The summer before my senior year I sent my advisor, Bill Burpitt, an email explaining how hard my internship was and how tired I was when I got home each day. I asked him if this was the way my life would be if I continued working there, bluntly he replied, “Yep. It’s downhill from here. Next thing you know you’re working 60 or more hours a week, making more and more money, going deeper and deeper in debt, treadmill, you gain weight that you can’t seem to get off, can’t sleep well, listless, miss the zest in life, long for vanished youth and freedom and them, bam, a myocardial infarction and you drop dead in the kitchen. Maybe you should buy a nice motorcycle and tour the country for a year or so. I recommend Cherry County, Nebraska. Stop at the White Spot Cafe and have a slice of pie. Tell ’em I sent you.”
Needless to say it was a joke. The more I thought about it though, I realized that lifestyle isn’t for me quite yet. So when I got back from Europe I decided, along with Andréa, that we would do a year of “productive adventures.” Especially with the job market the way it was, it might be the only time in our lives that we could up and leave without substantial commitments.
Being at a school like Elon with such a strong focus towards study abroad and international awareness, it didn’t surprise anyone that we loved to travel. Since I didn’t really have a home to begin with, we could go anywhere, as long as we could support ourselves – according to our parents.
After much deliberation and research we have decided to go to China and teach English at the National University of Defense Technology in Changsha, Hunan Province. This is a key university in China having strong support from the government with two national plans to fund and facilitate higher Chinese education. We aren’t going at it alone though, Elon alumni Neil Smith (’05) and Kelli Fegers (’08) have provided excellent advice for our endeavors since they have also done this same type of thing.
While in China I hope to fully immerse myself in the culture and language. The idea of moving to a new place is not unusual for me; it almost feels as if all of my life experiences have guided me to this point. With help from my father, an immigrant to the United States himself, he has assisted in solidifying a contract that will allow us to work, learn, as well as travel for the next year.
Elon University has prepared me for the real world, but at the same time encouraged me to be unique in everything I do. This next year will take me out of my comfort zone and throw me into the real world, but with my experiences, education, and love for learning I know I will succeed.