Thursday, July 18, 2013

Girl in Transition: Two Years & Counting

Tiffany Harrison, GoAbroad Bus

"Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."    

- C.S. Lewis

I've always loved that quote. I like to think that as you get older, it's discovering the magic in reality that makes for a true fairy tale. If we can discover the happy endings in every obstacle and challenge that comes our way, it's safe to say that one never really has to outgrow fairy tales.

Earlier this week, I marked my two year anniversary with and it's been a fairy tale of the best variety - filled with ups, downs, moments that made me laugh and cry, and the kind of learning that comes with a job you truly love.

Working in international education isn't everything I imagined it might be - it's more. It's more work, more persistence, and more passion than even someone as obsessed as myself thought it would be. And I'm not even close to done learning or connecting with others who dedicate themselves to international education opportunities. 

This is what they call a girl in transition. Or something like that. And on this #ThrowbackThursday, I'm jumping back to take a look at two of the biggest lessons I've learned about international education so far. Grab your coffee or tea. It's about to get all sorts of introspective up in here.

You Can Train the Mind, But There Has to Be Heart

I heard this said during an awesome presentation by Brooke Roberts of Inside Study Abroad (and my former supervisor!) during the recent NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo in St. Louis, and it really stuck with me. Why? Because it's so true. If you're interested in working in international education, whether it's with study abroad, international student services, or any other capacity, it's essential that you love what you do. A skillset is obviously important, but at the end of day there is going to be a learning curve and you'll make mistakes along the way. If you really love what you do, though, that's going to be your guiding light to success. Because when you're excited to get out of bed for work in the morning, you're already on your way to making a difference.

You'll also make some amazing friends in the field along the way, as this passion for international education is quite contagious. I don't know where I'd be without all those inspirational individuals reminding me why we're pretty damn lucky to be doing what we do.

Girl in Transition, WWJaneDo

 The Reality is the Fairytale

I've already noted some of my thoughts about this at the beginning of this post, but they're worth expanding upon. The beauty of working in study abroad is in the details. And guess what? Those details aren't always glamorous. Far from it. Like any career, there are the good days and the bad days. There are the months where you're sitting in an office or at a desk, instead of out globetrotting in a new destination. If I haven't already lost you by saying that, keep this in mind: those experiences in the office, or in meetings with your colleagues, are going to help you become a better educator. 

We're a pretty small office in our U.S. GoAbroad Headquarters, which allows for a lot of collaboration. It's because of this overlap and communication that I've learned more about my own role, my colleagues responsibilities, and the industry in general. When you work in a field where you're trying to get students to travel abroad, this kind of learning is essential. And at the end of the day, you'll be grateful for it. Is it just me, or does that sound distinctly like a 'happily ever after' in the making?

So What's Next?

There are countless other lessons and things I've learned about this field during my time with GoAbroad, but that would take me all day to talk about. And my coffee is already cold. I'm far from done learning -- honestly, what international educator ever stops learning? -- and there are many more adventures to come. As a final piece of advice to those still looking to get into the field: don't give up on your dreams. Your plans may go awry, you may bomb that next interview, and you may have to continue living at home with your parents. Someday you're going to look back on all that and be thankful. Challenge is a spice to life, and one day in the (near?) future you're going to be eating a kickass cake. Don't neglect to enjoy the journey and all its pitstops along the way.

Feel free to email me if you'd like to chat in more detail, or even if you have some fabulous tea recommendations to share. I'm always eager for both of those options ;) 

Here's wishing you success to writing your own fairy tale in international education. I have no doubt you're already giving the Grimm Brothers a run for their money.