Alumni Spotlight on Volunteer Katie Heneveld; How Nepal Inspired a Career with Compassion


Q: What first inspired you to volunteer abroad in Nepal?

I was initially inspired to travel with a purpose while visiting my college roommate in Costa Rica while she was in the Peace Corps. I got the travel bug after studying abroad during college and had taken various trips after I graduated, however visiting my friend and talking with her fellow Peace Corps volunteers gave me a desire to do something more meaningful with my travels. I debated between volunteering in South Africa or Nepal through Greenheart Travel, and even though it sounds cliché, I was just drawn to Nepal. There was no clear reason why I made that choice; I just knew I was meant to go to Nepal.

Q: How important do you feel experiencing another culture and country was to your personal growth and career aspirations?

Experiencing other cultures has caused me to reflect on my culture, beliefs, and how I grew up as well as provided many great learning experiences: all of which, I believe, are essential for personal growth. Maintaining a desire to experience and an open mind towards other cultures will be integral for my future career, as I hope to pursue international humanitarian work.

Q: Was there a specific travel experience that sparked your decision to go to graduate school and study nutrition and food policy? 

The process of deciding to go to graduate school was actually quite backwards; I discovered the program after deciding that I wanted to move to Boston. I studied biochemistry in undergrad and have always been interested in nutrition, however the policy aspect to the program will most likely direct my career in a less scientific and more humanitarian path than I would have chosen before. Although volunteering didn’t directly cause this decision, my time in Nepal laid the foundation for me to make the change. Specifically, it gave me first-hand experience with people who were suffering from malnutrition and re-ignited my desire to directly help people through my career.


Q: How did your travels help you realize your personal passions?

I think by spending an extended period of time there and becoming accustomed to life in Nepal, somehow the problems people face there became personal to me. I couldn’t just leave and not do anything about it.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you to get out of your comfort zone?

I don’t really have a mantra or quote that inspires me to get out of my comfort zone, but this one by Wendell Berry is comforting to me after I’ve made the leap:

“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.”

Q: What would you say to someone who wasn’t sure about traveling because they were concerned with their academic or career pursuits?

I would say that although traveling may set you back in a career, the personal growth that is possible through travel is worth so much more than career achievements. To me though, personal growth and fulfillment  is immensely more important and rewarding than any career achievements could be.


Q: How do you hope to apply this volunteer experience in the next chapter of your life academically and professionally?

Volunteering has led me to participate in a summer internship in Nepal where I have worked for Action Contre la Faim, analyzing data and writing a report for a nutrition intervention they have implemented to decrease the prevalence of acute malnutrition. This internship has helped me decide to pursue a career in international humanitarian work after graduating.

Q: Were you able to use your past volunteer experience to help you get into graduate school, and if so, how did you outline your experience on your application or resume?

Yes! My volunteer experience in Nepal played an important role in the personal statement for my grad school application as it was one of the main causes for desiring the change in my career.


Have any questions for Greenheart Travel’s volunteer alumna, Katie? Share them in the comments below!


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