Staff Spotlight: Heather Vaught

Program Director


Heather is Carpe Diem's Latin America Programs Director. After spending many years living and traveling through both Central and South America (and much of the rest of the world!), she now lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two children. While her own adventures are more focused in the Pacific Northwest these days, she loves planning and facilitating international programs for students.

What is your favorite travel memory?

The first time I traveled to India as a college student was so transformative. I have a clear memory of riding in a bicycle rickshaw through Delhi on the second day I arrived, and feeling like there was so much sensory input - the colors, smells, sounds, and sensations were so much I could barely think; all I could do was just sit there and take it all in. The 4 months I spent there taught me a lot about the world, myself, other perspectives, and new ways of living.

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

It has helped me see myself as a leader. Initially, as an Overseas Educator traveling with students, and helping support them in their (oftentimes first) journeys aboard, and now in our office, helping train our Overseas Educators to facilitate these experiences.

It has also helped me expand my definitions of leadership to include all sorts of people and approaches. I hope our students can come to see themselves as leaders in their own lives - whether that is in re-defining their educational path, to becoming global change-makers, to everything in between.

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

There are so many good ones! I love when students share that they've found a new passion that they want to pursue. I've had former students go into the peace corps, get PhDs, become monks, dancers, parents, teachers, scientists, musicians... We've had a number of them now come back to be Overseas Educators too! All of them say that their gap year experience played some sort of a role in the way their life has unfolded and it's wonderful to see they myriad ways that plays out.

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

I have had the opportunity to lead almost all of Carpe Diem's programs over the years and have had amazing experiences with all of them! I'd be excited to travel with our newest program in Spain & Morocco - I'm really interested in the focus on human migration and the contrast of different language and cultures.

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

We have a unique partnership with a non-profit organization, Carpe Mundi. Carpe Mundi works with lower income or first generation college students in the Portland area to help provide support and opportunity for international travel. Every spring Carpe Mundi students travel with our groups and I'm proud of how Carpe Diem prioritizes making our programs accessible to a wide range of students.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

A focus on relationships. At Carpe Diem, we really value on community - within our office, with our overseas educators, within our student groups, and with our in-country partners. Having long-standing relationships with local partners and US-based staff help us design and facilitate successful programs for our students. And having trusting, supportive communities for our students to live, work, and travel with helps support transformational learning.