Allie Dunbaugh ’20, Communications Associate
TFAS students know firsthand the transformational benefits of our programs. Some alumni participate in multiple programs to see more of what TFAS has to offer, and some alumni are so captivated by TFAS’s impact they return as staff members. This affords them the opportunity to pass along their enthusiasm for liberty and leadership to the next generation of TFAS students. In our interview series with these individuals, we’re introducing the seven current alumni staff members to showcase the people behind our programs. You can find the other featured interviews linked at the bottom of this page.
In this feature, we’ll hear from Allie Dunbaugh, a 2020 alumna of TFAS Santiago who began working as a communications associate at TFAS in September 2020.
TFAS: Which memory stands out to you as a key part of your TFAS student experience?
Allie Dunbaugh: Every aspect of the TFAS Santiago program was exceptional – we were exposed to so many aspects of Chile’s history and natural beauty, plus a multitude of unique educational opportunities. If I had to choose one memory to share though, I would have to pick the day we hiked the Andes. It was our second day of classes, we were just starting to get to know each other, and then we did this grueling four-hour hike. A few of us had played basketball and soccer together for a couple hours before we went on the hike too, so let’s just say I discovered the hard way where all the muscles in my body are. It was totally worth it though – the sense of accomplishment when we reached the summit and were greeted with a breathtaking view of the city was beyond compare. I definitely credit that day as the experience that brought some of my closest friends and me together.
TFAS: What is the most important lesson you learned from participating in a TFAS program?
AD: The most important lesson I learned from TFAS Santiago was to take advantage of each opportunity offered to you, especially when it means stepping out of your comfort zone. The times I remember most vividly are the moments I felt out of my element, whether that was doing something I didn’t feel confident in (like playing soccer), participating in something completely unfamiliar (dancing the cueca during our Chilean asado), practicing language skills with strangers, whatever it was – those were the highlights of my experience. It was the seemingly small moments like those that elevated the program as a whole.
I’m so thankful to now have a position here where I can help other students have similar encounters, because I truly believe in the transformative power of TFAS.” – Allie Dunbaugh ’20
TFAS: How did your TFAS program prepare you for your future?
AD: TFAS Santiago gave me so much it would be impossible to explain all the ways it prepared me for the future. A few highlights are the importance of creating connections – just starting conversations and getting to know the people around you. The program brings together students from all over the world, so naturally our class was very diverse; everyone had such different backgrounds and ways of thinking about the world, but they were all willing to share their experiences and insight. I learned just as much from the other participants as I did from the classes!
TFAS also prepared me for the future by giving us authentic cultural experiences in Chile. I studied Latin American international affairs in my undergraduate studies and am currently pursuing my master’s in the same field. Everything I learned in Chile has helped me immensely in my studies. Not only did learning about the region and spending time there better prepare me for my classes, but building those lasting connections with people from all over South America who I can discuss current events with and gain firsthand insight from is invaluable. I also learned how to better communicate in intercultural settings, and now that I’m on the communications team at TFAS I can take what I learned there and apply it to both my job and my education.
TFAS: What is the most rewarding aspect of working for TFAS?
AD: The most rewarding part of working for TFAS is playing a part in promoting and sharing all the wonderful opportunities we offer so other young adults can have these life-changing experiences. TFAS Santiago was so transformative that I still haven’t stopped talking about it to anyone who will listen, and now it’s my job to do that, so I feel like I’ve really come full circle.
TFAS: Have you stayed connected with the other participants from your program?
AD: Yes! There are quite a few people I still speak to on a regular basis. We’ve done lots of Zoom calls over the past year, wished each other well on our birthdays, helped each other practice our language skills, discussed current events in each of our countries, and shared life updates and exciting accomplishments.
TFAS: What would you like to say to future TFAS students?
AD: You will not regret doing a TFAS program! I was worried about the timing of mine because I had to miss the first week of my final semester of college and it was right after another international trip I did. I was so nervous about not knowing anyone and being unfamiliar with the country, I seriously considered just not getting on my flight. But I went and I made friends so quickly, learned a ton, and got to experience so many incredible opportunities that I wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise. I am so thankful for the opportunities TFAS provided and for the active role TFAS took in the well-being of its students; I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in the world.
TFAS: Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
AD: TFAS Santiago was such a formative and integral part of my undergraduate experience. To be immersed in a new culture in such a safe environment where TFAS took care of all the logistics was super unique. The people I met there are lifelong friends, and to think that we only spent two weeks together is crazy! TFAS opens the doors to opportunities you may never have considered, and the alumni network spans the globe so you will always have connections. I’m so thankful to now have a position here where I can help other students have similar encounters, because I truly believe in the transformative power of TFAS.