All throughout my senior year at SUNY Albany, I was getting the same questions from almost everyone: What are your plans post-graduation? What do want to do with the rest of your life? Why the hell would you want to go to VIETNAM?!
Ok, ok, I understand why my parents might have some issues with this: the idea of their daughter flying off to a third-world country in the pursuit of teaching English to college students, whose parents' generation was looked at as the enemy during the Vietnam War, probably didn't thrill them too much. But, on the contrary, it excited the hell out of me.
What many people ask me is: why Vietnam? Why why why?
To be honest, I didn't really choose Vietnam. Vietnam, by default, kind of chose me.
Originally, I had intended to be an Italian major at SUNY. After finding out this past January that I would be three credits short upon graduation, I switched my minor to a major and graduated with a Bachelor's of Arts in History. (Four history classes in one semester, by the way, is not very fun!) After giving up the idea that I would be able to teach English in Italy for a year, due to no longer having the added bonus of it being my major nor EU membership, I decided to look elsewhere.
Costa Rica was up there in my list of possibilities. I had vacationed there for a week in May 2008 with my cousin Nicole and her friend Liz. Our tour guide, Fabio, having graduated with a double major in Marketing and Tropical Ecology at a prestigious university in Costa Rica, knew his home country well. He showed us things that were, at the very least, worth every penny we paid him, and beyond. He was a handsome, energetic 34-year-old free-lance tour guide who took pride in being a "taino" and thoroughly enjoyed "la pura vida." And he was the first one to help me up on a surf board at Manuel Antonio beach on the Pacific coast!
Unfortunately, I was not able to find a program that I liked in Costa Rica. Most advertistments for English language schools seemed kind of fishy, and I didn't want to sign up with a school that wouldn't give me the materials I needed in order to teach effectively in the classroom. Hmpf. Things weren't going too well.
I started to pay closer attention to my favorite Travel Channel host, Anthony Bourdain. His show, No Reservations, is a travel show focused around finding good food in every corner of the globe. He visits countries worldwide and locals treat him to their regional cuisine. I am beyond jelaous of his profession, as are most foodies and travelites alike. I am not only enthralled by his TV personality, but his books are beautifully crafted as well.
And as people who read his books and watch his shows well know, he is "utterly besotted with Viet Nam." And I began to wonder, why?
The second I asked myself that question, I immediately thought of my friend Kristen. She had lifeguarded with me for a couple summers at a camp near my hometown, and she was now the Program Coordinator of Teachers for Vietnam. As the website states, "Teachers for Vietnam was established in 2006 to help meet the rapidly growing need for native speakers of English to teach the language in Vietnamese colleges and universities." I felt so stupid. I had completely neglected to factor Asia into my "Future Plans" equation. And here was an organzation that was going to pay for my flight, health insurance and dorming facilities over there while I was helping the youth of Vietnam to a better and job-secured future.
Things just fell into place. I called John, the man in charge of the organization, and started to get my application together quickly after hanging up with him. I had no idea what my parents, friends or other family members were going to think about this decision, but I didn't care. I went through with it, and found out in early May that I was accepted.
My departure date is less than two weeks away, and I am feeling a million different things. But mostly, it's all good stuff. I am, however, leaving behind a boyfriend who I love very much, and it will be difficult adjusting to my new life without him. I do think that I'm making the right decision, though. After all, at what other point in my life will I ever get an opportunity to do this again? And ripe out of college, my boundaries are limitless and life is mine for the taking...