Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?
I have three older siblings and from a young age the travel bug has been instilled in me because of them. I began doing service trips while in high school with my youth group which shaped my life path and I knew that I wanted to study abroad during my collegiate career as well. During my junior year in university, I embarked on a program to South Africa! We travelled around the country and then stayed in a nature reserve on the Eastern Cape for our courses. That experience sparked my passion even more and I knew that I wanted to make a career out of it.
What country have you always wanted to visit?
I just got home from a whirlwind tour of Southeast Asia, India, and the South Pacific for the past two and a half months! It was an incredible experience but as you know the world still has more to offer! My ethnicity is a mix of Polish, Slovak, and Russian and because of that I have always had a dream to visit the homeland to see the areas my ancestors came from and to meet family that is still living over there. I'd love to take this trip with members of my family which would make the experience that much more meaningful.
Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?
When I travel, I strive to connect with the place by learning some of the language and immersing myself in the local culture. That is why I love working for Rustic Pathways because as an organization, they also believe in the power of connecting with a place to get the most out of an experience. I have seen firsthand, how much richer my times have been in Cambodia when I have been attempting to speak the language (that I am slowly learning!) and when I seek out unique opportunities. This past summer I attended my first Cambodian wedding and it was quite an affair!
Long after I am back Stateside after my time in Cambodia, I often find myself thinking back on those past experiences where I was able to immerse myself. We are all people living in one world and when we take the time to learn from others and connect with them, we all become richer from it.
Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of the Rustic Pathways team.
I am very passionate about community service work and I strive to make our projects address vital needs and have lasting impact in the communities we work in. During a needs assessment with a community partner, we learned that repairing houses was a major priority for the leaders as most people who lived there were not able to repair houses themselves. From this meeting came our Housing Repair Project that students on our Floating Villages program now participate in. Summer 2014 was our first summer working on this project and myself and my team was blown away by its success. We surpassed our goal and actually accomplished building two homes. It was so rewarding to see the teamwork between our staff, students, and community members, and to also see the joy that came from it.