Staff Spotlight: Kara Menini

Senior Program Manager


Kara’s first trip abroad was a 10-day trip to France with her high school French class, and ever since then has had an insatiable desire to see the world. In November of 2013, Kara got on a plane bound for Thailand to teach English on Greenheart’s Teach in Thailand program. There, she taught at an all-boys boarding school in the Nakhon Pathom province, learned how to ride side-saddle on a motorbike, and discovered the ever delicious khao mun gai.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I was exhausted from my first month of teaching and was looking forward to my first weekend with no plans: the previous weeks had been filled with rowdy students, meeting up with friends on the weekends, and general cultural absorption which had been some of the greatest and most challenging weeks of my life, but I desperately needed a mental health day or two to recuperate.

My landlady stopped my roommate and I on our way to school on Friday morning to invite us to come with her that day to hangout with her family a few hours away to celebrate the King's birthday. As much as we wanted to say yes, the lure of the pending weekend-long nap sounded much more appealing. We tried to politely decline and said that she was leaving before we were done working, but we would love to meet her family another time. Halfway through the work day, our boss comes up to us and tells us the rest of our classes are being covered and that we needed to go home immediately to pack because we were going with our landlady and she was leaving soon so we were practically shoved out of the office.

We stared at each other a moment, held back a tear for the rest we knew we weren't going to get and loaded into our landlady's car. 2 hours later, we arrived in Hua Hin to streets lined with thousands and thousands of people wearing yellow shirts, "Long Live the King" headbands and waving red, white and blue-striped Thai flags. What we didn't know was that our landlady's family had already scouted out a spot on the street, a spot where we would spend the next 17 hours sitting, sleeping, eating, not understanding conversation, and, because we were the only foreigners in sight, being on Thai TBS and taking pictures with strange Thai people, until the climax moment when the King flew past us in a caravan the next morning.

One of my favorite travel moments is an opportunity I gladly tried to decline in lieu of sleep and this is something I try to keep in mind whenever I'm abroad: Yea I'm tired and I could nap, but I could see a King!

Which destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?

I think the most underrated destination is your home country for sure! My students in Thailand were always asking me if I had been to all these different places in the US, and almost every time I hadn't. I realized that there are so many cool places in the US that I haven't seen, and I've now added a bunch of "local" places to my travel bucket list; specifically more national parks, New Orleans and anything on the East Coast.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

Greenheart Travel is a really small department, and it's something that not many of our participants know until we tell them there's only 10 of us. We're all very close at work and outside of work, and we love traveling together! I think all of these qualities, tied with the fact that we all genuinely love the work we do, comes out in how we interact and treat our participants. We support and live our mission, and we're excited to help others have their own travel experiences!

Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of your current team

Whenever we get an email from a current participant on their program about how they love their school/placement/kids/host family/experience. Everyone is responsible for their own experience, but we take pride in knowing we provide our participants with the preparation and tools they need to face any challenges they encounter to have a successful experience abroad.