Alumni Spotlight: Kendra Manuel


Kendra is a 19-year-old American who was adopted from China when she was 11 months old. She graduated from high school in Oregon in 2017. Although she was accepted into college, she delayed her entrance so she could take a gap year.

Why did you choose this program?

There were a number of programs that I could have chosen, but I choose ARCC for several reasons. I initially wanted to go to Asia and ARCC offered so many countries in a single semester in Asia, including China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. A second attraction was that the variety of opportunities was wide and very appealing. For example, I was able to camp on the Great Wall of China, scuba dive in Thailand, work with children affected by Agent Orange in Vietnam, and watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. A third appeal of the program was the balance of education, service work, and adventure.

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

ARCC basically assisted with everything including advice on what clothing and equipment to pack, how to pack lightly, and what types of shots and medication to take. They offered help with any Visas that were needed. Regular email updates were sent to me and my parents about important deadlines and preparation tips. A few weeks before I left they had an online webinar to answer any remaining questions and to give a rundown of what the program was going to be like. One of the best things that they did was during the application process; they interviewed me over the phone to see if I was a good fit for them and they were a good fit for me.

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

One thing that I would say to a person going on this program is to really make the best of each day and be present. This is something that I wish I did more often because its really Important to know where you are in the world and really reflect. Something that I did was keep a journal and wrote in it every day. I’m really glad I did because its something that I’ll have with me for the rest of my life.

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

A typical week of this program would be spent doing a number of different activities. including a couple of day hikes into some incredibly beautiful areas, prepping to teach children, teaching the children, touring around the city sampling local food, and enjoying a local home stay with families. In the evenings we would have a group meeting. The evening meetings are something that is a typical ARCC tradition.

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 going into this was meeting my travel mates, wondering how I might fit in and get along for 3 months. As it turns out I overcame this fear by talking to people and actually made strong connections with them. I also made a really strong connection with my leaders. How did my views change? Well, I decided to sign up for another program with ARCC and I wasn’t nervous about meeting people at all.