“Take a deep breath,” I told myself. These words would become my mantra each and every time I boarded a plane to start the next chapter in my life. Living thousands of miles and countless time zones away from my family and friends was both daunting and exciting. Without my foundation from The Woods Academy, I may not have been open to taking the chances in life that I have.
As I think back on my time as a student at Woods, memories flood my consciousness and remind me of all that I learned – not just to further my education but also, to nurture my soul. The Woods planted the seeds that would teach me to stand up for myself, to be my own advocate, to roll with the punches, to own up to my mistakes instead of trying to hide them. The list goes on but the one that stands out above all the rest – to take chances in life – was truly at the foundation of my Woods Academy experience.
Throughout the following eight years of high school and college, those seeds from Woods took root and grew. After college, I wanted to challenge myself to move somewhere I didn’t know a soul. I moved to South Korea to teach English. Although I only planned to stay for a year, I fell in love with the city and stayed for three. Then I moved to Prague, where I started over again, not knowing anybody in the Czech Republic. One year later, I left Prague for Granada, Spain.
Throughout my five years abroad after college, I travelled to 17 new countries. I gained a new appreciation for many drastically different cultures. I grew empathy for people who are very different from myself. Now that I’ve returned to the US, I recognize just how vital it is to have compassion for those who are different from you. We each have a chance to make our part of the world more welcoming to those who need a helping hand or even a hug.
Even as I stood at my eighth grade graduation as a Woods Lifer, a small part of me knew I would return to The Woods someday. Almost fifteen years later, I’m back. As a Woods Academy teacher, I know that now it is my responsibility and privilege to instill in my students the same confidence that my teachers instilled in me.