My Global Career: Tiffany Smith, from Teaching Abroad to Grad School


I met Tiffany when she interviewed me about my international education career. I enjoyed talking with and learning about Tiffany’s career that I asked to interview her. Tiffany is currently a graduate student at the University of Minnesota and has spent several years living and working abroad. You can find her at and on Instagram.

Hi Tiffany! What do you currently do professionally?

Currently I am a 1st year doctoral student. I attend the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I am in the Comparative and International Development Education Program under the College of Education and Human Development. I am a teacher by trade.
My undergraduate degree is in Early Childhood Studies and I’ve taught Pre-K through grade 2 for 7 years. My favorite grade level is 1st grade! I absolutely love kids and my goal is create a position so that I can work with kids and teachers.

I’ve heard great things about that grad school program. What’s it like being a grad student there?

My current responsibilities include reading… reading… and more reading. There are many tricks and trades as to learning to speed-read and skim read. However when the information is so good that you want to read everything word for word, it does take time. Time management is a personal goal of mine and I’ve already started with self-incentives for being productive.

I went to a conference this past week and the speaker quoted “students are responsible for their own learning, the professor only facilitates it.” This truly settled with me and for that, my life is invested in my readings currently!


What do you like about grad school? What are some of the challenges?

Honestly the thing that I like most about being a student is the learning that is taking place. I consider myself to be a life-long learner. It is amazing to see how just seven years ago I was such a different student and person. Incorporating my practitioner experiences, as well as real world experiences, has truly prepared me for this program. (Example of challenges above).


How did you get from college to what you’re doing today?

My path is actually quite interesting. It’s most interesting to reflect on the short amount of time that everything has happened.

After graduating from Northern Illinois University, I decided to return home and begin teaching. I began teaching my first Pre-kindergarten classroom in the Edwardsville School District in 2009. I was fresh off of the press and was excited about the position.

During this time many of the veteran teachers were receiving tuition waivers for allowing student teachers to come into their classroom. Many of them weren’t using them so I began to collect them and started my Masters program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. During my classes, I met a girl named Patty who was from Brazil. She exposed me to international teaching. At that time, her mother was a principal in Kuwait and suggested that I look into it. Well, I did!

Toward the completion of my Master’s Degree, I quit my job in Edwardsville and was hired to teach kindergarten at the Casablanca American School in Casablanca, Morocco. That was an amazing two year experience and led me to teaching both pre-kindergarten and grade 1 at the American International School in Abu Dhabi in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. I spent two and a half years there.

Last December, I decided to do two things, apply to graduate schools and return home. In January I received my first letter of acceptance, which was to the University of Minnesota. I moved here in May. Before starting my student career I spent some time working at a Montessori School and learning my new “hood.” Now, one month into the program, I can say for sure that I have made the best decision!

Each stage was a process in itself however my journey has been amazing thus far.

What tips do you have for others who are interested in doing similar work?

I am a true advocate for both international teaching and living abroad. My expertise is in teaching and if you are interested in teaching internationally I can only say… Do It!

Don’t waste the time trying to figure out the logistics, it will never be the “right” time. The experiences are very rewarding. I personally had the privilege of being taught by four, five, and six year olds and I wouldn’t change my path in any way.

I have traveled to over 30 countries and my experiences led me a Ph.D. program that allows me to learn more about what I’ve already done and how exactly I can do this for the rest of my life.

Thanks for sharing your #MyGlobalCareer story, Tiffany!