Adopted at just 6 months old, Kaitlin Beyler had never seen her homeland.
In August, the sophomore biomedical sciences major stepped foot in the city of her birth for the first time, as part of a week-long leadership conference in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“I never got the chance to go back, just because it was so expensive,” said Beyler, who was one of three students representing Troy University at the University Scholars Leadership Symposium. “My mom always wanted to take me back, but we never had the opportunity to, because she’s a single parent.”
For Beyler and her mother, who made the trip with her, it was an eye-opening experience.
“Having the opportunity to go to Vietnam not only gave me a new experience, it let me see where I’m from and helped me connect to who I am,” Beyler said. “I think it was important. I was born in Hanoi, so not only did I get to see my home country, but I got to see the city in which I was born.”
The conference focused on humanitarian efforts as well as teaching leadership qualities.
Beyler was able to go out into the local community and see how life differs in Vietnam from what she’s used to in America.
“I definitely gained a new perspective,” she said. “The culture is very different in Vietnam than it is here. We went to this place, it was a school for elementary kids, and there’s no air conditioning and barely any windows. It’s really interesting to see different cultures and see what’s going on in the world. A lot of times here we’re sometimes blinded to it.”
She plans to make a return trip to Vietnam one day and spend more time helping local residents.
“I definitely think it would be interesting to go back again,” Beyler said. “The conference took a lot of my time. I would like to go back and maybe try to volunteer a little more. That was my favorite part of the conference, getting to volunteer in the community.”
Beyler is active on the Troy Campus, serving as the Freshman Forum director and as a Trojan ambassador.
“Coming to college, I didn’t just want to be a number,” she said. “I think becoming involved and getting your name out there is very important, because not only will it help me learn skills for my future, but it’ll help me help other people. Getting involved makes the college smaller and helps you connect with more people.”