Staff Spotlight: Dave Austin

Outreach Coordinator


Dave has worked in the field of education for over seven years on three different continents, and it was during his time abroad that he learned the powerful impact that international education can have on people and communities. Since returning to the U.S. to get his master's three years ago, he has found work he loves with Carpe Diem Education supporting students towards meaningful travel and community engagement.

What is your favorite travel memory?

A few winters ago, I traveled to the Indian Himalayas for an ice hockey tournament. That might be surprising to hear—that India has ice hockey—, but in fact, the small town of Leh in the Ladakh region of northern India is somewhat of a hockey hotbed. The freezing alpine winters offer perfect conditions for an outdoor rink right in the middle of town, and hundreds of people crowd around it every day to watch games.

What made this so amazing was not just that we were playing outdoors in -25º weather, surrounded by cheering fans, snowcapped mountains, and religious temples, but that there were so many people there who were just as passionate about ice hockey as any fan you'd find in the more traditional spots like North America or Europe. Bonding with people over a shared love for the game—in such an unexpected corner of the world—was such a cool experience!

Also, we got to be part of the Guinness World Record ceremony for the highest altitude hockey game ever played (around 14,000 ft. of elevation)!

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

My favorite part of my job, by far, is helping students recognize their potential and reach it.

Prior to working with Carpe Diem, most of my experience was working with university students and recent graduates, but since joining Carpe I've come to realize what an impact travel can have on younger students as well. Not only does it broaden your worldview and expose you to diverse perspectives, but it also expands your understanding of the world and the impact you want to have on it. It better prepares students to enter college and make an informed decision of what they want to study.

I get so excited to learn about our students' personal and professional goals and discuss with them how our programs can help them achieve them.

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

This is a hard one, I've heard so many great/funny/heartwarming/tearjerking stories from my students. They are what constantly reaffirm why I have chosen to make a career out of international education.

One of the best probably came from a student of mine who had been struggling mightily with her adjustment to college. She was attending an elite, top-tier university on a full scholarship, and was having a hard time finding her niche among her peers there - she couldn't decide on a major, she had few close friends, and she was questioning whether college had been the right choice for her or not.

After participating in one of our programs in Asia, she made some of her closest friends in her peer counterparts abroad, and discovered in herself a passion for urban studies, particularly around issues of food security. She returned to school reinvigorated to pursue urban studies as her major, and has since returned to Asia on a fellowship where she is improving her language skills and maintaining the relationships she found through our program. The shift that I witnessed in her was so powerful and made me so proud!

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

Spanish Immersion and Conservation in South America!

This is one of Carpe Diem's longest-running and most popular programs for a good reason. Not only does it explore some of the most beautiful natural landscapes on planet earth—from the Cloud Forest of Ecuador, to the rugged Andes Mountains of Peru, and all the way down to the Amazon Rain Forest—but it also gives students the opportunity to learn firsthand from some of the world's leaders in environmental conservation. That combination makes it truly unique!

Additionally, the Program Director, Heather, has been working with Carpe Diem for over 10 years and has done a phenomenal job developing the South America program into what it is today. She exemplifies what it means to truly love the work you do, and that reveals itself in the awe-inspiring impact that this program has on its students.

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

I think the fact that we prioritize our students' success above all else. There are a lot of organizations out there that care more about their bottom line than anything else, but Carpe Diem has never been that way. Whenever we engage with students and their families, we're always asking questions to understand their goals and figure out if what we offer is the best option to achieve them. If we feel that our program is not a good fit for a student, we're not only honest about it, but we try to be helpful in pointing them towards something else that might be more suitable, even if it's with a "competitor".

There have been countless instances where I've been proud of my team, but most notably is probably when alumni drop by the office and there are hugs all around and you can really feel the sense of community. We often throw out the terms "Carpe Community" and "Carpe Family", and I think that's a very real thing and I'm honored and proud to be a part of it. People here are really genuine and look out for one another.

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

I think for Carpe Diem, we define success through the growth of our students. One of the reasons we have remained such a small organization is the level of personalized attention it allows us to give to each student. Every program has a maximum of 12 students on it, and we only serve about 140-180 total students per year. The Program Directors get to know every single individual joining their programs and keep in touch with them even after they return home. That commitment to supporting students is something that has endeared us to them for many years.