When I first applied to become an exchange participant for AIESEC, I did it because one of my best friends and the one person I looked up to went to Brazil the summer before and she loved it.
I knew that I wanted to go to Europe but I wasn’t sure which program that I wanted to do. I love kids so I wanted to do an International Kindergarten program. When an email was sent to me about working in Greece, I wasn’t very interested in doing it. Eventually I accepted an offer and a guy named Panagiotis ended up contacting me. That was when I realized that this was real. There was no backing out now. He asked me which program I was interested in and I told him that I was interested in International Kindergarten to teach English. In my mind, I didn’t know why I even decided to do any of this. I’m a business major in Accounting and MIS. I love kids but I can’t teach a language, must less to students with no prior English lessons. I thought I had just screwed myself over.
Even up to the moment I was in the Houston airport and checking in my two large luggages to send off to Thessaloniki, Greece, I was still hesitate in going there. I love Greek mythology, but I never had Greek food, I don't speak the Greek language, or even known a Greek person. I just wasn’t ready to embark on this journey.
I was wrong. In the end, I felt like I made one of the best decisions in my life. To go to Greece. I made so many friends from across the globe, made so many memories with my roommates, and ate so many gyros that I could actually afford. I loved everything about living in Greece and working at the Kindergarten. I loved the whole experience.
Though my students were young and probably won’t even remember an Asian American English teacher in their lives, I was thankful for every moment I had with them. I never truly thought that I made a difference in their lives but when I came back home, I received a Facebook friend request from the principal of the school that I worked at and she told the kids, “When you grow up, learn to speak and understand English like teacher Quyen from the United States so you can improve this country and become successful.” She said that my being there was enough for them. Being there speaking English and Greek to them was enough. To them, I was an example for my students that there are so many opportunities for them in the future. That’s the best part of this whole experience.
And that was something that was so much more important than a professional internship or a high salary job. I spent my four years going to work during the days to pay off the classes that I was taking at night in hopes of finding a career path that I’ll walk on for the rest of my life. I was so ready to work an office job and become rich after college but after Greece, I realized that it’s never about being monetary rich. It’s about being rich in experiences. It’s about learning about everything that’s beyond our surroundings and our materialistic wants. It’s about visiting the ends of the Earth to meet with people that you’ll never meet in your hometown or try food that your mom can never learn to cook or live a fulfilling life that you were too scared to start. In the end, regardless of any hesitation that I had, I’m thankful for taking a step out of my comfort zone and out of the country to experience such an amazing opportunity.
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