Meet Katie Behrens; a compassionate student, dancer, and barista who just got back from studying abroad in Honduras! She has a huge heart for social justice, experiencing and growing from travel, and the art and challenge of dance. Read on about what motivates her to be compassionate and learn a few tips and tricks from the coffee connoisseur herself!
WHAT ARE YOU UP TO RIGHT NOW? ARE YOU IN SCHOOL, WORK?
Currently, I am a junior at Calvin College for a degree in International Development with a minor in dance. I just got back from studying abroad in Honduras, which was a life changing and eye-opening experience. I am looking forward to taking more classes at Calvin this spring and choreographing for Dance Guild and other dance performances. I will continue to work as a barista at TerraKava Coffee Bar, which I absolutely love to do.
WHAT'S YOUR DAILY ROUTINE LIKE? ANY UNIQUE MORNING RITUALS?
Oddly enough, I do not have a daily routine. I love my schedule to be diverse and spontaneous, so even my mornings tend to be different everyday. Generally, I try to listen to worship music as I get ready for my day to start the day off with a good mood and I also never start a morning without a good cup of coffee! Beyond that, there is generally no routine.
SO YOU STUDIED A SEMESTER IN HONDURAS, TELL US ABOUT THAT! WHAT WERE YOU STUDYING AND HOW WAS IT?
Honduras was an incredible semester studying justice. It was very convicting because my eyes were opened to a life that is beyond myself, yet one that I still have a role in. We visited clothing factories, labor unions, banana plantations, coffee villages, land-related court cases, child sponsorship programs, and multiple NGO’s. At all of these places we talked to the people who live and make their livelihood doing the jobs we seldom think about. Hearing the stories of all these people opened my eyes to the power that I have in every one of my decisions. I have the power to build the Kingdom of God or destroy it, to enhance human dignity or diminish it. I was made aware that my experience of life is not the experience of everyone else and therefore, I have changed a lot of my consumeristic habits. One way I have done this is starting a blog with a few friends, Now Trending: Quality > Quantity, that reviews brands and companies on their dedication to human rights and environmental impacts.
HOW DO YOU REPRESENT THE TRAIT COMPASSIONATE IN YOUR LIFE IN GENERAL, AND IN DAILY LIFE? WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO BE COMPASSIONATE?
Compassion is a quiet trait. It isn’t bold or flashy. In general, compassion comes in the quiet moments of just listening to people and sharing in their joys and sufferings. It requires me to set aside my agenda and focus on others. I have learned to just listen to people wherever they are at, it has really taught me patience and love. I am always motivated to be compassionate when I seek to love my neighbors. Love is compassionate, it is patient, and it is slow to speak. Therefore, when I am loving people I am listening to them and trying to see where they are coming from.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING PART ABOUT LIVING IN ANOTHER COUNTRY? WHAT ABOUT THE BEST PART?
The most challenging part of living abroad, especially in a third world country, is the lack of familiarity. The language difference was probably the largest unfamiliarity. I knew no Spanish going in so it made it very difficult to be able to express myself and understand the people around me. Next, the fact that I am unfamiliar to these people was different. With blonde hair and light skin I did not fit in and often attracted stares walking down the road. Yet, the unfamiliarity also brought a lot of beauty. It allowed me to learn about other people, their culture, their language, their food, and their homeland, which was certainly the best part.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR COMPASSION CONTRIBUTING TO THE WORLD, AND TO OTHERS?
Compassion allows me to see beyond myself and into the heart of others. It gives me a heart that desires to serve people surrounding me and to help them in any way that I can. Therefore, this is a quality that has led me to seeking a degree in International Development. I do not have a plan for after graduation but I hope to serve communities and spread the love of God. This may look like living abroad and working on community development or it may be going to graduate school and becoming a counselor or social worker for vulnerable children.
WHO INSPIRES YOU THE MOST? OR MAYBE A PLACE, OR ANOTHER HOBBY?
