What position do you currently hold at Carpe Diem and what has been your career path thus far?
Heather: Prior to working with Carpe Diem, I both worked in Environmental Education and led high school summer programs abroad. Currently, I am the Latin America Programs Director at Carpe Diem. I started with Carpe Diem in 2008, as an Overseas Educator traveling with groups of students in a variety of regions. I led 6 semesters as an Overseas Educator, 3 of which were in Latin America. When I first came into the office, it was as the Latitudes Director, where I helped students find independent volunteer placements abroad. After a year, I transitioned to work with the Latin America programs.
What country have you always wanted to visit?
Heather: While I’ve cumulatively spent many years in Central and South America, I’ve not yet been to Spain. That’s currently high on my list, to experience a different perspective on Spanish language and culture. I’d also love to visit Southern India. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Northern India, but haven’t been to the south and I hear it’s wonderful – and very different than the north.
Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?
Heather: It gives a whole new way to experience the world! Speaking another language and living life in ways that are different than my “normal” day to day helps me to be open-minded to other experiences and ways of living. It challenges my assumptions and encourages me to reflect on how I live my life.
How have you changed/grown since working for Carpe Diem?
Heather: I’ve become more flexible and learned to let go of expectations. I’ve learned to see myself as a leader and now work to empower students and co-workers as leaders too. I’ve also been able to find more balance in my life and have found ways to be joyful not only while traveling, but also while working at our office in Portland.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
Heather: I love hearing from students in the years after their experience with Carpe Diem. So many of my former students have gone on to travel, volunteer, work and live abroad, its hard to choose just one. One of the first students I worked with has gone on to a PhD program now and is doing research in Guatemala – where she traveled as a Carpe Diem student. Another student has gone on to join the Peace Corps. Another traveled back to a small community in Thailand to visit his former homestay family and maintain connections, despite a lack of shared language. Its lovely to see hear about the impact these experiences have had on students.