Sunday, April 26, 2015

Following your dreams

The idea of following your dream has been something that has guided me throughout life.

I remember being introduced to the double bass in middle school and deciding that I wanted to learn to play it really well.  I began practicing at school each day, convinced my parents to let me take a school bass home over the summer to be able to practice, took lessons, and played in as many orchestras as I could.  I was very fortunate to have the unwavering support of my parents in the form of attending concerts and driving me all over the area for lessons, rehearsals, auditions, and concerts.  I also had some inspiring teachers that always believed in me and helped me to become the best musician I could be.  By the time I left the States in 2010 I had played in my high school orchestra in New Jersey, South Jersey Youth Orchestra, New Jersey All State Orchestra, some community orchestras, and even the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra.

Another vivid memory of mine was meeting some exchange students when I was in high school.  I went to a presentation about being an exchange student during my freshman or sophomore year, and it sounded like a great experience.  I had this dream about living abroad, learning a new language, making new friends, and being immersed in another culture.  At that time I decided it was something that I couldn't do for financial reasons.  The following year I met and became good friends with an exchange student from Spain, and it rekindled my interest in the idea.  I decided that I was going to apply and see what happened with it.  In the end, I was accepted to the program and was an exchange student in Germany for a year.  During that time I lived with host families, attended school, played in the school orchestra, and traveled.  Some Germans there told me that there was no way I could master German in one year, and that lit a fire in me that made me even more determined to master the language.  By the end of the year, I was fluent and at the point that I was dreaming in German.  I once again had the support of my family to help make the experience happen, but this time I also had the Rotary club that sent and received me, my host families that opened their homes to me.

I didn't see myself being happy staying in New Jersey or anywhere nearby to go to college.  I didn't know what it was, but something about California was calling out to me.  With the help of a generous financial aid package, I was able to fulfill my dream of going away for college.  Meeting people from different parts of the country and even different parts of the world broadened my horizons even further.  Being so focused on my studies, not having a car, and also needing to work didn't allow me to have as active of a social life as I would have liked to have, but I still have great memories from my undergraduate studies.

During my time in college I knew I wanted to travel and see more of the world.  After having spent a semester in Spain, I decided I didn't want to go back to Europe.  Something about Chile was calling to me.  While I was still in Spain during the spring semester of my junior year I started applying to a program to teach in Chile.  By the time I got back the program requirements had changed to needing to go to Asia for 2 years first, and I didn't want to do that.  I made contact with someone with a bilingual nursery school and wanted to give that a try, but that fell through.  I also applied for a Fulbright to be a teaching assistant at Universidad Católica for a year, but my application was shot down in the preliminary round.

At that point I figured that this was a sign for me to start my teaching career in California.  Due to a desire to expand my teaching skills and also make myself recession proof, I got my Masters in Teaching and my multiple subject teaching credentials after having gotten my single subject for Spanish and German.  The economy in California was already on the downturn by the time I started teaching in the fall of 2006, and after moving from one school ,city, apartment, and subject matter to another for 3 years in a row it was obvious that my opportunities in California weren't going to improve.

The hard work and constantly getting laid off was exhausting and beyond frustrating.  I wasn't happy, and I decided it was the time to go after the dream of traveling and living abroad again.  

Chasing my dream led me to Santiago, and after a brief stint as a teaching assistant as a colegio I got into institute work and began to pave my own path here.  

Over the 5 years here I've met people that have also followed their dreams.  A dating couple that I became friends with grew tired of Santiago and decided to move to Istanbul.  Another couple of friends that I met really wanted to experience life in Asia and moved to Cambodia and Thailand.  Other people I know weren't happy living in New Jersey. After putting in a lot of hard work into searching for the right place for them, they made the move to another part of the country where they could have more space to grow their own food and live in a calmer area. I have met other people on my travels with dreams of expanding their small tour companies and hostels to be able to show more people the beauty of South America, and yet others have taught themselves how to repair electronics and build furniture but lack the funding to get their own business off the ground.  

No matter at which stage people are at in their pursuit of their dreams, hearing the dreams and what drives people is something that is really inspiring for me.  It reminds me that I have those dreams too and no matter what other people say or think that my dreams are worth chasing and that I am capable of realizing them.

One person that has been particularly inspiring for me is a good friend of mine named Ellen Dizzia.  I met her when she was working as an administrator at a low income school in Santiago managing the English program, and she worked incredibly hard to give the kids at the school the best experience possible with an exposure to English.  Since then she has moved on to form an NGO called Access Inglés.  

The gap between the haves and have nots in Chile is large, and one of the roots causes is access to a quailty education.  In short, Access Inglés wants to improve English instruction for schools in Santiago.  Ellen has worked tirelessly for the past four and a half years to develop the program and help end the inequality with access to quality English instruction for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.  When opportunities have arisen, I've donated resources to the school and done what I can to help her.

She has started a fundraising campaign in order to help the program continue to grow.  If you'd like to read more about it, click here to visit the website and here for the Facebook page.

If you'd like to read more about the fundraiser effort and/or contribute to it you can click here.  

To give full disclosure, I am listed on the website as one of the teachers supporting the program.  I am donating a portion of the money I make from any classes I receive through Access Inglés back to the program.  

As I think back to my past dreams and the people that I've met and their dreams, I also feel conflicted as I hear the voices of naysayers in the back of my mind that suggest I change careers or move back to the States.  Seeing others achieving their dreams around me just inspires me more to follow my dreams and create my own path.

If you'd like some inspiration about following your dreams and creating the life you want, I recommend reading No Opportunity Wasted by Phil Keoghan.  He writes about almost dying as a teenager and then vowing to pursue his dreams, no matter how crazy or difficult they seemed.  He lays out a roadmap for how to do so as well as common themes he associates with doing so.  It's a really easy read, and he includes anecdotes from his own life as well as others he has helped to realize their dreams.  If you want to learn more about it you can visit the website Phil has created here.  

Some thoughts to finish this post:

Image result for it's the possibility of having a dream

My dream is broad.  I want to help people reach their goals in relation to English.  I want to inspire fellow educators and help improve the teaching of English in Chile.  I want to teach people, help them expand, and inspire them to chase after their dreams.  I want to help people see that you are capable of doing anything you put your mind to.  Doing these things, I hope I can bring about positive change in the world.

So, what is your dream?

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