The seeds for the Study Abroad Association were planted in the year 2000, when Alessio Mazzolini (current COO) went on a student exchange in the State of Oklahoma. While he was there, he quickly became friends with his host brother and fellow pupil Christian Alyea. Christian had always been fascinated by foreign cultures with the dream of traveling the world, so having the opportunity to have a host brother from Italy was outstanding.

During Alessio’s stay in Oklahoma, he had the opportunity of making lifelong friends, absorbing and adapting to a new culture, learning English and living the life of a true Okie. After his own life-enriching experience, he wanted to be able to share a similar experience with Christian and invited him to come visit Italy and stay with his family to live “La Dolce Vita”. Needless to say, as soon as Christian landed in Europe, he was blown away by the cultural differences, the beautiful language, and of course the lovely Italian food. Alessio’s grandmother was happy to host Christian for two full weeks. Christian made many friends while he was there, one of whom was Leonardo Gubinelli, Alessio’s first cousin. Fifteen years later, in 2016, Leonardo, would become the co-founder of Study Abroad Association after his own extensive study abroad in London, United Kingdom.

Over the course of the fifteen 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 earned 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 as a partner of SAA.

Currently, more than 75% of our internal team is from Matelica,  the small Italian town where this whole adventure began. The other 25% each have a unique story and connection to the team and make up an essential piece of the SAA family collage. We always have and always will be a family run and operated a business. Because more often than not, the people you have these educational experiences with become like family.

Today, more than 150 colleges and universities across the United States collaborate with Study Abroad Association to provide their students and faculty with life-enriching experiences similar to what we had.

Here is just a small sampling of our team members that will help you bring your program vision to life.


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. 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 150 institutions across the United States with enrollment sizes ranging from 1,000 to over 90,000 students.



All programs revolve around our core values of