(Chris Hayden’s original song, Steady)

Remember that post about how talented WorldTeach volunteers? Well, we have another alumni to feature today–Chris Hayden, Marshall Islands 2014-2015.


1) Before we start, I just want to ask if photography is a hobby/profession of yours. I know you as sojourn. studios on instagram, aka the guy who posts beautiful instagram pictures. I love looking at them on the WorldTeach feed and I just want to know more about your work!

C: Photography started off as a hobby. I went to school for architecture, and at the time my brother had a nice camera and I would borrow it for architectural stuff. From that, I met with photography-enthusiasts, who introduced me to different lenses. So, I rented some professional lens and other professional equipment and that is when it became more than a hobby. Now, I document my travels and use photography as a way to sustain myself.

2) So tell me more about yourself—what were you doing before WT, what made you decide to start with WT, and why The Marshall Islands?

C: After I graduated, I know that I didn’t want to pursue Architecture. I met a guy from church who worked in a computer design company and introduced me to a service trip. I took the mission trip to Africa–South Africa and Swaziland, where I blogged. I also had a friend who served with WorldTeach in Costa Rica and really enjoyed her time there and encouraged me to apply.

Why the Marshall Islands? I would say that it is the most radical trip out there, and I applied right before January 2014. I was done with Memphis for months and I was ready to get out; I always loved travelling, and the atmosphere of being alone and traveling around and taking pictures, document everything in the Marshall Islands was a real draw.

3) How do you spend your day in The Marshall Islands? Talk me through your day.

C: Time pass by really slowly in the Marshall Islands, and sometimes I was just waiting for the day to end. There was a point where I started running 5 days a week. I would wake up, teach in the school, skip lunch to read, at 5pm I would go running, or jump into the lagoon and hang out with the kids, then take a shower, get cleaned up and finally have dinner. On lazy days, I just do some writing and sit on the hammock and read.

5) What are some of the unique cultural experiences that you took away from The Marshall Islands?

C: Communication is a huge one. Everyone over there is just talking and laughing and there is no distractions from technology / smartphones. Everyone knows everybody; I live in an island of 200 people and there is no fear, the kids just run around the island like it is their own backyard–that will never happen in America. I realize early on, that I didn’t need all the luxuries, when we eat over there, we are just eating to eat, to live, and not to, for example, find the best tasting food. There is really no culture of excess in the Marshall Islands.

4) Have you taught before? What are some of the rewards and the challenges you faced with regards to teaching?

C: Hmm. To start off with the challenges, I have no idea how tough teaching is. I have little teaching experience; I like kids but I haven’t had a lot of interacting with kids, so i haven’t had a lot of opportunities. I don’t really know much about the child development process and what they should be learning at a particular age. So, I spent the first weeks getting to know the kids, and their differing level of learning.

The rewards of teaching do came progressively, such as when the kids understand you. Leaving was so different because the kids and I would play after school, they would come to my room and we would just read together. I was still a teacher and they were still my students but we connected, we became friends. One of my kids started tearing up when I was scheduled to leave in a week.

6) You recently returned from The Marshall Islands, what is it like to leave and what is the plan moving forward? What did you miss most about The Marshall Islands, and do you think you will ever visit again or do another teaching-abroad/volunteer-abroad programs?

C. It was hard, certain parts were hard–the goodbyes with the kids were a concrete goodbye: this is the end of our relationship, I’m not coming back to see you in a couple of weeks. Being on the outer island, it is even harder to go back to visit.

Moving forward–Me and J (another volunteer) were talking about getting a boat, and sailing around the world. It is not in the immediate agenda, but eventually we will do that. Currently, I will be going on this 500 year old pilgrimage in Spain. I leave on September 1st to London and I will make my way to Spain. After the pilgrimage, I will hop on the train and do some WWOVing and I will be back in Memphis for Christmas.

7) Any last advice for prospective WT volunteers?

C: Learn a lot about yourself, and be embrace differences–there is no one culture that is more right than another. Also, be open to adventure! Take each day as it comes. it will go by so fast while you’re there.