How do you stay focused on Rustic’s mission to positively impact lives and communities around the world?
I currently live in Chiriqui, Panama which is located close to the border of Costa Rica. During my weekends and free time, I volunteer teaching English and technology to kids in the Ngobe Indigous Community at the Biblioteca de Boquete. I like to think my lessons are fun and allow me to share my American culture – even when I fail miserably at making a New York pizza.
I deeply believe that cross-cultural interactions allow people to learn so much about one another. While all my students learn about American music and food, I also learn about Ngabe traditional dances and holidays.
Rustic Pathways creates that same connection between students and small communities. While they may not speak the same language or even eat the same foods, just being together allows everyone to learn.
What have your own international travels entailed?
While I love to travel, my favorite destinations are the ones where I really spend time in the communities becoming a “local”. I believe someone needs to spend months in a country to truly understand the community’s way of life.
I lived and volunteered in Santa Elena, Ecuador where I worked as a gym teacher at a high school. I also spent a large amount of time teaching and volunteering in Salta, Argentina and Cuipilapa, Costa Rica. I have traveled to over 50 countries and am constantly planning my next destinations.
I also highly encourage people to explore our own beautiful country. The United States is full of such diverse landscapes and interesting people.
I always love traveling to different national parks but my favorite is Yellowstone because I spent a summer working there scooping ice cream at Canyon Village. If it wasn’t for all the hiking, I would have been gigantic from all the ice cream.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
I have been so fortunate to have had amazing cultural immersion experiences that have deeply impacted my life.
Before serving in the Peace Corps, I participated in a high school community service program in Cuipilapa, Costa Rica. My group helped refurbish the community center that had essentially been abandoned. This was also my first time living with a host family and they quickly learned that I was a picky eater.
I loved that experience so much that I decided to travel the next summer to Salta, Argentina and volunteer at a school. All these experiences led me to finally serve in the Peace Corps in Colombia.
I truly believe the experiences we give students and teachers change their lives. Sometimes school can be so boring, especially when trying to learn a new language. Our cultural immersion trips are fun and students get to learn at the same time! Our students not only get impactful educational moments, but they are also making the world a better place at the same time.
Why do you view travel as an essential part of every education?
I believe that experiential learning is one of the most important parts of someone’s education. There is a difference between learning about the Inca Trail and Manchhu Piccu in a stuffy classroom then hiking through the Peruvian rainforest to finish at the Incan ruins.
Students need to see what they are learning in the classroom being used in the real world. It is impossible to truly understand the Inca history without interacting with Quechua people in Cusco!
Studying Spanish for me was boring until I realized that learning the language would allow me to communicate with more people. My experiential learning helped me to become a better student because it brought me closer to the topics we discussed in class.