Alumni Spotlight: Lorna Murphy Durran


Why did you choose this program?

I was initially looking for a travel program where I could experience culture on a deeper level.

I had traveled abroad a lot with family on holiday and, after a trip to Cuba where I experienced culture shock for the first time, I wanted to enhance my experiences and knowledge of the places in the world.

I have also been performing since I was a child and the fact that this was a part of the program, I was overjoyed. Host family stays were really the big attraction for me and the volunteering aspect just but a big bow on the whole program for me - it was everything I was looking for in one place.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I was sent a fundraising pack with tons of ideas on how to fundraise as well as able to have conversations with my admissions rep at a time that suited me.

I had several money issues at the time I was deciding to travel, and after eventually choosing Up with People, my admissions rep was able to help me with and support my fundraising. I was also eligible to receive a scholarship to help cover costs, and was supported in applying for that as well.

After sorting out the application, the only other things I was responsible for were raising money, booking my flight to Denver, and figuring out what to pack!

That's what made Up with People an ideal choice for me - it was a one stop shop. I did very little in relation to my six months of travel and had only to worry about arriving at the first location and getting home - it was great!

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Journal or take a photo diary or blog! I started it and couldn't keep up because it was so busy but it is something I wish I had tried to keep on top of.

Really the only thing I wish I had of known was how much it would change my life - I would have done it a lot sooner! I gained so much experience, life-long friends, confidence... I just loved every second of it!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Sundays are usually the worst as they're spent packing and saying goodbye to your host family. The culture that surrounds Up with People is so infectious and rubs off on everyone around you, making it really hard to say goodbye and leave your host family, even after only one week. On the positive side, you're always moving onto new experiences with a new host family, and get to start all over again.

Typically a week in Up with People consists of Monday to Saturday early to late, jam packed with more than you ever thought you could possibly fill in one day.

It is community service or volunteering. It is preparing for transitioning to a new culture or continent, it's learning from the different cultures in the group of over 100 people from 20+ countries. It's making, building and maintaining relationships with new people every day and trying to keep in touch with home.

Up with People travels on Mondays to a new city, country, continent and has a show on the Friday or Saturday in which we perform for our host families, kids from the local school, and other’s we have connected with that week.

It is performing a professional show with your closest friends and sweating it out with them, or taking down the lights and speakers and packing up the truck with all our equipment (we do EVERYTHING). It's interviewing people to travel in a future cast that have been inspired to join by you being in the city. It’s not having words to describe everything you are doing or feeling in that moment, because it is too wonderful for words.

It is crying and laughing everyday with your friends because you experience something so wonderful or profound together and are inspired every moment along the way. It is being so tired every night but because you have fed the homeless or played with orphans all day and you feel amazing. It is feeling run down or sick because your exhausted but not wanting to miss a single second of each day.

It is becoming part of an international community that will open up doors for you all over the world just by being an "uppie". An average day/week doesn't exist in Up with People - there is nothing AVERAGE about this program.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

Wow, I had so many fears. I was afraid that I was making a mistake leaving home and a job and a life I had set up. I was afraid it was too expensive and I would regret it.

I was afraid of being away from home for so long and away from friends and family. I was also afraid of going on such a big adventure with complete strangers. Within a few hours of arriving in Denver and meeting the people I would spend the next 6 months with, I felt completely at ease.

I not only enjoyed every second but after only a week of being in the program I knew it was meant to be and that I wanted to stay in the program as long as possible.

I decided I would apply to work for them after my student semester and I went on to be a staff member and worked for them for three and a half years.

How has this program helped you to build your CV?

Cultural understanding & intelligence. Today this is considered to be equally as important as intellect or emotional intelligence. Being surrounded by different cultures and learning to work with them is an everyday thing in Up with People - you would have a hard time trying to ignore it.

Excellent Communication skills. Communicating is so much more than just speaking. Having to live and work and understand people that are from different places is not always easy. In Up with People I learned how to communicate when someone spoke a different language or had a different cultural upbringing - it's not just about what you say but how you say it.

Leadership. There is no doubt that Up with People has showed me leadership and helped me gain a sense of what that means. I am also positive that I would not have the leadership or management skills I do today without the many experiential learning opportunities I came across while in the program. Whether it was leading a workshop in a school, leading an activity with the group, or presenting my culture or the program to people all over the world.

My actual resume/CV contains this sentence which includes some of my talents, all of which, I gained in Up with People: I am a bright, enthusiastic person and my talents include excellent interpersonal skills, public speaking/presentation skills, flexibility, adaptability (especially in ever changing environments), leadership, event/project management, recruitment/sales experience, cross-cultural awareness, and communication.