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Photo by Ryan Kost, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Instructor Introduction

Hola amigxs!

I am so happy to be writing you to introduce myself as one of your instructors for your upcoming course this spring in South America! I’m sure lots of excitement is stirring in the air.

I’m writing to you from the east coast of the U.S. where I’m taking some much relished time with family before heading off to join you all in Peru. Although the mountains of North Carolina are where I grew up, I like many instructors have wandered to new places experiencing many different paths of life, and have been fortunate enough to call several places home along the way. Those years in the Appalachians, with their endless amounts of waterfalls, nurtured a passion for all things outdoors (most specifically rock-climbing and backpacking amongst wildflower-rich peaks.) But despite cherishing these memories at home, the most influential moments of my childhood were spent far away from that comfort zone.

Growing up I spent most of my summers with my mother exploring South America and developing an appreciation for foreign places and an expanded comfort zone. These times were transformative for me in more ways than I could relay, but essentially I learned that you can create home and family with people from all walks of life if you are willing to come forth with an open heart and an open mind. In my life I try to harness these two values in everything I do.

I dove into my love for Latin America by studying Latin American History and Mayan studies at University. After graduating I spent a year working with AmeriCorps as an academic enrichment specialist with schools in Western North Carolina. This time with AmeriCorps spurred a love of teaching, which inspired me to venture back to Latin America and embark on a year of teaching in a Mayan community in the Guatemalan highlands.

Most recently I have been working up in the Rockies of Colorado at the High Mountain Institute, where I have been leading 18 day wilderness expeditions and teaching U.S. History and Spanish to high school Juniors. I adore the outdoors and all the challenges and joy that it brings. This is another place where I am definitely pushed to take risks and get out of my comfort zone. Some of my proudest moments have been in the backcountry, so it is with great excitement that I get to share this passion with you all on our various treks.

Besides education and the great outdoors, some of my other passions in life are mangos, books of all types, attempting crossword puzzles with desperate enthusiasm (although I almost never complete them) and practicing handstands. So if you have ever wanted to take on a new skill, in the form of handstand-learning, the time is here.

I was fortunate to have a mother who encouraged me to take risks. I think taking risks is one of the most unnatural things a person can do. It’s scary. Therefore it is one of the hardest things we can do. But if we do, we come out the other side with elation, introspection and growth. It’s these moments that inspire me to chase my own growth by forcing myself outside of my comfort zone whenever possible. I’m already so proud to see you all exhibit the courage of taking a risk, and I am honored to be with you on that journey these next few months.

One of my favorite ladies in the world once said,

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

– Maya Angelou

I carry these words with me often, and I hope they can lend something to you as well as you begin preparations for this big adventure!

I can’t wait to share the beautiful places of Peru and Bolivia with you all, and maybe along the way a little piece of you will fall in love with a home-away-from-home, like I did.

I am here for anything you might need as these next few weeks. I can’t wait to meet you all!

Huzzah!

Abrazos,

Cat