Staff Spotlight: Kayte O'Malley

Resident Director and Service-Learning Coordinator Galway, Ireland


Kayte, tell us about yourself.

I was born in Co. Kerry in the South West corner of Ireland and studied Law at the University of Limerick before moving to Galway to pursue a Masters in Irish Studies at NUIG. I spent a semester abroad in Toulouse, France and speak Irish (Gaelic) fluently. I have worked for ISA for the past 3 years.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memory was a recent trip to Lesotho and South Africa in 2015 with my family to visit Action Lesotho, an Irish NGO bringing humanitarian aid to the people of Lesotho.

During this trip, we were fortunate to visit the farm, craft center, school, and breakfast club that Action Lesotho run in Maputsoe.

For me, it was especially rewarding to meet some of the community that Action Lesotho work with and see the direct impact that our fundraising at home in Ireland is having on their quality of life.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Since beginning my journey with ISA in 2013, I have grown a huge amount. I am now more confident, I have better communication skills, I am more focused and driven. I have a vision for ISA in Galway and for my role within that and I am excited to work hard to bring that vision to life.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

This year saw the launch of ISA Service-Learning programs in Galway and some of the stories from students have had us all in (happy) tears in the ISA office!

The most rewarding story is definitely from two of our students who worked with an equine assisted learning center. One of the clients, a young boy with autism, always dreamed of riding a horse but he was terrified to be around them.

When the girls started their service-learning program, this child would barely leave the car for fear of the horses. Gradually, with a lot of work on all sides, he gained confidence. He started out leading the horses and doing some ground work and grooming before he finally plucked up the courage to sit on the horses back. When this happened, he closed his eyes and whispered that it was the best day of his life.

Moments like that definitely make our programs and our group discussions sparkle.

Another great story from our service-learning group were two of the students who worked with community partners who provided technology training to seniors. These girls were paired with two elderly nuns.

Each week they had really heartwarming stories about teaching their nuns how to use laptops and email. They had had very limited exposure to 'the Internet' and were amazed by Google. They insisted on Googling images of the Pope and used the Google maps feature to do a virtual tour of Rome and even managed to email our two student tutors angel emojis!

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Galway aside, I've always wanted to travel in Morocco and ISA has some service-learning options there that really appeal to me. I think the exotic mix of East meeting West would make it a really interesting country to explore and I think that service-learning gives students an opportunity to engage with the community that they visit on a deeper level. I would just have to remember to pack the Factor 50 sunscreen!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

What makes ISA unique is that we treat every student as an individual. Students aren't simply just numbers to us, they are personalities and opinions and thoughts and experiences and challenges and most importantly, they are individuals.

We strive to make a connection with all of our students and ensure that they get a great insight into the city that they are visiting and have a really great experience abroad. We're conscious that for many, this will be their first international experience and we want it to be memorable for all the right reasons.

I was incredibly proud of my team throughout 2017. As I mentioned, this was our first year of offering ISA Service-Learning in Galway. This was a huge challenge to get off the ground but we persevered and with some creative thinking, determination and good old fashioned team work it's been a huge, huge success. Seeing the student testimonials has made all the hard work worth it.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I think the single greatest factor in being a successful company is communication. One of the many challenges of working on site is that quite often the team member that you need to consult with is in a different timezone, and you're often communicating via Skype or whatever. While there is no substitute for face-to-face contact, we all work really hard to ensure that we communicate well with each other and that everyone's voice is heard.