Growing up, I feel I was fortunate to be born and raised in one place: Glastonbury, Connecticut. The majority of my extended family lived within 20 minutes. I had a great group of friends, some of whom I met in kindergarten and still call my best friends to this day. I loved my friends and loved my family, but realized I also loved “traveling” when I was 16.
Homesickness has never been an issue for me. When I was 10, I went to sleepover camp in New Hampshire for the first time. As soon as I was old enough, I started working there. I lived and worked at camp anywhere between 9 and 14 weeks for 5 summers in a row. My camp friends were my second family. Homesickness simply wasn’t a factor.
Just before I turned 16, I participated in a study abroad program through my high school. We had a student from Spain live with us for two weeks that September, and the following February I lived with him and his family in Madrid. Seeing the world “on my own” was eye opening and thus inspired my passion for traveling.
When deciding where I would go to college, I knew I wanted “something different” for 4 years. My friend from camp recommended going to the Midwest, where he had decided to go after growing up in Connecticut (and Summers at camp in New Hampshire.) He said he would do it all over again, and he was about to graduate. My main concern when it came to picking schools was finding a school with a great study abroad program. Spain had my heart at 16 and I was determined to go back. A year after talking to my friend from camp about the Midwest, I moved into my dorm at Valparaiso University in Indiana. I was one of the farthest from home of my group of friends, but sure enough… I would do it all over again, too.
Because Spain was a business-only study abroad and was not compatible with my future elementary education career, I chose to study abroad in Cambridge, England. I loved being able to call another city my “home.” I loved making (and dating) English friends, traveling through Europe, and making lifelong memories. It was then that I knew I was going to be an international elementary teacher. It was the perfect plan for me. I knew since I was a little girl that I would be a teacher, and to incorporate that with travel and making friends from around the world? There was nothing that sounded more perfect. I knew I had to do it upon graduation before I “settled” down (in any sense of the word).
Senior year of college, I traveled to Iowa for the largest annual international education job fair in the USA. There, I signed a contract for an elementary position in Kuwait City, Kuwait. Call me crazy. Moving to Kuwait was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But, it was also the biggest “personal growth” year of my life. I saw parts of the world that not many people would be willing nor are able to see. I befriended some of the most wonderful people from Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, and more. Towards the end of the school year, I knew it was time to move on.
It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Kuwait, as I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had while I was there. However, I had faith that something better was out there. A month after deciding to leave at the end of the school year, I accepted a 4th grade teaching position in San Jose, Costa Rica. The move here was a thousand times easier – perhaps because it was the second major international move, or perhaps because Costa Rica is so similar to the States in so many ways. The sight of this country in the rainy season brought tears to my eyes daily, after spending a year in the desert. I have never been happier or more certain that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be right now. I found my pura vida.
Teaching internationally is one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever had. I have learned so much from my students, both in Kuwait and now in Costa Rica. The relationships I’ve made with their parents, with school staff, and with my coworkers are amazing and eye opening. I feel like I’m completely fulfilling my life dream: traveling, teaching, and learning about the world.
I am a huge advocate for getting out there in the world while you can. For anyone who is willing to ask the question, “Should I do it?” when it comes to traveling or making the big move, there is only one answer: yes. I haven’t met a single person who has regretted living abroad, no matter what career, what age, or what the reason being the move is. I truly believe there is nothing a person could benefit from more. And I truly believe it is something people could so regret, if they only knew the adventures they would be missing. I live and breathe these quotes, daily:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain
"Find something you are passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it." - Julia Child
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
This is the time. Adventures are out there.