student Programs
Miami Dade College

Jeremy L. Youmans
Director of International Programs
Northwest Arkansas Community College

Glenda Pope
Study Abroad Coordinator
Sandhills Community College