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My Global Career: Part 2

This post was originally published in November 2013. Since I’ve gotten some questions about and interest in my career story recently, I thought I’d update and repost the series. Click here for part 1.


In Part 1 of my career story I shared what I’m currently doing. I mentioned that I’ve pretty much always liked the jobs I’ve held but I REALLY like what I’m doing now. The location-independent lifestyle, being an entrepreneur, combining higher ed, K-12, and business – this is what I’ve been working towards since college.

So, how did I get from college to here?


My story starts when I was 16…actually, earlier than that. I have always been interested in languages and cultures. I can’t remember not being fascinated by them.

As a kid I checked out every language learning book/cassette tape combo from our public library over and over and over (you know, Learn Swedish in 30 Days and Zulu for Beginners), just so I could look at and listen to lots of languages.

I was super jealous of my bilingual grade school friend’s “secret language” that she spoke with her Spanish-speaking siblings on the playground. I remember being really mad that I only knew one language! I’m positive that if there had been an exchange program in Kindergarten, I would have been the first to sign up.

Teenage me in front of Beethoven’s house in Bonn, Germany.

My biggest dream was to go abroad, but back then, in the late 80s, I’d only met a handful of people who’d ever been on an international flight. My cousin spent several weeks in France while in high school and I remember thinking that would be the coolest thing ever.

When I got to high school I could have gone to France with my French teacher for a few weeks in the summer but the trip was too expensive for my family to afford, and I wanted to spend more than a few weeks abroad.

I knew I’d have to get creative.

To this day I can still so clearly remember standing in my guidance counselor’s office (probably while I was supposed to be in math class) and saying “So…I want to go to abroad for as long as I can but I can’t really pay for it…”

Long story short, my guidance counselor found a scholarship that would send me to Germany for a year, all expenses paid (thank you, Mr. Rutledge!). As I wrote my application essays, I watched the Berlin Wall crumble on TV. The following summer I boarded my first international flight and and spent my senior year of high school in Germany.

My exchange year in Germany was a defining moment in my life and solidified my career path. Not only did I have a front-row seat to German reunification, I was fascinated by my language acquisition process. I made recordings of German and American accents and kept notes about everything I noticed about the languages and cultures around me. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life but I knew it would involve language, culture, and travel.

In college I started out studying journalism, simply because that was the career that had always sounded the most interesting. I enjoyed interviewing people and writing, and I assumed that journalists didn’t spend their days chained to a desk.

But a couple years into the journalism program I realized that while I enjoyed aspects of the profession, it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t stand the thought of spending my first few years out of college writing obituaries in a dark newsroom basement as I paid my dues. I didn’t see myself becoming a hard-hitting news reporter and I didn’t want to write articles about things I had little interest in. I wanted my career to have a more direct connection with language, culture, and travel.

I’d started college with the plan to spend my junior year in Germany and was dead set on going abroad again. I remember having to get very creative with my finances in order to swing that year abroad but in the end I made it work (yay, student loans). I decided to major in German, simply because I wanted to study abroad more than I cared what my major was. That’s probably not the best way to choose your major.

When I graduated from college in 1995 I had an honors German BA, two years abroad, pretty good German language skills, and a mountain of student loans. At the time I had a boyfriend, who I’d met while studying in Germany, who had the same degree and his own mountain of student loans. So we did the most logical thing – we bought one-way plane tickets to a town in eastern Germany where we knew exactly one person and had one job lead…

Click here for part 3.