Alumni Spotlight: Caitlin Reyes


Caitlin is a Kids Ministry Director in Houston, TX. She grew up in the U.S. Midwest, taught in the South Pacific, and then moved to Houston to teach high school English and Creative Writing. Over the last 5 years, she left teaching, nannied for two different families, and then transitioned into her full-time Kids Director position where she manages a large team of volunteers who care for kids 0-third grade.

Why did you choose this program?

As I was preparing to graduate from college, I chose to teach abroad through WorldTeach because I was able to combine two of my loves: travel and teaching.It also took me to an island in the middle of the ocean, a culture and lifestyle completely foreign to someone who grew up in landlocked Southern Illinois.

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

WorldTeach organized flight travel for the group from Los Angeles to our placements across the island. We underwent a mini-orientation stateside before our departure and then underwent two weeks of training together before moving into our permanent homes. This included some minimal language and culture training as well as a crash course in teaching since most volunteers did not have an education background. We were paid a monthly stipend.

In order to participate, I put down a deposit and arranged my flight to L.A. After orientation on "the rock" (American Samoa's nickname), we were also left to purchase a phone, set up a bank account, and make other day-to-day purchasing decisions.

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

"Living overseas will be hard, and you'll probably cry often, but it'll also be one of the best experiences of your life."

Eating with people according to their customs and conversing in their language will definitely help you relax into the new environment and communicate care for those you're living among. Be open to learning from those around you. Accept meals and gifts from locals. Try new things.

It's all worth it!

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

As a participant in WorldTeach, you sign up to teach. Because American Samoa is an American territory, most of us got to teach subjects that we have stateside. The other volunteer placed in my village and I both taught high school English and an elective (Journalism / Debate). We worked a typical school day and they were able to spend the rest of our time however we chose.

Sometimes, this meant meeting up with other volunteers, but as the year went on, we preferred to spend more time with the locals. Both of us coached cheerleading, which meant we held after school practices most days and attended football games every Saturday. We also spent time exploring our beautiful island, and on holiday vacations, we left the island and traveled to nearby destinations (New Zealand and Western/Independent Samoa).

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 experience was missing my family. I moved out of my parents' house at 18, but I still lived 2.5 hours away. The longest I had gone between visits was three months, and even then, one of my sisters was with me. This was an experience I ventured on completely on my own -- I knew no one.

Fortunately, the person in the group that I felt closest to during orientation was placed in the same village as me, and we became lifelong friends. We did everything together. Our coworkers often confused our names: Katie Smith & Caitlin Butler by switching our last names, to which we just laughed. It was such a gift to have a friend to experience and process life with.

I undoubtedly missed my family, but new friendships and weekly Skype sessions helped make it bearable.

What else would you like to share about your experience?

I wrote this poem after being back in the states for several months, and I think it sums up the impact that year had on my life.


Flying always takes me to
Another place.
This time, emotionally.
The parched land
Below disgusts me as I
Long for the pristine seas of Samoa.
It’s been four months, and though
Our time together was brief,
I miss you still – more than I expected
When I was at my lowest of lows.
But I left feeling part of something.
I had become a teine Samoa.
Now, the sounds of my upstairs
Neighbors’ feet do not even slightly
Resemble that of roosters,
Laughing children, or ocean waves.
Oh, how I miss your faces
And your voices and touches.
You touched my heart, and though
My day is your night, hearing from
You make me feel giddy and light.
I may never recover fully from this
Jetlagged heart. New Experiences
Will surely affect my heart similarly,
But none will ever replace you.