I’m a small town girl, born and raised in central Illinois. To give you an idea of how small town this girl is…I grew up outside a town of 1,200. There were only 24 people in my graduating high school class and the biggest traffic jam that you ever faced was when main street was closed for the town festival or you were stuck behind a tractor going down the road. So naturally when I was in high school my biggest dream was getting out of town and going off to explore the big wide world.
After graduating from high school, I attended Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana. St. Mary’s is a small (300 on campus students), exclusively female, liberal arts college where I earned a degree in elementary education. So even though I chose a small college, I will say my time as an education major truly helped to build my confidence and open my eyes to new possibilities of life outside small town Midwest. I was fortunate enough to join an Urban Education club, where we traveled to different inner cities to learn about different methods and styles of education. We even went so far as to visit a school in Arizona on a Hopi Indian Reservation. After these trips my world expanded and my curiosity of new cultures, ideas, and places seemed to explode. I then heard about a program where student teachers could teach in a different country; naturally I decided to do the second half of my student teaching in Ireland.
After an extensive study of Ireland my senior year in college I felt I was ready to go and explore. I remember packing my bags, planning gifts for my host family and host school, and being so excited that I was going to be traveling and planning all by myself. Believe it or not I cried all the way to the airport. Why did I refuse when my father offered to book a hotel when I landed? My host family was going to be on vacation when I arrived – what was I going to do? Why the heck did I think that student teaching in Ireland was a good idea again? I was out of my element!!!! Thankfully the lady at the airline check in counter got me through the line and off to the gate as soon as she possibly could. My nerves settled down on the plane and by the time I landed I had the outlook that this was it and there was no going back now! Once the plane landed and I collected my bags, I went over to the information desk where the nicest woman helped me find a hotel, called and booked my reservation, and then proceeded to give me detailed instructions on how to get there. Then on the bus ride into town, I met a neat older lady and we started talking. When the bus stopped at my stop she got off, walked me to my hotel, and helped lug one of my bags as we went. Right then I knew I was not only going to survive, but I was going to thrive in Ireland. My student teaching went smoothly and I traveled around Ireland, went to Paris with a group of friends, and even explored London on my own. Traveling was a cakewalk!
Six months after I returned from Ireland, I married my husband and soul mate, JD. JD at the time was living in Farmington Hills, MI working for an German automotive supplier. A few short months after being married, we found out that his company was going to send us to live in Germany. We were so excited that we welcomed the move with open arms. We packed up our two cats, our suitcases, and a pallet full of boxes and moved without batting an eye. Germany was wonderful, interesting, fun, frustrating at times, but also an amazing experience for us as a couple. We lived in a very small town where, at the time there was only one other American. We learned to truly depend on one another and celebrate small achievements. (Oh, yeah, and I forgot to mention that his company was cutting back, so after only a few months of living in Germany our language classes were cancelled!) But hey, we survived!
After our time in Germany we moved back to the States to attended grad school and teach. We were living in Chicago and enjoying city life! Two years later, JD had a job at an agricultural based company and we were again living in a smallish town in the Midwest. Four years and two kids later, we transferred to Dubuque, Iowa, where we currently live (for about six more weeks).
This past November, JD called me one day, during the middle of the day – so I knew something was up. He asked me if I was sitting down, which I was at the time, and continued to ask me if I would mind or possibly be interested in moving to China. Oh yeah, and that his boss had to know by that day. After about a two minute internal debate, asked him if the job was right, he said yes. Then I said okay – I’m in! Eight months later we are getting ready to move our family to China and yes we are super excited to be given this amazing opportunity!