The past several months a few of my close friends and family have patiently put up with my wild career soul searching. On a near-weekly to monthly basis I flip-flopped around, trying to find the path that would allow me to do work that I loved while continuing to live abroad and travel the world. I spent hours upon hours researching possible degrees and career fields of interest, only to change my mind and start the process all over. Through it all I sent countless Whatsapp voice messages, rambled incessantly over Skype calls, and ultimately left the receiving party scratching their head trying to keep it all straight.
It wasn’t until two weeks ago that I had an epiphany that finally made sense. Over a text conversation with my mom, she mentioned that my cousin was interested in pursuing a veterinary technician program. My mom knew I had considered the same path and thought it was a funny coincidence. Right away, I messaged her back: I could share my hours of research including links to various information sources to help my cousin decide if she was interested. I was no longer planning to go forward with that study and career option but I would love to help her become better informed. “Whoa. You’ve really covered all your bases,” she wrote back. “You should think about a college counselor position.”
My mom’s response got a ball rolling in my head. During my first masters at UMBC, I worked a few summer sessions as an admissions counselor helping freshman and transfer students pick their first semester schedules. Some students were apathetic, some came armed with everything already planned out. The one thing that was a constant was my enthusiasm.
I LOVE all things education. I love career planning. One of my favorite parts of the educational process is when I get to choose my classes and how they fit into my schedule. I think I even love the planning more than the actual execution. It was at this moment that school counseling as a career just made sense.
I really enjoy working in schools and interacting with students. What I’m not so sure about is being a full-time teacher in charge of a bunch of classes (see: classroom management). To date, teaching has been my ticket to seeing the world. For awhile I thought it was my only option to easily live abroad while earning a salary. In the grand scheme of things though, I didn’t think my time as an English teaching assistant was adding much to my resume. I wasn’t sold on the idea of being a professional teacher, at least not in a primary or secondary school. I told myself I could work with adults, maybe college students.
But the thing is, I do love children. After all the different jobs I’ve done, some of my best memories were with my 4th graders the first year I worked as a language assistant in Spain in 2014. They were so fun and genuinely made my day the times I was in the classroom with them. Being the one running the show though is a lot more pressure which is why I have the utmost respect for professional teachers.
When I consider working as a school counselor, it seems like all my study and work up to this point will contribute to my success. My MPH, while seemingly unrelated, will help me run mental health awareness and general well-being campaigns. My time working as a behavior technician with autistic children and teens will help me better understand and assist students with developmental disabilities and learning difficulties. And now, my experience within the school system gives me insight into student-teacher relations, social and emotional issues, and ideas for effectively reaching kids by meeting them at their level.
Yesterday I was admitted to the Master of Science in Education (M.S.Ed.) in School Counseling at University of the Southwest, a small non-profit university in New Mexico. I will be able to complete all of my coursework online while undertaking the practicum and internship hours at an international school here in Spain. The program was one of the few that offered electives which will allow me to study both play therapy and psychopathology. The program staff and enrollment counselors were super attentive and immensely helpful during the whole process. I felt this was the absolute best choice for me.
So this coming school year, I’ll be working through my courses while simultaneously teaching primary school children in my new home, Alicante, on Spain’s east coast. I made this decision somewhat last minute after receiving an email from the Ministry of Education letting me know that despite my unfinished application (that was half-heartedly submitted in January), I could still send them the final piece to be considered for leftover positions across Spain. I figured the rejected placements in less populous areas would be all that were left but decided to see what they offered. After sending in the final bit, a signed PDF, I received my school. It was a mere 20 minute commute outside of Alicante’s city center. I decided to take it.
By next fall, I’ll be just about finished with my coursework and ready to start the 60-hour practicum followed by the 300-hour internship. Hopefully in under two years I’ll be ready to graduate and start this new career. I’m excited about the prospect of working at an international school but am not trying to get ahead of myself just yet. I have a busy road ahead of me.
In a week’s time I’ll be back in the US for the first time in two years to visit with family and hopefully see some friends. My drivers license expired back in April which makes mobility somewhat of an issue but I have a lot of time to make up for with family (including meeting my niece for the first time!) before coming back overseas so that is a priority. I’m really looking forward to being home and having an opportunity to relax before starting this next big chapter.
While I’ve felt lost over the past year in regards to my future career prospects, I didn’t let that stop me from doing my research and covering all my bases. I narrowed down my choices, weighed the pros and cons, changed my mind many times. But all of that helped me to land on a career field I feel truly ticks all my boxes. For those of you going through your own career crisis, don’t let it get you down! Keep searching and you’re bound to find a livelihood that suits your interests. It’s never too late to change paths or study something new.