In honor of International Education Week, Apto and Via TRM would like to share some reflections on how our international experiences have impacted and educated us.
These experiences evolve from a moment of learning and growing in the present into stories we’ll tell for years to come. Stories which, when reflected upon, continue to shape us over the course of our lives.
I mean, just look at Samantha Martin and I. Once two high school students with nothing but a dream of traveling abroad. Education made that happen for us…and now, we are two powerhouse, female CEOs (if I do say so myself), driving two technology companies which are empowering not only international education but also real human connection.
Our stories don’t just shape us…they shape our entire world.
From time to time, I will continue to feature the stories of others, as well as my own, in the hopes that what WE are learning may just inspire YOU!
Via TRM’s newest employee, Scott Regenthal, Technical Support Engineer on experiencing life abroad:
Reflecting back on my Peace Corps service and my efforts supporting community development initiatives within a small Ecuadorian fishing village, the experience taught me resourcefulness by working with limited supplies and leveraging developed relationships to achieve collective goals. It also taught me humility, as I fumbled with the language, ignorantly breaking with custom in my vain attempts at integration. Finally, it taught me gratitude for all the resources and services that I previously took for granted living in a developed country.
The most enriching experiences I gained from traveling, studying, and living abroad have remained with me long after returning home, including my relentless attempts to fit in as an outsider, to understand and be understood – a determination to overcome such challenges teaches one patience and forgiveness with oneself and, accordingly, empathy for those who are visitors to our country facing not such dissimilar barriers. Dislocation does a marvelous job at refocusing one’s perspective of the world and nurturing consideration for those who inhabit it.
Via TRM’s CEO, Samantha Martin, on the importance of storytelling:
Watching my Greek and Turkish Cypriot classmates meet and engage in an exchange with their peers from the other community occurred for the first time during my semester study abroad program in Cyprus just 2 years after the UNcontrolled border opened after more than 30 years of being closed. Studying and observing storytelling initiatives between ex-paramilitary, British soldiers, and community members in Northern Ireland and meeting the founder and touring a rehabilitation shelter for women & children escaping FARC violence in Colombia have given me powerful insights into the importance of community-level dialogue and the messy, but transformative, nature of truth and storytelling.
Apto Global’s CEO, Traci Snowden, on the “knowing what you need to know” versus trial and error learning:
At the ripe old age of “just seventeen,” I embarked on my third international journey. After receiving a scholarship, I would study abroad in Germany for one year. I was so excited and honestly, fearless. And I’m not really sure why, because, like many other humans, I thought that five years of the German language would be enough for me. I certainly was not at all prepared for the culture itself, beyond the knowledge that I should use “Sie” for formal and “Du” for peers. Oh yeah, and that I’d be legally old enough to drink alcohol.
The culture shock hit me HARD when I took my first ten to fifteen minute shower and was met with absolute incredulity – how could anybody be so wasteful of water, right?! On top of that I’d just left my car, which I’d only enjoyed for a few short months, for a bicycle and public transportation would take its place. I would be shocked as my seventeen year old host-sister basically lived with her seventeen year old boyfriend, under her parents’ roof; and for the first time I would see a grandfather playing soccer on the beach…nude. Oh my goodness, was it a shock how scheduled it all was?? From school to 3pm Kaffeezeit to Abendbrot to washing the car every Saturday morning. It was trial by error at its pinnacle. And the homesickness…oh my goodness, the homesickness. Leaving my high school puppy love didn’t help.
So years later, when my ex-pat and international student clients and, in many cases, friends, would say “You don’t know what you don’t know. I wish there were a way to be better prepared in advance!” Boy, could I relate.
But there’s also the beauty of discovery – the wonder that comes from learning and experiencing new ways of thinking, doing, and being for the very first time. The after dinner walks through the Allee, beautifully lined with trees in any season. The pride of effort and success in academics and athletics and how that was encouraged and acknowledged. The joys of structured family time. And the education on conservation and sustainability I would never receive as easily at home. The Christmas markets and the cafes where I’d meet new friends. Riding that same bike, brisk ocean air beating against my face, just to get to a lighthouse where we’d all light candles, listen to Keimzeit and wax philosophical until dawn. Reading Immanuel Kant and Herman Hesse in the original text, in libraries built before my country was even born. Und die Schokolade! Oh my goodness…the chocolate.
Thank you, international educators, wherever you are for making this all possible for so many of us. Thank you, Germany. Thank you, Ecuador. Thank you, Greece and Colombia. You’ve made a few global citizens out of us Americans.
Happy International Education Week!
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