With the promise of summer slowly approaching, it can be hard to keep from daydreaming about a vacation somewhere exotic, exciting, and far away from your cubicle.
But, as the Director, Producer, and Series Creator of ProjectExplorer.org, Jenny Buccos doesn’t have to dream about escaping work to travel to foreign locales—she’s made it her job.
The former investment bank employee founded ProjectExplorer.org in 2003 to teach students of all ages about the world outside of their classrooms and comfort zones. The site brings students on a virtual journey to discover the history, culture, and customs of different cities and countries all around the world.
To date, Jenny has visited 50 countries and directed more than 400 short films for the site. And as ProjectExplorer.org celebrates its 10th anniversary, she shows no sign of slowing down.
We caught up with Jenny before she took off on her next journey to learn how global education can contribute to professional success and what it means to be, as she calls it, an “agent of global citizenship.”
ProjectExplorer.org has a unique story behind it; can you explain how it all got started?
My global education began in 2000 in Hong Kong, while on assignment with an investment bank. This was my first time off the North American continent. That experience and what I saw in the months after 9/11 became the catalysts for founding ProjectExplorer.org.
Beginning in the winter of 2001, I spent several months observing the people around me become increasingly afraid of the world outside of America's borders. As I listened to these conversations, I began to think about the importance of developing a global awareness from a young age. Seeing foreign places firsthand and having my own beliefs challenged was a real awakening for me, and I wanted to try and give that experience to as many people as I could—especially young people.
Of course, it’s not possible to take every student abroad. But, by creating free student-focused videos on global topics, thousands—even millions—could experience the world beyond their borders. My idea for this online educational series began brewing in early 2003, before the existence of YouTube when online video was not yet mainstream—and in 2006, after months of research and fundraising, the first ProjectExplorer.org series debuted.
You call yourself an "agent for global citizenship." What does this mean to you, and why is it so important?
Being an agent for global citizenship simply means that I am an advocate for global understanding and awareness. In our rapidly shrinking world, I believe global understanding is a critical skill that all students will need to possess in order to succeed in their careers. And the first step in becoming a global citizen, in my opinion, is becoming educated on our differences and similarities.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to embark on a career that involves a lot of traveling?
I would start by getting to know the diversity in your own community. Explore your local landscape and look for new experiences, get to know the people and cultures around you, then dive into learning about the world from where you are now.
ProjectExplorer.org is my way of providing students with this jumping-off point. My hope is to first encourage a global understanding in young people, and then to nourish a curiosity that can one day develop into international careers that involve not only travel, but also building relationships across borders.
For those who don't travel as part of their jobs, how important do you think it is to try and still make time for trips abroad?
With ProjectExplorer.org, it’s not just about travel, but also about getting to know other cultures, examining global issues, and exploring ways of life outside of your own. Whether you accomplish this through physically traveling to other parts of the world or through using technology to become familiar with new people and ideas, I believe that the most important thing is the desire to learn and the curiosity to explore. As the nature of our work, and our lives, becomes increasingly global in nature, I believe that this is what will lead to greater success in business and beyond.
What is next for you and ProjectExplorer.org?
This year marks the 10th anniversary year of ProjectExplorer.org. To celebrate, I'm directing an ambitious series that will be filmed across five continents—think history class meets Amazing Race!
Looking forward, we are considering Russia and Antarctica for 2014. I am also in the process of developing a series based on my experiences working abroad.
Lastly, just for fun, what are some of the more "off-the-map" countries you would encourage readers to visit?
I just visited my 50th country, and with the exception of two or three places, I'd revisit any of them in a heartbeat. I absolutely loved Luang Prabang, Laos, which still feels as though it's on the brink of discovery by Westerners.
It's difficult to narrow down my African adventures to just one or two favorite places, but I’d recommend Mozambique to anyone looking to explore the continent. Southern Africa is also exceedingly easy to explore when using South Africa as a starting point. Mozambique has more than 1,000 miles of pristine coastline, though it is not yet terribly popular with American and European tourists.
As a freelance multimedia journalist, Colleen has spanned the globe with her camera in hand to share unknown, interesting, and inspiring stories. Some of her most recent pieces have taken her from Thailand, where she spent a night on an uninhabited island, to Australia, where she covered a rare disease affecting Tasmanian Devils. She started her career at NY1, reporting on major stories including Hurricane Sandy and the 2014 mayoral elections.More from this Author