Meet the Quest Team!

We are a team of experienced professionals who are passionate
about offering international student exchange experiences.

Lisa Laviolette

President/CEO
Languages: Danish, Swedish

My father was Canadian; my grandparents came to America speaking only French and growing up I thought that was really cool. I was determined to learn to speak French so I could travel to exotic French speaking countries and practice saying merci beaucoup. After visiting relatives in Quebec at age eight, I discovered that Canadians put vinegar on their French fries, yuck- suddenly it was un-cool to learn to speak French. From the mind of an eight year old that made all the sense in the world to me. Since then I have traveled to twenty-five countries, have tried french fries with remoulade, gravy, mustard, cheese, mayonnaise, curry, chili, garlic, au jus, and tzatziki and each time I taste these cultural delicacies, I have the desire to learn the language of that country.

Living abroad evoked such a profound change in me that I just knew that I wanted to find a way to give this opportunity to as many individuals as I couldLisa

I grew up in Michigan, left home at age twenty and have since lived in California, Denmark, Greece and Washington DC. While living abroad I experienced the amazing differences as well as similarities in people from around the world. Living abroad evoked such a profound change in me that I just knew that I wanted to find a way to give this opportunity to as many individuals as I could~ pay it forward~ so to speak. I have now been pursuing that dream for the last twenty years and cannot imagine my life without international friends, students, travel, languages, cultural awareness and yes, even french fries, which were the catalyst for my quest to learn and explore!

Tara Charles

Director of Operations
Languages: Spanish

As a Bay Area native, I feel extremely fortunate to have grown up in an area with such rich diversity, as well as to have had so many multicultural experiences starting from a young age. My first significant international encounter was when my family hosted a high school exchange student from Japan. Being able to participate in this type of cultural exchange allowed me to realize just how much more is out there in the world. This experience served as a catalyst for my life-long yearning for more international learning experiences similar to this one.

Living with other international students from all over Europe, I was able to gain invaluable insight into differences and similarities between these countries, cultures, and people; an experience nearly impossible to replicate solely in a classroom!Tara

In college, I received my degree in Anthropology, where my fascination for studying other cultures and love of meeting new people, led me to complete my senior year abroad in Granada, Spain. Living abroad and being fully immersed in a culture outside of my own had such a meaningful impact on my life and to my character as an individual. Living with other international students from all over Europe, I was able to gain invaluable insight into differences and similarities between these countries, cultures, and people; an experience nearly impossible to replicate solely in a classroom!

Living again in the Bay Area, I am excited to be working here in San Francisco with the Quest team helping students achieve their study abroad goals while promoting cultural awareness and international exchange.

Job Description
As Director of Operations, I provide product and systems support to ensure all office and technical operations run smoothly while identifying process improvement opportunities. I also oversee the Northeastern U.S. region to provide support for schools, Local Coordinators, and students.

Derek Vallentin

Marketing Intern
Languages: Danish

To travel is to live” (of the world famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen) is one of the most used and famous quotes in my home country Denmark, and I totally agree. My passion for travelling started at a young age and it’s something which brings me a lot of joy. I feel that to be rich in experiences, learning new languages, cultures and meeting new people, are the best and most rewarding memories of my life, both socially and academically. I like to travel with old friends, classmates and family, but whilst travelling I find it very encouraging also to make some new friends along the way. I’ve been in most European countries, but I’ve also visited countries outside of Europe, such as India, which gave me a most wonderful and culturally rich experience.

My fascination for travelling and living abroad was further developed and started in high school. My international studies class frequently travelled to different European countries. Prior to our graduation we also went on a trip to the U.S. visiting Boston, Washington DC and New York. As my classmates went home I stayed in the U.S. a bit longer, living with some family friends in San Diego. This trip got me excited about the possibility of studying and working abroad. I fell in love with USA and especially the extraordinarily open and friendly-minded citizens whom you meet wherever you go.

I feel that to be rich in experiences, learning new languages, cultures and meeting new people, are the best and most rewarding memories of my lifeDerek

I feel this is an exciting opportunity for me to live in San Francisco and be a part of Quest Exchange. As the newest intern, I hope I can make a difference for young people with a penchant for the same foreign adventures I have and knowing this makes it even more meaningful for me.

I am passionate about tennis and soccer which I’ve been playing and coaching for several years. Lately I’ve also worked as a substitute teacher in a high school so I’m used to guiding and working with teenagers. This experience will certainly be a benefit for me when I return to Denmark to pursue my university education in the International Business Program.

