Leah Karels

Peru Instructor
M.A. – American Studies, Class Valedictorian, Heidelberg Center for American Studies
B.A. – American Studies, Magna Cum Laude, Carleton College
Leah grew up in a small town in Minnesota. The child of teachers, she developed an appreciation for education early in life – her love of travel came later. Leah received her first taste of cultural immersion working at an educational nonprofit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil after her junior year of college. She commuted via packed microbuses; ate her weight in sugar apples; learned to think, bargain, and joke in Portuguese; and talked global politics with colleagues over plates of feijoada. She realized how invigorating it was to be pushed outside of her comfort zone over and over again and found that even the most challenging days were still rewarding (or at least instructive).

Leah returned to South America after graduating from college to live and teach in Argentina for six months before traveling slowly through the Andes for another six. This journey taught her that she loved working with students as much as she loved being one. Over the next seven years, she instructed inquisitive middle schoolers in South Korea, designed and taught university-level American Studies courses in Portugal for a Fulbright fellowship, and led experiential summer camps for high schoolers in Germany. In 2015, Leah earned an M.A. from the University of Heidelberg. Her interdisciplinary thesis examined the role of place in identity formation. A State Department-sponsored English Language Fellowship in Indonesia allowed her to experience the richness of training other teachers. Based at a local university, she also traveled around the Indonesian archipelago, leading workshops on classroom community-building, collaborative learning, and cross-cultural communication. Before joining Dragons, Leah was working in the off-campus studies office of a small liberal arts college, coordinating pre-departure programming to prepare and inspire students to study abroad. She is thrilled to be working with Dragons, experiencing the challenges and rewards of traveling in South America with a group of intrepid student travelers.

Along with traveling, Leah’s favorite activities include running outdoors, reading speculative fiction, eating street food, scuba diving (preferably with octopi), and jigsaw-puzzling.