Through leadership development, experiential learning, and engaged service, UNC alumni have had an incredible impact through our programs, and continue to make their mark in their careers. One of these professionals we had the pleasure of connecting with is Michelle Carreño.
After graduating from UNC and participating in the APPLES Global Course Guanajuato, Carreño moved to Colombia to become a bilingual World History middle school teacher with plans to eventually travel around South America alone.
“Traveling solo has been something I have always wanted to do ever since I can remember,” Carreño said. “The idea of going to a foreign place: meeting new people, learning about a new culture, a new language, trying new types of food, dancing different types of music, visiting new places, making decisions on my own from the smallest to the biggest ones and all of this ‘solo’ sounded so fascinating to me, and especially in Latin America with an indefinite time.”
While a student at UNC, Carreño took LTAM classes and instantly connected to the material.
“I did not realize how passionate and interested I became with Latin American studies when I first took classes,” Carreño said. “It was something so natural to me… I truly believe I felt I was searching my identity and learning where I came from.”
Being the daughter of Colombian immigrants, Carreño wanted to explore that side of her identity and moved to Colombia after graduation with the intention of teaching for a couple of years and then traveling alone. After the first year ended and it was time to resign her contract, Carreño made the difficult decision to pursue her solo travel dreams sooner than she intended.
And it paid off.
“What many people do not realize is that traveling brings heaps of enriching perks to our lives and helps humans become stronger,” Carreño said. “Additionally, I soon realized in my travels, you never travel alone because you meet millions of people disposed to give you a hand and share with you your path if it’s for 5 minutes to a few hours to days to months to years.”
Seven countries later, Carreño has taken advantage of her time in South America. Whether camping, hiking, or meeting new people, Carreño explored places in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina. She was even able to meet up with her brother to explore the Amazon and Brazil.
When it comes to traveling solo, Carreño encourages others to do the same.
“I decided to take this trip through Latin America because it has been one of my dreams and I also wanted to empower women, especially Latinas, that they can travel ‘sola’ through their own continent,” Carreño said. “You will grow in so many ways. Best of all, you will see how you’re not either from here nor there and that we are all world citizens/darte cuenta que no eres ni de aquí ni de allá y que todos somos ciudadanos del mundo.”
Whether she is in South America traveling solo or back in the States, you can find Carreño dancing, doing yoga, hiking, swimming, reading, and of course, traveling.
Thank you so much for sharing your adventure with us, Michelle! We can’t wait to hear more!
See more of Michelle’s adventure below: