Virtual International Internships 101 with Heilwig Jones of Jaya Responsible Travel
Updated: May 26
Go abroad with your remote internship. In this episode, Heilwig Jones, Co-Founder of Kaya Responsible Travel reveals how gappers can get clarity on their career path through a remote internship, while also making a difference for a community across the world.
After studying abroad in the US, Heilwig Jones wanted to see more of the world. Five years into her career in advertising she took a gap year to travel the world. She planned to go to Africa, then get her working holiday visa in Australia and finish her trip off in Thailand.
Being a woman travelling alone, she decided to sign up for a volunteer wildlife program in Africa, where she got her first experience volunteering abroad. After her volunteer program, she got her visa for Australia and planned to meet her friend in Thailand for the holidays. She ended up making a last-minute decision to postpone her trip to Thailand as she travelled to Australia and New Zealand.
Fortunately, by postponing her trip she missed the Tsunami that hit Thailand on December 26th in 2004. She did, however, make it to Thailand for New Years' and witnessed the devastating impact the Tsunami had on the community. She felt like she needed to do something, so she volunteered with a local Thai organization for four months and learned more about their community and what they had experienced after the Tsunami.
After travelling more of SouthEast Asia, she returned to her advertising job but was unhappy. Her volunteer experience changed her life and she wanted other people to have the same opportunity, so she started Kaya Responsible Travel.
Kaya Responsible Travel is a responsible travel and education abroad organization, which works alongside community initiatives giving travellers the opportunity to immerse themselves in a culture and really learn from it. The program is open to students, career breakers and retirees!
Feeling unhappy in her career and taking a gap year at 27, allowed her to reevaluate who she really was and helped set her on a path to find herself again.
You don’t have to pick education over a gap year. It’s an opportunity to add on to your education, which can help give you clarity on what you want to do with your life like it did for Heilwig.
Sometimes the direction you choose is influenced by outside factors like your friends, family or society. Taking time out and trying new things through internships and programs can help people realize whether they chose the right direction for them or not.
A lot of people want to travel and go on these amazing adventures, but they don’t want to do it alone. However, if you wait for someone to have the same ideas as you, you might never do it.
A lot of friendships start from convenience- you grew up in the same neighbourhood, you went to school together, or your families were friends. Have you ever thought whether you were friends with someone out of history, geography or your interests and goals actually aligned? Doing a volunteer or internship opportunity abroad is a great way to meet new people who are more aligned with you and who you might have never met otherwise.
The pandemic created a new opportunity for responsible travel
Kaya doesn’t have any travellers right now because of the pandemic, but they do have remote participants.
When projects stopped because of COVID19, communities struggled because they didn’t have help from volunteers or their funding got cut so they had to cut staff.
Heilwig wanted to help these communities while also providing people with an opportunity to engage with locals around the world, so she created remote internship opportunities.
Students are currently getting work experience while helping out local communities and learning about different cultures. As part of the program, Kaya organized cultural workshops like cooking classes and buddy chats with local students who also get credit for participating.
Everyone benefits from this program and it’s a good way to dip your toes in before travelling.
Although no one can travel, there are still opportunities to have global experiences during your gap year.
How to find responsible remote internship opportunities
Look for an organization that has connections with locals
Ensure there’s a supervisor that is dedicated to supporting your work
Look for work that is relevant for the community
Ensure there is enough work for you to do
Look for an organization that encourages taking on challenges, because you’ll get the most out of those experiences
Kaya in real life
One student was interested in public health and Spanish, so Kaya matched her at a women’s health outreach organization in Ecuador, where she was also able to take Spanish classes on the side. During her remote internship, she helped develop a campaign on teenage pregnancy, where she planned workshops and wrote a grant proposal, which allowed the organization to expand its work. Through this experience, she discovered she wanted to work in women’s health.
Kaya Responsible Travel customizes every experience to match the person’s skills and interests from health care, animal welfare to business and art. The sky’s the limit at Kaya!
Check out theGap Year Game Plan to meet people like you and find out about the opportunities available to you