Industry Faces: Alexandra Borges de Sousa
Industry Faces
Working through the levels of the family business, Alexandra had a solid grounding in all aspects of a language school before becoming Managing Director of CIAL and later Chair of IALC.

Introduction


CIAL is a family-run school, and I always knew I wanted to work in the business. I started with summer jobs and worked my way up. This was really useful, as I know the answer to every possible question agents may have.


I worked at every level, and did our own teacher training course. During all those years the school was growing, and eventually I focused more on the marketing of CIAL. I thoroughly enjoy promoting the school, because I believe in the quality, but I also enjoy keeping daily contact with students and teachers.


Developing the industry


The language school was founded in 1959 and Renato, my father, joined 10 years later and established the Portuguese language department. He really managed to put Portugal on the map as a language destination and got agents on board. We are proud to be recognised by agents as the Portuguese language school in Portugal. It is usually not in peoples' minds that Portuguese is the third most spoken Western language and the fifth most spoken language in the world.


In some countries the idea of combining language study and a holiday is common. Lately, Portugal has become a hot travel destination and this allows for the development of new markets. It takes time, but it is very rewarding. And of course, the best ambassadors are former students.


Proudest achievements


One area that is very important and that we are proud of is that we have a team producing teaching materials. They are the lead-selling materials in the world for the Portuguese language, and this keeps us up to date. Students are often surprised to have the author of their textbook as their teacher.


Being recognised in the StudyTravel Star Awards and winning (in 2015) was another one of the proudest moments.


Learning from colleagues and partners


We learn from our peers in other countries. This is why Renato and CIAL were one of the founders of IALC. Membership of IALC has been very important for CIAL. Chairing IALC was very important for me. I feel a very emotional attachment to the association, which has been my primary learning field, so being President was giving back to the association that has given me so much.


I enjoy constantly learning from agents, other school owners and industry partners.


Key attributes


I think fairness, openness and honesty are key attributes for this industry. We've seen so many stakeholders come and go. The ones that remain and thrive are genuine ones in promoting language and cultural awareness. What we do does change peoples' lives.


The future


We want to remain the school of reference for the study of Portuguese in Portugal. The next challenge is digital and online, bringing blended learning and distance learning into our portfolio.


This year we are running a summer abroad programme with Princeton University. This will be very good to open doors in the US market for us. This is a credit-bearing course that has been developed with teachers from the university.


 

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