Our Staff

Melinda Samis | Executive Director

Melinda founded International Summerstays (now ANDEO) in 1981. She has set foot on the soil of many countries, loves being able to read Mexican poets in their native language, and has opened her own home to students from South America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. Traveling memory: "Being in a small village in France on September 11, 2001 and having all the neighbors stop by to extend their heartfelt wishes for my country."

Sara Bruckner | Deputy Director

Sara has hosted international students, lived with families in Mexico, Spain, China, and Tibet, served as an international camp counselor in Barcelona, and taught English in China as well as creative writing and composition at University of Oregon. She graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Oregon and is passionate about facilitating cross-cultural communication and understanding. Favorite traveling memory: "Living with a host family in Mexico with my mother when I was nine. Laughing and blowing bubbles with my host brothers and sisters. Figuring out our own ways to communicate through play."

Kellie Irish | College Programs Manager

Kellie lived in Japan for four years, one of those with a wonderful host family. She has a B.A. in East Asian Languages and Cultures with a focus on Japanese. Her love of cultures and adventure has taken her to twenty-two countries on four continents. Traveling memories: "Relaxing in a Japanese hot spring during snowfall after a long day of snowboarding; watching the sunrise in the Serengeti."

Rebecca Gundle | Teen Programs Manager

Rebecca got her first taste of international travel at the age of four when her family spent four months in Central America. Ever since then, she has been hooked! After high school, she backpacked through Europe and Southeast Asia and then studied Latin American Studies & Anthropology and Teaching. Before joining ANDEO, Rebecca taught at middle- and high schools. She speaks Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, lived with host families in Mexico and Brazil, and collected passport stamps from twenty-three countries on five continents. Memorable travel moments: “Learning to make tamales from my host mother and host sister in Oaxaca, Mexico; bicycling through the countryside in Laos.”

Annie Leverich | Program Coordinator - Teen Programs

Annie loves to see smiles around the world, and is dedicated to the cause of encouraging international travel. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and French from Grinnell College, and seeks out the fascinating intersection between language and culture everywhere she goes. From southern France to metropolitan Vietnam to the mountains of Morocco, Annie has taken great pleasure in making connections that last and eating just plain old delicious food. Favorite travel memory:  Hiring a friendly and knowledgable tuk-tuk driver known as "Batman" in Battambang, Cambodia, who took us to see the bat caves at Sampeou Mountain. Every evening at dusk, thousands of bats (some locals say millions!) exit the cave in beautiful cloud-like swarms for about 40 minutes to go feed for the evening. Who knew bats could be so elegant? Thanks, Batman!

Julie Padbury | Local Area Coordinator  - Tigard/Tualatin/Sherwood areas

Julie has a BA in Liberal Arts from Portland State University. She studied French and German at Oregon State University, and is currently learning Spanish. After high school she toured as a performing artist with Holiday on Ice International in Europe, which took her to Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, England, Wales, Czechoslovakia, Spain and Italy. She has 4 children and has hosted students from France, Italy, Spain and Japan over a span of 14 years, starting when her kids were just 2, 3, 4 and 5 years old. Most memorable travel moment: "My fellow ice-skaters and I were walking the back streets of Tours in France after a long show day. We met some locals who wanted to know why we were in town. They didn’t understand “ ice-skating with Holiday on Ice” in French…but then I saw a L’Espoir newspaper on the cobblestone street that just happen to have an article about our show and full spread of pictures of us in full costume and ice-skates on the back page. It was quite the coincidence, as we didn’t even know the press had been covering our show. I still have that newspaper today!"

Irene Malarkey | Local Area Coordinator

Irene is a cultural exchange enthusiast who has hosted international students, stayed with many host families across the world, and worked for years coordinating exchange programs across Latin American. Her first exchange, at 15, was a three-week immersion trip with ANDEO in Mexico, and is in touch with her host family to this day. She has traveled extensively in Latin America, Europe, and Asia, and is passionate about immersing herself in new cultures. Irene graduated from Warren Wilson College , with a B.A. in Global Studies and Spanish.  In her free time, Irene enjoys karaoke, salsa dancing, and exploring the outdoors. Favorite travel memory: “I remember my host family bringing me to a traditional Aztec steam bath, where I crammed into a small brick ‘igloo’ with my host siblings, and chanted and sang until we were exhausted. We cooled off by swimming in a lake, and wrapped up with a traditional Mexican barbecue. We had all bonded and were laughing hysterically by the end of the day.” 

