I am a Student Affairs Advisor and have been part of the ITA team since October of 2021
This kind of question is my least favorite... as I don’t think I’m that interesting. I guess I’d say I’m a small-town girl, with city sensibilities and dreams of seeing everywhere there is to see, going everywhere there is to go, and doing everything there is to do. My desire to travel and love of exploring started as soon as I learned to read. I wanted to go to the places I read about in books. It only got worse when my parents got cable. I was constantly on the Discovery Channel, History Channel, CNN... I wanted to be one of those people I saw on TV, exploring far-flung places and telling the tales. One of my dreams was to host Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. I was also obsessed with Anne of Green Gables and was certain I’d go to P.E.I., fix up an old house, and become a softer and more stylish Marilla Cuthbert. It’s never too late! In my actual life, I grew up in a normal middle-class family and started traveling while in university. I haven’t been everywhere I want to go, but I’ve got a solid start. I prefer to go and stay awhile, as opposed to going just to see the sites.
I’m from the southernmost tip of South Carolina, also known as the Lowcountry. I graduated from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
My first experience traveling abroad was to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and it changed the trajectory of my entire life. I had never been away from my family for more than a week and I’d never traveled alone beyond the east coast of the US. Brazil was intoxicating... a dizzying whirlwind of events, emotions, and people that I was still processing years later. When I was in Brazil, I found a different me... the me that spoke Portuguese didn’t shy away from confrontation and traveled solo and unafraid to unknown places. I decided I liked her and wanted to keep her around. This new me wrangled classes of unruly elementary schoolers in a language I didn’t know the year before. I had to Oxford, “Do not bite each other” and other classroom rules. I had heard it my entire life, but it was in Brazil that I learned and embraced the mantra, “You can be anything, and anyone, you want to be.” This doesn’t mean denying or covering up where you’re from, but it means choosing where you’re going.
Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Ukraine, Greece, China, South Korea, Japan, Canada.
I lived and studied in Brazil for one semester. I also taught music and dance appreciation as part of a Master’s level course internship. I taught English at a small (by Chinese standards) university in Guangzhou, China for three years. I then taught English at various places in Jeollanamdo, South Korea for five years - high school, kindergarten, language academies, etc.
Although I went to some pretty exciting places, I didn’t do anything particularly exciting. Tragedy. I don’t have any great stories, so I’ll tell you a bad one instead. The first time I went to China, I was with a group of about fifty people. We took a tour of the Great Wall, just outside Beijing. We were told to grab a buddy or a group. I did so, obediently. I teamed up with a Chinese-Jamaican lady. We were also told to meet back at the bus in no more than four hours. Puh-lenty of time to amble and ramble and snack and shop. For context, there are various ways to get to the top of the Wall and back down again. You can walk, take a tram, or a ski-lift type contraption. After an hour or so of wandering in and out of overpriced gift shops, my partner and I decided we were more adventurous than athletic, and took the tram up. At the top, I stood surrounded by one of the most beautiful places I had ever been... and we were there on a clear day! We walked around, relished the epicness of it all, and took pictures with strangers - including crying babies whose parents wanted a photo-memento with a foreigner. It was wonderful! About two hours in, we decided we’d had enough relish and figured we’d make our way back with time to spare for a snack. Heck, we’re going down right... why not walk? And walk we did. We made it to the bottom of the Wall pretty quickly. Gravity and hunger were on our side, and we got to the base with twenty minutes to spare. Except... where was the bus? Where was our group? Where was the parking lot??? Apparently, the name “Great Wall” was not adopted for propaganda purposes. It is great, massive, expansive, gargantumongous. In a single moment, we went from Great Wall conquerors to hungry, lost, foreign tourists who could barely say ‘ni hao' between the two of us. Worse, every Chinese person we met (except for the last one) looked at my buddy like she was some kind of delinquent. Their eyes said, “You’re obviously Chinese... why don’t you understand me???” I’m pretty sure they were saying it too, but I couldn’t decipher a single word back then. Fast forward one terrible hour later, we met a kind young woman who miraculously understood our sign language, and looks of desperation. She spoke about ten words of English but clearly understood much more. She took pity on us and drew a map. I kept that map for years. We followed her map and walked for another twenty minutes or so. Finally, we saw our group! As soon as I got to my seat, I broke into sobs... and not the cute ones. I was now exhausted and embarrassed. I had never cried in front of strangers before. It was that bad. At first, everyone was angry, as we’d set the schedule back over an hour. But once they saw my tears they knew something was wrong. After the story came out, they all felt sorry for us... which made me even more embarrassed! Ugh. Anyhoo... all ended well, and we still made it in time to see the national historical circus gymnastic society or whatever. The moral of this story is, however you go up the Wall, you should probably go down the same way… and get a map from one of the overpriced gift shops.
Chinese food for sure! North, south... east, west... city, countryside... sweet, sour, salty... mild, spicy... seasonal fruits and holiday meals... fresh, preserved! The variety is endless. And don’t get me started on the teas...
Everyone here seems so passionate, competent, humble, and committed. I’m really grateful to be part of the team!
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