Your mountain is waiting so get on your way!

It is the eve before I leave on my Italian adventure to student teach for two months. I am exhausted but ecstatic, hopeful yet fearful. One of the things I am most sure about is that it is my calling to go abroad. That sounds hokey as I reread it but I know with every cell in my body that tomorrow begins something that is so right. Though I’ve loved student teaching within the states I am yearning for more. I love learning more about the world and the people in it and so this opportunity to do just that while also teaching is a dream come true! The world is my oyster now that I’m graduating and I love the imagery provided by the picture above! That is how I see the world! It is to be explored so we can know it and its people as well as we know the palms of our very own hands!

I knew it was my dream to explore the world before I even entered college. In depth, I researched study abroad programs at Indiana University before I even sent confirmation that I would attend the university. This passion within me started due to some important people in my life. My high school French teacher played a pivotal role; because she taught me that learning French meant more than practicing the language, but also experiencing the culture, the food, the politics and so much more. My mom’s role was even more woven into this passion within me and it saddens me that she passed away before she got to witness my adventure even if it would have been from afar.

I was humbled and honored to be selected as one of two Jepsen Scholars which is helping me fund this experience. In my application I explained the key part my mom and my French teacher played in shaping this passion I have. My essay questions can be found below. It is surreal that this journey begins tomorrow. How appropriate that my plane lands in Italy on my mother’s birthday. This year it feels like she’s giving me a present on her birthday.

  1. Why did you decide to participate in the Overseas Project?

Ever since I was a young girl my mom planned weekend getaways where we travelled all over the Midwest to various cultural festivals. Whether it was an Irish festival, a Middle Eastern festival or even a Bluegrass festival, I was always blown away by the culture I was able to experience at each festival. I loved reliving historical moments, sampling ethnic foods, hearing exotic music and attempting to dance with the best of the dancers. I remember being so sad at the end of these joyous weekends when the festival tents were packed up, our pop-up camper was packed down, and I returned to my predominantly white, suburban community.

An international student once asked me “How does it feel to have no culture?” At the time I had no response. I had never thought about how my culture was perceived because I was too busy trying to experience other people’s cultures. I had forgotten to share my culture with them. Though the United States is much younger than most countries, it has a rich culture that has been born out of many other cultures. My own culture stems from my Irish, French and German heritage. I spent many years of my life taking Irish dance lessons and travelling from competition to festival, sometimes in the same day! When I learned about classical Indian dancing from my peers I forgot to share about Irish dancing! I took French for seven years and had amazing French teachers who taught me about France, Senegal and New Orleans culture while also teaching me the language. They furthered my enthusiasm to explore cultures and yet when I learned about Chinese culture from my friends, I forgot to share the knowledge I learned from my teachers about the language and Francophone countries! I have spent years soaking up information and culture from my parents, my teachers and my friends and now I feel ready to step outside my comfort zone and have a mutual trade of culture and information in an overseas teaching experience. I recognize that I will learn more about my students’ culture in Italy than they will learn about mine and I am okay with that but I want them to see that all culture is important. Not only is it important, it is beautiful and I am beyond excited to take part in it.

2. How will your participation in the Overseas Project contribute to your professional and personal growth?

This overseas teaching experience is a great stepping stone for how I want to spend the rest of my life. After the Global Gateway program I want to spend several years teaching English in various countries and share my experiences from each country with my students. My high school French teacher, Madame Yocum did this for us when she spoke to us about her travels in France and her teaching experience in Senegal. She always showed pictures of her experiences as well as trinkets and souvenirs she had carefully saved for our benefit. Madame Yocum knew that knowledge is something that is hungered for in every country and so she was a supportive figure for me as I decided that I wanted to do the same thing. I recognize the need for knowledge and I am hoping to inspire students by sharing language and culture. I plan to teach English in Italy and then continue on to many countries across the globe to light the fire that was lit in me. I recognize it will be a challenge to be in a new country with a new language and a new culture but I am excited to learn as much as possible in my time there. I believe that this opportunity will help me become more flexible when it comes to unforeseeable challenges in life and as a teacher. I also believe that it will allow me to better connect with students from different cultures throughout my teaching career, even when I return to teach in the United States. I am so excited about all of the things I will learn on this journey.

3. Why do you believe that you should be selected as one of the Jepsen scholars?

Before I even decided to come to Indiana University I knew I wanted to go abroad sometime in my four years here. I wanted to maximize my cultural experiences and so immediately I got plugged in by living in Foster International which houses students all the way from Malaysia to Morocco to Norway. I have sought to learn about cultures from other countries as well as other cultures in places as close as Northwest Indiana. I had the privilege of living in Foster International for a year and a half and then, since college is fairly pricey, I took on a job as a Resident Assistant at McNutt Residence Center. I have had the opportunity to know and serve so many different people and would love to continue doing that in another part of the world.

All of these passions were instilled in me by teachers (specifically my French teacher, Madame Yocum) and my parents. My mom especially put in hard work to make sure my siblings and I were well cultured. She dragged us to so many festivals whether we wanted to go or not and she chauffeured me to all of my various Irish dancing commitments. Instead of big expensive vacations, my family went camping and festival hopping. My mom pinched so many pennies to make sure we had valuable life experiences. When I initially spoke to my mom about Global Gateway, her first concern was money even though she knew the immense value of the experience. My mom passed away February 18, 2014 and in her way she gave me her blessing to do the Global Gateway project. The little bit of money I got from her passing will make the financial burden a little easier but it will still be difficult. It would be an honor to receive the Jepsen scholarship to continue her legacy of sharing and experiencing culture.

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