Do you remember the first time you fell in love?
I was just 16! A friend from school had fallen in love the previous summer so it was all she talked about.
How could I not want to have the same experience?
So before the next summer came around, I decided I was going to do it too! I was going to spend the summer abroad.
I quickly joined the cultural exchange program to Spain coordinated by my school. This was my chance to find out what it was all about and fall in love.
And fall in love, I did!
Ordinary things became extraordinary.
- The Spanish language I had heard growing up in Los Angeles was now musical and poetic.
- Shopping for groceries was like an expedition into unknown territories, making new discoveries as I went along.
- Bread, cheese, and coffee were no longer just daily sustenance, but culinary feats.
- And dinner time converted from ritual to critical discourse on life, politics, and humanity.
As the language and culture began to transform, so did I.
- I learned to appreciate the simpler things.
- I learned the importance of exploring difference.
- I learned that cultural exploration requires a specific set of skills.
- And I learned that the only thing I really knew I wanted to do for the rest of my life was travel.
It was decided!
Whatever it took to lead a global life, I was going to do it.
Before my time in Spain came to an end, I sat with our teacher and asked:
What can I do for a living that will allow me to travel?
She said, “teach English”.
No sooner did I decide that I was going to travel the world teaching English as a Second Language.
Seven years later on course with just a few detours (including a semester abroad to France), I completed my degree in Linguistics with a Specialization to Teach English as a Foreign Language and received the RSA/Cambridge Certificiate to Teach English to Speakers of Other Languages.
Just one year later, I began living my global life with my first job abroad teaching English in Seoul, South Korea.
This was a very different experience from the first, we all know it is impossible to duplicate the first time.
My year living and teaching abroad can best be described as turbulent. There were incredible highs and unbelievable lows. Nonetheless, the year I spent in South Korea was equally valuable and transformational.
- I learned how to teach and teach well.
- I learned to be resilient in the face of adversity.
- I learned that culture shock is real and no joke.
- And I learned that I was human and vulnerable to world around me.
When I returned home to the United States, I continued to teach English but quickly grew bored in the classroom.
Yes, bored! I needed a new challenge.
And so began the evolution of my career in international education and leadership.
What did I do?
#1 I looked for new challenges and worked hard!
I was teaching in a university based program which also offered programs in the summers for special groups. I quickly learned from more seasoned staff that running these programs was a lot of work for very little pay and no one really like to lead them.
Not afraid of a lot of work for little pay, I applied to run a special program and got the job.
And for the next four years I ran numerous special programs honing my skills in program coordination, course development, event planning, budgeting, and leadership.
#2 I raised my profile.
I decided to share my experience with others and submitted a proposal to present at the annual TESOL Conference, the largest professional conference for ESL/EFL teachers in the world. And in 1999, I presented “The Ins and Outs of Short Term Programs” at my first international conference in New York, New York.
And I have since presented at more than 25 international conferences around the world, in the US, Canada, and Europe.
# 3 I converted my experience into a new expertise.
By taking on new challenges and raising my profile, I was promoted from part-time to full-time with additional program coordination responsibilities. Within just two years, I was confident I had skills I needed to move beyond the classroom. I decided to leave teaching all together and used my experience to earn a position as a Program Coordinator with another organization.
This job presented me with new opportunities for leadership and learning, and travel. I began facilitating cross-cultural trainings for the organizations participants and developed a new passion for training and intercultural communication.
#4 And finally, I have learned to remain focused on learning and growth.
In 2003, I went back to school to earn a degree in Leadership and Training and have focused my work on the relationship between global experiences and leadership.
Since 2007, I’ve been working independently as an intercultural and leadership trainer and consultant traveling around the world talking to people about cultural differences, leadership, and organizational effectiveness.
Today, when asked what I do for a living, I will say:
I am a Life Guide, Leadership Expert, and Organizational Consultant who equips millennials with leadership tools for life.
Not the career I set out to have when I was 16, but a rich career that has evolved through the experiences and learning I have had since that day I arrived in Spain so long ago.
Leading a global life isn’t a destination, it’s a journey.
And similarly, so is establishing a career that allows you to live the kind of life you want.
Discover the beauty.
Live the adventure.
Believe in the wonder!
This is Part Two of the Ideal Global Life Summit November mini-blog challenge: #2 Tell us about your first “global” experience. Be sure to catch my interview “Make Your First Time Abroad Rock!” in January 2014. Register here, its FREE!
For more about my global life and intercultural learning, check out these:
Going Somewhere? How to be a culturally competent traveler
Time for an Upgrade: Moving beyond the Golden Rule
Study Abroad Hangover! Re-adjusting to life back home
How to Manage Culture Shock: Symptoms and Solutions
On the Road Again: The Power of Travel
We’ve gone down very similar paths, Tamara. I started out as an English then German teacher but left the classroom for new challenges. And we both decided at the same age to live a global life! Thanks for participating in the #mygloballife challenge!
You are welcome! While there are many paths to a global life it is always interesting to see where they intersect.