Two years ago, Lauren was living the corporate New York life and gave it up to move to Vietnam. Revisit her reflections from before she took flight – and find out how it's panned out two years (and countless adventures!) later.
Quarter Life Crisis: Part I
What am I doing with my life? Why am I still single? Coffee Meets Bagel, Tinder, Martini, Plenty of Fish, OKCupid, Bumble, The League...why can't I just have a goddamn meet-cute? I don't want or need a significant other right now. Right? Omg I'm turning 26 soon, which means I have to go off of my mom's health insurance – another expenditure, great. What if I won the lottery? Hmm, maybe don't linger on this question...Will my life ever be stable enough for a puppy? Why can't I figure out what I want to do for my career? I want to do something that has purpose, but what? Work for a non-profit? Teach? I'll have to go back to school for this and I don't want to go into debt unless I'm certain this is the right path...but how am I supposed to figure this out if I don't have direct experience?
PAUSE. DEEP BREATH.
I'm sure a lot of you can relate to not knowing what the eff you want to do with your life. I envy those who have a passion, have an expert skill that sets you apart from the pack (bonus if this skill is something you love doing), have a clear vision of the path you want to take and are exploring it.
Whenever I tell this story, I preface with, its corny, but true: I didn't know what I wanted to do until my junior year in college when I had to quickly figure out how I wanted to "apply" my anthropology degree to the real world because, hell, I needed a summer internship (side note: I didn't have a focus within my major, if you will, as my reasoning behind choosing this major was that there were very few required courses, which meant I could sample classes in each of the four fields (biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and archaeology) if I so chose, which was perfect because I really didn't know what I wanted to do career-wise).
So, I went to an event for juniors and seniors that my alma mater hosts every year called Taking the Next Step. The school brings back alumni, who sit on different panels according to which industry their job falls under (Marketing & Advertising, Entertainment, Finance & Consulting etc.) and the students get to listen to what each person does and then engage in a Q&A to learn more.
My parents both went down, what I consider to be, more traditional routes. My mom has worked in advertising, marketing, sales, publishing and my dad, finance. I knew I didn't want to go the finance/consulting route and, by default, thought I'd go into marketing because my mom did that. So, naturally, I went to the Marketing panel at Taking the Next Step...but I didn't feel jazzed after, so I thought, "for shits and giggles," let's try the entertainment panel. Click.
Fast forward because I don't want this post to be long AF (even though it already is - thanks for hanging in there with me). In the summer of 2011, I landed my dream job (well, internship): Theatrical International Publicity at a film studio. I had zero PR experience prior to this gig, but after that summer, I thought this is it.
Double fast forward. After graduating college and 3 PR agency gigs later, I realized, this is not it, not agency PR at least. So, what now?
I'm single, have no one or thing depending on me, I love to travel, have some personal shiz I'd like to escape from, I want to help others....what about teaching English abroad?
No, that's crazy. Is it? People do this. I could do this....how the hell am I going to convince my mom this is a good idea? Just quit my job, pack up and move across the world to a place I've never been to (Vietnam) to do something I don't even know I'll like? How is this going to look on my resume? How am I going to explain all of this in a way that's "interview-friendly?"
I need to take a chance. I need to get away from "the norm." Let's try living in the moment and writing TBD as my current answer to "where do you see yourself in 10 years?"
Let's do this. Oh god, I still have to tell my mom. Let's ease her into this.
Now, rewind a bit from the time of this post to Q1 2016 (omg did I really just say Q1? Ugh). The lease for my wonderful Stuy Town apartment is up in the beginning of May, so now I have an approximate timeline. I start saying to myself and some of my friends that I want to teach English in Vietnam. The friends I've told think it's a great idea, which is encouraging. It becomes more real, I start to believe in it. I get on the phone with my mom and run the idea past her, semi-jokingly to put the idea out there.
Yep, she thinks I've lost it. Stick to your guns, Lauren.
Triple fast forward. After many phone calls, a few dinners, some drinks later, my mom's on board. Now, some of you might be thinking, why do you care so much about your mom's views on this? Yes, I am my own being. I'm 25 and can do what I want, but it'd be nice to know my mom (and my brother and sister) at least support the decision. We've been through a lot together and I don't want something like this to create a rift. I'm human and, yes, I do care what certain people think, especially my mom, brother and sister, so getting to 'OK, you're doing this and we're excited for you' was huge for me.
Time to put words into action.
More to come in an upcoming post!
Quarter Life Crisis: Part II
Alright, so, we're in the February/March 2016 timeframe and I've now made the commitment to transition from PR to teaching English abroad - for the time being, at least. Here comes the hard part - which program do I choose? If you do a quick search for programs that let you teach abroad, you'll find, as I did, that there are quite a few. Most require you get your TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certificate prior to applying for a program, which would mean about a month or so of online coursework before I can get what I need to get a credible job abroad.
Sounds fine to me. I'll have a bit of free time over the summer to complete the hours needed to get my TEFL, so shouldn't be a problem. Right as I thought I was ready to figuratively hit the "I choose you" button on one of the programs, a friend connected me with someone who is currently teaching in Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) - and loving it. After picking her brain about her training and experiences thus far, I found myself more excited about my plan and, henceforth, did some research into the company (LanguageCorps) that trained her before she went off and landed a job in HCMC.
The training itself would be 4 weeks long. Since I want to teach in SE Asia, the first 3 weeks take place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (everyone who wants to teach in SE Asia has to do this, no matter where you want to end up teaching) and the last week would be in the country you'd like to work in (which, for me, is Vietnam). I thought, this is pretty damn cool. I get an immersive experience and get to go through training with a group of people instead of having to do the work online and by myself. LanguageCorps offers a couple of different packages, if you will, for the training. Specifically, the one that is more expensive (the Plus Program) offers airport pickup in Cambodia and housing for the duration of training. Now, I'm looking for an adventure, but since I've never been to SE Asia before, the Plus program was looking like the right choice for me. Baby steps (if that's even relevant at this point), right?
Okay, let's apply.
Two-arrow fast forward (because we're only making a leap of about a month) to the beginning of April 2016. I've been accepted into LanguageCorps' TESOL Plus Vietnam program - WOOHOO!! I confirm my spot in the program, put my deposit down and start getting my paperwork in order (namely a background check and an apostille degree).
At this point, I'm super effing excited about this adventure. It's nothing like I've ever done and, to be honest, I'm proud of myself for pulling the trigger and making a concerted effort to change my path. If you'd asked me during my 4th year in college if I foresaw this coming down the road, I probably would have stared at you like you had two heads. But, if I've learned anything over the past year (since October 2015), it's that life is hard. It throws curveballs that blow past you quicker than Usain Bolt runs the 100M. Everyone has their own shit. People deal with things differently and it is damn hard to break away from the norm.
I'm stoked. I'm scared. But, I'm packing a LOT of sunscreen and am ready for the ride (okay, almost, I still need to get my vaccinations).
Originally posted on Lauren's personal blog Socks & Sunscreen in May 2016 (read Part 1 and Part 2). Come back to ESG soon to find out how the past two years have played out for her...and follow her adventures on Instagram @gingerwinning! [Thanks for letting us re-share, Lauren].