Alumni Spotlight: Kayla Duryea

Kayla is a first-year high school English teacher in central Ohio. At 22 years old she has traveled 8 countries and hopes to continue to increase that number during her summers off from teaching.


Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because the coordinators went above and beyond to support me in my decision to embark on this adventure and would be in constant communication with me to answer all of my many questions and validate my concerns.

I felt everything along the way was handled professionally, but I love the personal connection they strive to form with their travelers.

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

My program provider gave me detailed directions for my steps to success in this program including tips on recording my teacher placement introduction video, took care of making sure my visa came through with no problems, and constantly provided me with information and advice about what to expect and what to bring etc.

On my own, I booked my flight and did additional research, but I feel my program provider definitely helped keep me on the straight and narrow during the travel preparation.

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

I am very much a perfectionist and like to plan my life out way ahead, but throughout the duration of this program I learned to relax and go with the flow because it is absolutely necessary while living in Southeast Asia!

I would tell anyone interested in this program to not expect a smooth and steady ride; it's challenging and emotional, but that is what makes the experience so beautiful and fulfilling!

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

An average week for me included walking a half mile to school every morning, teaching four or five classes during the school day, then walking home and grabbing food from a local food stand or shop.

Weekdays can be very routine, but the weekends I would travel by bus to Bangkok or other cities that were less than five hours away, so I could meet up with other people in the program. Travel is not luxurious or easy by any means, but I learned so much and became incredibly independent during this time because it's all part of the adventure!

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

My biggest fear was doing this alone. I studied abroad in college which was incredible, but this trip required more independence and initiative on my end. I didn't know anyone else in the program, but it's amazing how travel and living in a foreign place brings people so close together.

Developing friendships and expecting things to go wrong sometimes helped me to stay calm and learn and grow from every experience.

Did you experience culture shock?

Culture shock is so real, but it affects everyone differently. I didn't start to experience the shock factor of being the only white woman in my town until a few weeks in. I felt like a celebrity everywhere I went which was fun and comical for a while, but eventually, it was hard because I felt I was being stared at and talked about constantly.

Once I got past the point of feeling self-conscious every time I went out I began to try to make more of an effort with the locals and live among them rather than just do my own thing. When I took a leap of faith outside my comfort zone and focused on the similarities of our humanity rather than our differences, I experienced so much joy and peace.