Annie Liu
廖斯嘉

Program Manager
Languages: Cantonese, Mandarin

I was born in Hong Kong, but my family immigrated to San Francisco when I was one year old. Growing up, TVB (Hong Kong’s main television broadcasting channel) was a primary staple in my family life and I learned how to speak and read Cantonese through watching Hong Kong television. As a child, I always wondered if the images I had of China were faint memories from when I lived there as an infant or if it was something I imagined. My first real experience with China didn’t arrive until I was in middle school, but once I landed in Hong Kong’s airport, I knew I had fallen in love with China.

I always imagined myself studying and travelling far away from San Francisco when I attend college or maybe even study abroad. Unfortunately tragedy struck my family during my college application time when my mom was suddenly diagnosed with renal failure and had to begin dialysis immediately. My world fell apart and I had no choice but to stay in San Francisco to help take care of her. Luckily the University of San Francisco offered an excellent Asian Studies program and I later earned a B.A. in Asian Studies and M.A. in Asian Pacific Studies from USF. I spent next few years studying the politics, history and cultures of East Asia. My personal interests were studying Mandarin and the comparative modernization and politics of East Asia.

But studying from a textbook could never replace my wish to study or work abroad. Fortunately I received a scholarship to study Mandarin intensively at People’s University in Beijing for a summer and during my last year in school, I was also selected out of thousands of applicants for an internship at the 2010 World Expo United States Pavilion, located in Shanghai. From these two trips abroad, I lived with and became good friends with people who came from all over the world. Most importantly, I became close friends with a lot of Chinese locals who took me into their homes and showed me what their lives were really like. In those few short months, I learned more than in the four years that I studied in college.

Even though my area of study is currently bound to the limits of Asia, my love for working with students knows no bounds. While in college, I tutored hundreds of students in East Asian history and Mandarin. After college I worked several years as a college admissions consultant for a private test prep and college admissions company. I also spent a year working in Guangzhou to help Chinese and other foreign students apply to colleges in the United States. I am so blessed to be part of the Quest Exchange team because I can continue to combine my passion for learning different cultures and working with students. I hope that one day I can work with you to bring your study abroad dream come true.

Job Description
I work with the F-1 and ASE programs and oversee field staff in the Western region. In addition to working with student applications, I obtain school acceptance for our students, provide training for Quest Local Coordinators, and manage school, host family and student relationships. I also manage Quest’s short-term American School Experience Program.

Charles Bradley

Study Abroad Program Manager
Languages: Spanish, Arabic

Born and raised in Orange County, CA it would be logical that I would never want to leave my beachside paradise, but wandering is in my blood. Growing up in a house of academics allowed me to see the world. My love for nature pushed me to rural settings in Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, The UK, and across Northern Europe, all before graduating high school.

Travel has granted me the vision to see the nuance in people from around the world; to break the single-story narrative my upbringing and media had inculcated in me. Diversity is embedded in the definition of humanity and travel allows us to see the diversity of our own communities, paralleled in our hosts. Outside of the classroom, nothing provides a deeper and more comprehensive education, than traveling.

In University, I earned my degree in Cultural Geography and studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador. I lived with an Ecuadorian family, ate Ecuadorian food, spoke Ecuadorian Spanish and lived an Ecuadorian lifestyle. I gained perspective on my own culture and I acquired the language that I use, to this day, to connect to new cultures. I later earned my Masters degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and taught at California State University, Fullerton. My interaction with ethnically diverse students from around the world built upon my global perspective.

“I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

After a few years of domestic teaching, I joined the Peace Corps and was placed in The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. I lived in Madaba and Karak state with gracious and kind Jordanian families. The lessons I learned about the generosity of Arab culture and the mutual human condition will stay with me forever. Sadly, I was evacuated from my home in Jordan due to conflict in neighboring Syria.

Unsatisfied with my impact, I joined the Peace Corps again and was placed in the state of Querétaro in México. I fell in love with México while I worked as a university instructor there and as the head of instructional oversight. I immersed myself in the culture through karaoke nights, rugby socials and walks through the colonial plazas.

Travel and study abroad has changed my life. I work for Quest so that I can grant other young people the privilege of experiential learning. Being a global citizen is a rewarding and enlightening experience. I love my work and I look forward to helping you reach you own international goals.