I want to first give a notice that this post is mostly me processing through and putting on paper some of the thoughts that have been developing in my head the past few months. You may or may not find it interesting, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to post this.
Everything here in the Dominican is wrapping up for me. I’m just starting my final full work week right now, and that’s a little weird to think about. These past two and a half months have certainly flown by – and I’ve had a blast. To say I’ve grown or changed while being here would be an understatement. I’m quite certain that I’ll find out what I learned as time goes on – I tend to leave a long trip with this sense that things are different, except I never have the ability to say how.
At the very least, this summer has been very eye-opening and valuable to me because I believe it will go a long way in determining where I am next year after graduating. I have obviously been thinking about more than this, but future planning has been the most concrete idea to come thus far. The rest will follow with time as I said above.
I am quite certain after this summer that I want to live abroad after graduating, working in a similar capacity to how I am now. While I am not going to limit myself to only searching for an international job, that will be my first choice. I absolutely love speaking Spanish and I’ve found in my travels that I am independent and flexible enough to enjoy an extended stay in a foreign country. I feel confident that an extended stay (one or two years) working for a non-profit and bringing in a fairly low income would be a job I could handle – and would probably love. I have a growing passion for applying these personal interests and skills, my studies and my faith into a career in international development.
The next step for me is to figure out what I want to do in international development. This may take another year or two (or perhaps much longer). My journey to even getting to this conclusion has taken a long time – starting with my first international trip to Spain in 2004. Each international trip I have taken, no matter the length, has given me some very valuable lesson guiding my next step. I can sum up the way my future plans have changed after each trip as follows:
Chapter 1: Spain 2004 - Missions trip with high school youth group. This is where my passion for Spanish began. I became enrapt with the language. This is also where I decided that I wanted to do something internationally. I didn’t know what – just that my future would involve international work.
Chapter 2: Dominican Republic 2007 - This 10 day missions trip was with my college youth group came to the very poor southwest of the Dominican. Here was my first run in with extreme poverty – and here is where my desire for doing international development began.
Chapter 3: Argentina Summer 2008 - In the 6 weeks I spent here, I had my first semi-extended international stay. I realized that living abroad was a blast, especially in a situation where I used Spanish more than English. I also learned that I love Latin America. Especially the Argentine people.
Chapter 4: Spain Fall 2008 - For four months I lived in southern Spain, and I learned a couple things: First, four months is a very short amount of time. It was over before I knew it. Secondly, I learned I really don’t care much for Europe, at least in terms of wanting to live or work there. I didn’t feel the same passion and excitement I had visiting the Dominican and Argentina. I see Europe, especially Western Europe, as a place I can visit later in life. It is much more accessible and easy to travel for those older than their 20s than is Latin America. Europe will have its place and time for me. Right now, it isn’t where my heart is.
Chapter 5: Dominican Summer 2009 - As I said, this trip has given me a direction for how I want to work – internationally and with development. It has also helped me develop a short term plan for my next step.
I am going to graduate from UW this June with a double degree, and then hopefully have a place in the world to go work for the next year or two to gain experience. I am then planning on using that international experience to write the next chapter of my life, which will be grad school. It has become increasingly obvious to me this summer that I need to get an advanced degree. What degree am I going to get? Well, I am hoping that if I get a year or two of work experience, that will help direct the direction my studies will take.
Basically, the degree is going to need to be something specific. Undergrad studies are designed to be general so you can figure out what you’re interested in – which is exactly what they did for me. Grad school, for what I’m trying to do, is where you find a specialty niche and focus, focus, focus. The more specific my degree, it seems the better that will help me find valuable work in something I love to do. Call it my Chapter 6.
So, there you have it. My three-four(ish) year idea of what my life might look like. I am completely open to this changing if circumstances come out differently. If I end up living in Seattle for the next 3 years and never go abroad and somehow grad school doesn’t come so rapidly, I’m not going to throw a fit because my life didn’t turn out how I envisioned it. I want to “go with the flow” and see where the flow takes me – though it seems to me the flow is taking me in the direction I have visualized.
I’ll be back in Seattle in about a week – I'm looking forward to seeing you then!