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Alumni Profile: Hannah Borrego and the “Magic of the Unknown”

Hannah Borrego, a SAS student alum, has always savored the moments in life that feel “a little bit like magic” – many of which she first experienced on her Fall 2007 Voyage. From a star-watching session-turned-hailstorm on the ship’s deck with a group of voyagers to a 3 a.m. hike in the mountains of Egypt with a friend to shooting video with a crew in the middle of a harrowing snowstorm on a glacier in Alaska, Hannah doesn’t seem the type to shy away from those unknown experiences that might, at first, feel a little uncomfortable, and certainly a little foreign. “I always end up finding myself thinking: ‘This is what adventure is,’ and I remind myself in those moments to be present, embrace it, and take it all in, without expectations. It’s a great lesson for life, and SAS was a constant reminder of that,” Hannah said. “I’m attracted to those moments in life where you just end up connecting on a human level. There’s a real magic in these moments.”

It was her connection with Semester at Sea and another one of these magical moments that helped Hannah’s career trajectory. Her journey took her from a cultural anthropology and photojournalism major while on Semester at Sea to an ethnic studies degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Since then, she has worked as a production assistant in Los Angeles and, now, as an Executive Producer for the Magnolia Network’s “Building Outside the Lines,” a “wholesome” design and build show that features Jared “Cappie” Capp and his daughter Alex as they modify standard structures into innovative, one-of-a-kind spaces. 

Hannah in Egypt during SAS study abroad

While on Semester at Sea, Hannah worked with Joshua (Josh) Weisberg, a Los Angeles-based producer who served as a staff photographer on several past voyages, on the SAS “Travel Journal” project. Through this project, Hannah, whose dream was always to help record oral histories and languages, got a taste of working to share the merger of culture and journalism with others through printed and multimedia work. Over time, Hannah and Josh made a strong professional connection, and the two kept in touch after their shared voyage. At the end of the voyage, Josh told Hannah that, if she ever wanted to try her hand at a career in Los Angeles, to get in touch with him. Fast forward several years, when  Hannah was working in Alaska. Feeling cold from Alaska weather and ready for a change, Hannah phoned Josh from a parking lot one day – in one of those moments of the unknown that ended up turning into magic, Hannah said: “Josh, is that offer for me to come to LA and work still open?” Two weeks later, Hannah was in her packed car, driving from Alaska to LA with a production assistant job lined up with Josh’s help – and the start of a whole new life direction for Hannah. 

Hannah “started at the bottom” while in LA, learning from production crew and coordinators. She worked as a production assistant on a show for two seasons, then connected with shows that gave her work in Papua New Guinea, the Virgin Islands, the Yukon, and Australia, among other locales. “Especially after Semester at Sea, I just always loved having a suitcase around that was always slightly unpacked,” Hannah said. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Hannah had the time to begin developing an idea for a show, alongside its talent and a well-respected former colleague and executive. Fast forward a few years later, and she is now an Executive Producer on the “Building Outside the Lines” show; together, with her team, Hannah crafted a show that would “be joyful and help everyone believe in community” in a time of global darkness. Having successfully sold the show to The Magnolia Network, a full slate of episodes launched on the network in late 2023. The show did incredibly well, and Hannah was thrilled when The Magnolia Network signed on for a second season, which is now filming. 

For Hannah, these successes are, in part, attributed to her time with Semester at Sea, building magical memories and making connections with people like Josh, who would help her to launch her wildly successful career in production. “Josh and the travel journal really did give me such a sense of value while I was on Semester at Sea,” Hannah said. It was these lessons, Hannah said, that helped her get to a place where she now helps create a “little bit of magic” for others on television. “My time working with the travel journal gave the voyage such substance for me, and I gained such a sense of independence, drive, and direction from it all,” she said. 

  • Alumni

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