Early on in his time at the University of Richmond, Aaron Daugherty, '09, realized that his education was not going to end when he left UR.

“As a biologist, I knew I needed a Ph.D. to do what I wanted in terms of a career,” Daugherty said.

With that in mind, he quickly started making plans to continue his education after UR. In his junior year, however, Daugherty spent a semester abroad at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. He got the travel bug, and following his time abroad, Daugherty started to question his plans.

Fast-forward to the fall of his senior year — instead of applying to graduate schools like some of his classmates, Aaron was looking for opportunities around the globe.

“I decided that grad schools weren’t going to disappear in a few years, and this was the best time in my life to get out and see some more of the world,” he said.

In the end, Daugherty took advantage of two opportunities. The first was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant through the University of Richmond that allowed him to spend 10 weeks in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, working with HHMI researcher Dr. Santuza Teixeira.

While in Brazil, Daugherty conducted research during the week and usually spent the weekends traveling.

“As soon as I arrived, Santuza said to me, ‘You’ll be doing science for the rest of your life, but this may be the only time you are in my country. You need to go out and see it,’” he said. “So, obviously she was really flexible in allowing me to travel while I was working.”

However, the traveling had really just begun for Daugherty. A week after he returned from Brazil, he was off again, this time to Indonesia with a Fulbright grant to teach English. For the next nine months he worked as an English teaching assistant, or an ETA, in a rural Muslim boarding school on the island of Sulawesi.

“It was pretty remote. A lot of the people there had never been in contact with a foreigner before. I actually caused some motorcycle accidents because people would be staring at me while they were driving,” Daugherty said, laughing.

As an ETA, Daugherty taught several classes per day to the equivalent of high school sophomores and juniors. There were roughly 300 boys and girls from 7th through 12th grade that lived in the school six days a week. In the evenings, Daugherty would often host English Club for interested students.

“The English Club was supposed to be a time for the students to practice their English, but it turned into me talking about America,” Daugherty said. “It was good though, because they really had no clue what it was like to live in the U.S.”

After his time in Indonesia, Daugherty traveled Southeast Asia for a few months, even catching up with fellow alumna Stephanie Swisher, '09. Now safely home, Daugherty is back on schedule. He will start studying in the genetics Ph.D. program at Stanford University in the fall of 2011, only a few years removed from his original plan.

“I’m so glad I took the time off,” he said. “I’m much more motivated to head back to school now. The longer I’m back the more I realize how amazing and unique my experiences really were.”