Like most college seniors, I struggled with what to do after graduation. It seemed like everyone around me had a well-paying corporate job lined up before we even left for Christmas break, yet there I was getting drunk on weeknights, blowing all my money on sushi and avoiding the real world like a true procrastinator.
So how did I end up teaching English on the other side of the world?
My senior Capstone was my saving grace. The course was called Wired & Inspired and it completely changed my life. My teacher/life coach/mentor/cheerleader, Merissa Ferrara, taught me to strive for greatness in all aspects of my life and showed me how to turn my dreams into reality. Without her and without the support of my classmates, I might not have had enough insight to figure out what I truly wanted, nor the determination to make it happen.
It took a while to be able to admit it, but I am afraid of commitment. I was scared to choose a path or apply for jobs because I didn’t know what I wanted to do (still don’t) and I didn’t want to get stuck in a job I wasn’t passionate about.
Sure, nowadays it is possible to change careers and explore different fields, but I also feel like the first “big girl job” I have after college will sort of set the tone for the rest of my career. And while continuously jumping from job to job might make me well-rounded, I wouldn’t be really knowledgeable about any one thing. I wouldn’t be marketable. I wouldn’t be hirable. I’d be screwed and end up working at McDonalds (though I hear that’s not a bad gig these days).
This was not the mindset I wanted to be in when launching my career, so I chose not to launch my career just yet. Instead, I am building my identity capital, a term psychologist Dr. Meg Jay uses to describe the collection of personal assets and accomplishments that make you who you are. These can be things that go on your resume, like degrees and internships, or more personal qualities, such as where you’re from and how you interact with people.
I had known since the previous summer that teaching English abroad was something I was interested in. I was a dance teacher and tutor in college, loved to travel and would soon have a minor in Spanish, so I set my sights on South America. However, after researching dozens of programs, visiting Michael in China over Christmas break, and talking with a CIEE Teach in Thailand alum, I changed my mind.
I decided it was Southeast Asia or bust.
Originally, I applied to spend a year teaching in Yunnan, China with InterExchange, but, as fate would have it, the program didn’t get enough applicants and ended up falling through. It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
I was accepted to CIEE’s Teach in Thailand program on July 2nd, received my school placement on August 22nd, and hopped on a plane bound for Chiang Mai on October 14th. On that flight, somewhere between Toronto and Hong Kong, I pulled out my journal and started scribbling:
Oct. 14 or 15, 2015?
Currently watching the sun rise while flying over the arctic and we just crossed the International Date Line so I’m honestly not even sure what day it is. This is already the coolest trip of my life.
Little did I know then just how “cool” this trip would be. I could go on for days about all the wonderful adventures I’ve had here so far. I’ll spare you for now, but if you want more details, check out some of my other posts or follow me on Instagram.
Also, if you’re considering teaching English abroad or are struggling with what you should do after graduation, I’m always happy to chat! Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message.
I’ll leave you with one last thing…
One of my biggest fears in life is missing opportunities. If I hadn’t come to Thailand, I’d likely be working an entry-level job at a corporate PR firm, making a comfortable salary and living in a metropolitan coastal U.S. city. I’d probably be really happy. But I did come to Thailand and it’s been an incredible experience and I’m still really happy. PLUS, I have plenty of time to go get that corporate job when I get back. I’ll even have something interesting to talk about in job interviews.
It’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do, but unlike in school, you can’t spend your time trying to figure out the “right answer.” The only way to figure out what to do is to do—something. Anything. Take the first step and see where life leads you.
- The Defining Decade: Why Your 20s Matter and How to Make the Most of Them by Meg Jay
- Meg Jay: Why 30 is not the new 20(If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, skip to 9:50)
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
- The Power of NOW by Eckhart Tolle
- DISC Personality Test
- Jim Carrey’s Secret of Life