A lot of my inspiration comes from my long background in dance. I grew up doing classical ballet and as I got older branched out into modern and contemporary as well. Dance gives me an alternate way to express myself beyond words and gives me a great creative outlet. Recently, I have been very interested in created pieces that support and inspire people in different social movements or problems. For example, I am in the process of choreographing and piece to a spoken word that my friend wrote about what we learned in Honduras and have done a piece on self image and power of mirrors.
ASIDE FROM BEING COMPASSIONATE, WHAT ARE THREE OTHER PERSONALITY TRAITS THAT DESCRIBE YOURSELF AND HOW SO?
Loyal, I do not want people to doubt me or not be able to rely on me. Being a friend who is trustworthy and present is very important to me.
Strong, I am not quick to falter. I have worked to build my house upon the Rock and desire to help be a rock in other peoples lives as well.
Driven, I will not stop until its done. If I commit to it , I will finish it! Kind of encompasses loyalty to projects and commitments.
WHAT'S ONE SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUE YOU WISH EVERYONE COULD BE AWARE OF?
Most definitely, I would love to educate people on the importance of their decisions in regards to buying clothing and other items. This is best described in the blog I mentioned above (Now Trending: Quality> Quantity). Currently, workers in other countries are being taken advantage of in order that we can end up with cheap goods. Somehow, this just doesn’t all line up. We are taking away life from people who are in need and vulnerable for the sole purpose of buying clothing, food, and accessories at cheaper prices. Of course, many people remain ignorant of how many lives are being affected to get the shirt on the rack and even more unaware of the human rights violations taking place to make it at a competitive price. Therefore, I am trying to attack this problem at the core of the consumers. Now Trending does not desire to be negative and to fight big corporations, it is not about doing good or feeling good, and it certainly isn’t a sole solution to fix the problems we are facing. However, it is a way that people can easily educate themselves on what is happening behind the store front and then, a place that leads consumers to make the decisions of how they are going to use their money, what are you going to support?
YOU LOVE COFFEE, AND YOU ARE A BIT OF A COFFEE CONNOISSEUR, WHAT'S THE BIGGEST TIP ABOUT BREWING YOUR OWN, OR TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE CUP?
I am most certainly a coffee connoisseur. Not only do I prefer to brew my own cup, I also roast my own beans. I believe the quality in a cup of coffee starts back at the plant. Therefore, I spent two weeks in Honduras learning the steps of processing coffee from crop to cup. I buy my beans from a co-op that sells green beans to home roasters at the highest quality. I then roast the beans to a light-medium roast in a popcorn air-popper. My favorite way to brew it is definitely a Chemex, which is a similar to a glass pour over. However, if I ever go to a café my go-to drink is an Iced Americano. And, of course, as you probably could have guessed by this point, I do not put any cream or sugar in my coffee, the flavor of the quality beans and roast do not need any doctoring! If you want better coffee buy better beans!
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS? BOTH CAREER-WISE AND PERSONALLY?
I honestly have no idea! I am in a weird place of having dreams and desires for my future but at the same time not knowing what I would like to do. Currently my options include; starting a non-profit, community-development, coffee farm in Africa with a café in the United States to support it, going and finishing grad-school and working at a church or in the foster care system as a social worker, or possibly just go full on Christian missions in South America or Africa. Yes, that’s very broad. Whatever I choose, I desire to be in a place that is helping others and bettering the livelihood of people around the earth.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE FOR THOSE WISHING TO STUDY ABROAD, OR TRYING TO SPREAD COMPASSION?
Go! Don’t just go to say you went or to waste time or to escape. Go to learn, to experience, and to grow. Go with the intentions to invest in the place you are going. Learn about the culture and what your role is in that culture. Learn about the people, hear their stories, be inspired, and of course, share what you learn! Ask yourself the hard questions while doing it so that you can make your experience worth something. Hearing the stories and living with people you do not know can help you grow in compassion as well. It gives you the perspective of others and the ability to walk in their shoes, to see their sufferings and their joys, and to learn more about who you are and where you came from as well.
Check out more from Katie below!