Education Without Borders

Senior capitalizes on opportunity to teach English abroad, experience culture


Instead of the traditional college route, senior Kendra LaRoche is taking an English teaching job in Ancud, Chile, on a gap year.

LaRoche said she is currently getting her Teaching English as a Foreign Language certification, which allows a student to teach in different countries without a college degree. She said she will be teaching kindergarten to third-grade students on her own after a few months of assistant teaching.

“I was applying to colleges, and I just realized that I didn’t want to go right after high school because school has always been super draining for me,” she said. “I wanted to do something important and kind of figure out what I wanted to do before I went to college.”

Though she was initially unsure about the process, LaRoche said teaching abroad was always a proposition that intrigued her.

“I didn’t think at first that I could do it,” she said. “I’ve never gone so far out of my comfort zone like that. Then I started talking to people about it, and they said, ‘No that’s so exciting — I wish I could do something like that.’ I just thought, ‘Why can’t we? I’m going to do it.’”

LaRoche said she plans to attend Kansas State University after her gap year but isn’t limiting herself to that plan.

“We’ll see what happens after Chile — if I want to stay there an extra year, then I’ll do that,” she said. “I’m just kind of going with it.”

LaRoche said her family and friends were supportive of her future plans.

“My whole family was super excited,” she said. “They thought it was the best thing for me to do because they know how I feel about going to school next year. They said that if I was going to take a year off, why not do something like this with it.”

Social studies teacher Brian Mowry was an inspiration for her, LaRoche said.

“He said something in class like, ‘You’re not learning unless you are uncomfortable,’ and I was thinking of how comfortable I am in this school setting and how it’s so easy to just get by,” she said. “If I’m comfortable and not looking for new things and experiencing new things, I don’t feel like I’m learning.”

LaRoche said she feels this trip will change her outlook on life.

“I just felt like I needed to do something that puts me way out so I can come back and be OK with anything and not be uncomfortable in any position,” she said. “[I feel like] I could do anything after I go there.”

Along with a group of other students, LaRoche said her stay will be paid for in exchange for services such as farm help, planting and basket weaving through a program called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

“Being away from my family and friends and not knowing anyone is the scariest part,” she said. “If I want to talk to my family, I’ll have to go into the city, which is pretty far from where I’m going to be. I’ll only be able to talk to them a few times in the year, but they all plan to come see me during Christmas, so that’ll be exciting.”

LaRoche said her interest in South America led her to choose Chile for her location.

“Chile is just beautiful — it’s where I wanted to go,” she said. “They’re so blocked off from other influences of so many other cultures because it is hard to get there.”

LaRoche said her students will come from rural areas where they can’t afford private education, and public school English teaching is inadequate.

“Hopefully I have an impact on [my students] — I hope to help them,” she said. “I think it will be a really different perspective for me since I’ve always been the student. Working with the kids and getting to know them — that’s the most exciting part for me.”