CJ Stearns | Cultural Exchange Associate- Teen and College Programs

CJ first discovered her love for intercultural communication and travel in a summer study program in Nice, France. After the travelbug bit, she studied abroad and stayed in homestays in both urban and rural Senegal, and after graduating from college, she worked as an English teacher in such places as Japan, Nepal, Hong Kong and Russia. She graduated with a Master’s in Transnational Studies from University College London, and is passionate about creating lasting international bonds between people. Favorite travel memory: "My host mother in Dakar, Senegal, once walked me far into the city at dusk until we reached a wide, empty street lit by a single overhanging lamp. Slowly, a crowd of women began to gather, until we had formed a large circular crowd. She had taken me to see a traditional “exorcism” of bad spirits performed on someone by the women in the community. It was one of the strangest and most surprising things I have ever seen!"

Kaylin Preston | Cultural Exchange Associate- Teen and College Programs

One of Kaylin's first and most impressionable cultural exchange experiences was when she and her family hosted a Japanese student who attended high school with her and her sister for the year. Her passion for travel, cultures, and languages only grew after this, and she continued her schooling at Lewis & Clark College. She earned a B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology and spent a semester studying French and Wolof in Dakar, Senegal. After university, she spent a year living and working in New Zealand before returning to Senegal on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award. She spent one more year teaching English in the Indian Ocean on Reunion Island before coming back to her home state of Oregon. During her spare time she enjoys exploring the trails around the Pacific Northwest, trying out new recipes in the kitchen, and finding any excuse to dance. Favorite travel memory: "Spending the day with a family in a small village in Senegal. We ate the national dish for lunch, brewed all three cups of tea under the mango tree, then attended the traditional wrestling match between neighboring villages that night. Afterwards we danced at the 'dust dance' until the sun came up and we hitched a bus ride back to the nearby town."

Petra Jacobsen | Cultural Exchange Associate- Teen and College Programs

Petra's passion for international travel began when she was in kindergarten and started studying Japanese through the Japanese Immersion Program in Portland, OR. She continued her studies in college where she got her B.A. in International Affairs and minors in Japanese and Asian Studies from Northern Arizona University. In college, Petra studied abroad at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo and stayed with the same host family that her mother had stayed with 30 years before! She loves fostering cross-cultural relationships and can't wait to travel more in the future!. Favorite travel memory: "My host mother in Tokyo dressed me up in a traditional Japanese kimono and took me to a local Japanese summer festival. Afterwards we had "all-you-can-eat" sushi which was one of the most amazing meals I've ever had!"

Nora Roholt | Cultural Exchange Associate- Teen and College Programs

Nora’s cultural exchange journey began as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uzbekistan and Romania. During her Peace Corps service she worked with non-government organizations and was able to immerse herself in the culture, customs and traditions by living with host families. Her journey continued to Hunan and Guangzhou, China where she worked directly with English Language Learners at the university level. She also Developed and operated an ESL Center for five years, serving both K-12 and business professionals in Guangzhou. Nora has traveled to over 90 countries and 6 continents. These experiences were life-changing, extremely rewarding and eye-opening; she saw the world in a new way, learned a lot about herself and others. It also helped her understand how important it is to see new places, meet new people, and always open to learning about the various ways people live their lives around the world. Favorite travel memory: “My former student invited me to visit her in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. She and her family taught me how to make Tibetan butter tea. I was extremely shocked as the flavor was salty rather than sweet; to this day, I can still remember the taste.”  

Sara Miller | Cultural Exchange Associate- Teen and College Programs

Sara’s incredible homestay experience in Santiago, Chile as a college student changed how she thought about travel and intercultural exchange. After earning her B.A. in Anthropology and Hispanic Studies, she moved to Northern Thailand to teach English. Since then, she has lived all around the United States, as well as a year working in Ecuador. Sara dreams of eating her way around the world and helping others do the same. Favorite travel memory: "Learning to ride side-saddle on the back of a moped in Thailand! I was required to wear long skirts to work every day, so I had to learn how to ride modestly like other Thai women. At first I was terrified, but I learned quickly and would often eat my breakfast while side-saddle on my way to work."

Stephanie Harrison | Cultural Exchange Associate- Teen and College Programs

Stephanie’s favorite book has always been a world atlas, and she has dedicated her life to developing international relationships and cross-cultural exchange. Her international experience started in high school with a German host family exchange, followed by a yearlong study abroad in Germany during her undergraduate studies, and a U.S. Peace Corps service tour in Ukraine where she taught English for 2 years. She has a BA in both International Studies and German from the University of Wyoming and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Portland State University.  In her free time she can be found knitting, cycling, and cooking. Favorite travel memory: “While I was a PC Volunteer I went to the Carpathian Mountains for a festival. However, rather than spend the whole weekend at the festival, I ended up in a small village helping dig a trench from a well to a house to equip it with running water. One of my fellow PCV’s had written a grant to turn the house into a shelter for battered women and their children in their area, but she needed some free help to dig the trench and over 20 volunteers turned up to pitch in. The most amazing part was the reaction of the Ukrainians to see this many volunteers at the drop of a hat show up to help out. They were so grateful that they prepared us a wonderful lunch that we ate together after the trench was finished.”