This guest post was written by Ellen Zold Goldman, Associate Director of Career Development and lover of anything international.
Some countries just call to you. It’s hard to explain but if you’ve experienced that one dialogue that you couldn’t get out of your head, or a study abroad or international co-op and wished you could turn right back around and re-board the plane, then you know what I mean.
That’s what it was like for me going to Greece. It started as a tourist visit and then I landed a short-term professional gig. I went there month three of a three-month overseas adventure, having picked three countries I wanted to see ‘before I settled down, became boring, and couldn’t ever travel because I held a professional job’. I spent one month in Israel making a video on a program at the Jerusalem Cinamateque, and got a job offer I turned down. One month in Italy (well, that was just plain decadent travel with two friends), and then this life-changing month in Greece. I made so many Greek friends; it was the trip of a lifetime and I have no regrets. It rained in Greece the day I went home. They said Greece was crying for me.
My mission was to save enough to go back and do something professional. I networked like crazy with anyone in the Boston area who would talk to me about Greece. You owned a restaurant- great? You were a professor at a college I Didn’t Go To—awesome. I worked a list of American Companies in Greece. Networking paid off and I landed a gig with a professor from another college who was starting a new non-profit. My bags were practically packed. Trip Two, The Professional Overseas Adventure…
I boarded the plane – no looking back. I stayed with Greek friends, and by then I had a Greek boyfriend. Broke up with said boyfriend and learned about what I would miss in the U.S. (family, and definitely same day dry cleaning). I talked Greek politics (I love politics) and was blessed on New Year’s Day by a Greek Priest. I traveled with my Greek gal pals (woman power!) and worked every day. I learned about real Greek life.
My contract gig was ending with the non-profit. While I had hoped it would lead to a full-time position, it really was a short-term gig. My time was winding down.
I pounded the pavement—Got some offers to teach English and a soft offer to work in a travel agency, but in the end I decided to go back home. I came back full of priceless adventures and also saw that my friends were moving onto professional positions, grad school and I felt that if it were meant to be, I’d find a way to return to Greece. I did go back after I was working and it is still the place that makes my heart sing.
Was the whole thing worth it? YES. I’d do that again in a New York second.
What did I learn? A LOT. Working at the non-profit and living in Greece with my friends gave me the best glimpse into authentic Greek Life (I was there in January-not during tourist time). I went out with friends Friday nights, sang Greek songs in the car and vacationed where they vacationed. I lived, ate, and breathed Greece. I was meant to be in Greece. I also had the worst case of reverse culture shock coming home. I cried all the way home—and I do mean for all 6 hours. I learned that I wanted to blend my love of culture with education professionally. As a result, I began working for International Co-op, specifically with Americans going overseas to Australia, and then worked for 9 ½ years with international students on preparing them to work in the U.S.
The small influences—well, I learned how to make Nescafe Frappe just the way I like it. The big influences—my passion for working with international students and first generation Americans has never left me. I’ve directed a Study Abroad program, and work in Career Services where I help create international student programming. My passion for this has stayed with me for the last 15 years. I never get tired of it. Even on a bad day.
While I decided not to live in Greece permanently, I hope to have a little apartment there one day and retire there- or at least go back and forth. Sorry to folks who want to retire in FL; it’s just not the same. Greece is, after all, my favorite place on earth.
Everyone deserves their own grand adventure. I hope you create an amazing adventure for yourself, even if it does take two trips.
Ellen Zold Goldman is Associate Director at Career Development. She’s worked on a short-term gig at a non-profit in Greece, has coordinated an international co-op exchange program in Australia, directed study abroad at another university, loves international students, and as you can probably tell, she has a passion for anything international.