Kaitlyn is an adventure junkie from British Columbia Canada. She recently graduated with her bachelors of Kinesiology and is now a practicing Kinesiologist. She values and lives a healthy active lifestyle enjoying hiking, swimming, running and scuba diving.
Why did you pick this program?
I planned two months for travelling after graduation in South America so I knew it had to be somewhere close. Cartagena, Colombia had everything I was looking for- beautiful beaches, a sports development program, and awesome reviews.
After graduation I was contemplating the idea of going back to school to become a teacher so I thought working with children and youth might allow me to explore my possible career options. However, it became more that that- volunteering and working with those kids completely changed my life.
I choose to study abroad in Cartagena for many reasons; I wanted the opportunity to give something back- to do something good where my skill sets could benefit others. I wanted to experience the Colombia culture from the inside out, being able to interact in a hands on way with a new culture. This also would push me out of my comfort zone and gain some confidence.
What is the most important thing you learned abroad?
Some of the most important things I learned were to appreciate how fortunate I am to live where I do. I learned to not take life so seriously and to be grateful for the things most people take for granted.
I vowed since returning home from my trip to never purchase another Aquafina, or any other plastic water bottle- we’re fortunate in Canada to have clear, clean and purified water right out of our taps!
I learned that even if my change and impact was small it’s ripple effect can result in a much larger impact. You’re influence is making a difference and every small actions counts! This can be as simple as making someone else smile or teaching a student how to correctly kick a soccer ball – you ARE making a difference!
What was the hardest part about going abroad?
The hardest part of travelling abroad was my lack of Spanish language comprehension. I thought my "Spanglish" abilities would be sufficient- they were less than desirable. I definitely recommend volunteers to learn some of the language prior to arriving or utilize the Spanish speaking courses that Emerging Voices offers!
People will respect you more if you speak their language- they will appreciate if you’re truly trying to make an effect to learn the language and fully surrounding yourself in the culture. When you know the language it makes your volunteer experience more enjoyable since you can communicate with the children on a less superficial way, teaching is easier and it definitely helps when you’re in a sticky situation like being lost!
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
I raised $600 for Emerging Voices and I had the opportunity to decide where the money was spent. I went shopping with one of our coordinators and we were like kids in a candy store! We surprised one of the local boys soccer team with 22 brand new jerseys, soccer balls and other equipment so they could play against other communities in tournaments.
I also was able to fix up the old basketball court at another project and provide them with a whole new set of sporting equipment- basketballs, volleyball a and soccer balls! I realized that smiles are universal- the pure joy across the kids faces were inspiring. The kids were so grateful and I was so thankful that I got the opportunity to be a part of their happiness!