Why I Started Education Through Travel
How I Became Interested in Education
I have always had an interest in education. I have experienced multiple schools, teacher, techniques, levels of difficulty and pedagogy. As I got older, I realized that my unique perspective could help others and the educational system at large if I were able to put myself in a place where I could influence educational policy. This led me to law school, but it was a long road there. I had twists and turns, ups and downs, and many different educational experiences along the way.
I went to four elementary schools. I went to two middle schools. Then I went to high school for only two years. I did not have a normal education for a middle-class family in the United States. The average child switches schools one, maybe two, times in their schooling, but I had the opportunity to experience many different schools. I have attended public school in Mississippi, Washington, Texas, and Utah. I attended college level schools in California and Utah as well.
Growing up, I was a slightly precocious child. I am the oldest child in my family, and I embody most of the stereotypes that go with that. As I started school I went to full day kindergarten in Mississippi. Kindergarten, at the time, included a nap time. Nap time was not my favorite, so instead I would ask my teachers if I could continue to learn with that time. While the other children napped, I would stay up and learn double digit addition and subtraction. I wanted to get better and be better. Luckily, I had a teacher and an assistant teacher that allowed me to bend the rules slightly to help fuel the fire I had for learning and education. Then I went on to first grade, but soon after my family moved.
Moving from Mississippi to a small town in Washington was a huge change. Though the change was big, I did not let the changes wash over me. I knew that I was experiencing something different than the average student. I took it all in. As a seven year old and I did not know what I was in for. I moved to a small town on the coast of Northern Washington. The school there was so small the library and cafeteria were in the same room. There were often two grade levels in the same classroom, which turned out to be beneficial for me. Being in first grade surrounded by second graders was a blessing. I was able to push myself to learn more and reach beyond what a normal classroom in any other public school could have given me. My teacher kept feeding my appetite for education. Working with students a year above me was excellent for me. It likely helped me to grow faster than I would have been able to otherwise.
After living in a small town, we then moved near Seattle approximately a year later. This was another big change. Because I had been going to school essentially a grade above, I was able to go into an accelerated program at my new school. This program focused on learning to love learning rather than getting through the material. I loved it. I loved to learn, and this program helped to foster that love. I worked hard. School was not a chore; it was something I looked forward to. I went through this program for the remainder of second grade and the beginning of third grade. I was thriving. My friends in the classroom came from all over the world. There was a variety of ethnicities, religions, and cultural backgrounds. My friend’s homes expanded my way of thinking about the world. On Saturdays I would go over for a playdate and learn about Judaism, or hear about Chinese school they had attended earlier in the day, or hear about my friend’s French lessons, or be given a handmade puppet from a friend’s recent trip to Uruguay. There were students in my class that were Quaker, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, and everything in between. This was an amazing situation to learn about others and expand my world view past my family unit.
The Christmas of 1999 we moved again. This was the middle of my third-grade year. Moving had happened around that time the previous two years, and though it should have seemed old hat, the move from the Seattle area to San Antonio, Texas was another culture shock that I was not quite prepared for. To be honest, I was not thrilled about this move. I let everything in me hate everything about Texas for a long time. I did not like my school, I did not like the weather, I did not like anything about it, except I now had my own room. There was no accelerated program at the elementary school in Texas, and so I felt like I was doing the same motions I had been doing for the past year. I was not one to complain, and so I kept my head down and worked. I did everything I was required to do.
I remember the first day I was in school there the teacher instructed us to copy definitions from our reading textbook. The story they had just completed had to do with weather. There were no additional reading textbooks, so I was given a dictionary. I did not think anything of it, and I started copying the definitions from Webster’s dictionary. As I wrote, I could hear the students around me whispering. They were commenting on how strange it was that I would copy down the entire definition, a definition much longer than the textbook’s version. They thought I was weird for doing extra work. I just wanted to learn.
I spent the next two and a half years at that school in Texas. I did end up loving Texas. I liked that I was able to make friends and they were still around the next year. I settled into a groove, but I did not lose my love of learning. When I entered the middle school in Texas I was again put in the accelerated program. This was like nothing I had experienced before. These classes were like the AP classes students can choose to take in high school. I was in advanced science, math, and humanities (an English, history, and cultural class). While science and math were challenging and pushed me to learn, the humanities class was what truly shaped me into the student I am today. I had one teacher in sixth grade and another for seventh and eighth grade. They were both tough. The level of what was expected of us in that class was higher than anything I had experienced before.
The structure of the humanities class through all of middle school was exceptional. Sixth grade was focused around systems. We learned about governments, structure of cultures, and world religions. This helped build the foundation for seventh grade, where the focus was balance of power. The systems that were created by people in power and how those people came into power, along with the struggle for power. Throughout the year we discussed how some people through history have had power, and others did not, and how this has played out through history. This helped spring the class into the eighth-grade year, where the focus was all about relationships. The systems and balance of power that had been discussed the previous two years ended nicely with a discussion of relationships. These three themes for the three years of middle school set me up to know how the world works at a bird’s eye level. I now had the cognitive hooks to help me understand generally how society, history, culture, religion, and other systems throughout time has worked.
During this time, I learned how to read literature, truly understand characters, and what to look for to grasp the difficult themes running through the stories. I would read a book with tab post-it notes and a pencil to find the various systems, relationships, and balance of power. This helped me to read with discernment. I took this to my other reading. I was able to truly learn and keep growing.
After eighth grade I was going to be homeschooled. I did not want to go to the public high school there, but shortly after my freshman year began my family moved again. I went from an accelerated middle school program to junior high in Utah. I decided to go to public school again. There were no programs like the middle school program I had previously been in. The classes I took in Utah felt like the equivalent of what I had taken in sixth grade. This was not a slight on the Utah public educational system, I just had a great experience in Texas. I was cruising through my freshman year and making new friends after another serious move. I did not feel like I was learning the way I liked to; I did not have the educational support or focus on building on the foundation I had worked so hard to build. I was still reading and learning on my own, but I longed for more.
I then went to high school for my sophomore and junior year. My sophomore year was filled with theatre, choir, and friends. I had fun and learned what I could. My junior year I pushed myself harder and took two AP classes. I also decided in the January of my junior year that I wanted to graduate in that coming May. I had to do the equivalent of my senior year in 4 months. I did online classes on top of my normal class schedule to graduate. I was just ready to be done with school for a while. I had lost my desire to learn in a traditional school way. I ended up graduating as a junior. I was exceptionally proud of myself for finishing this mountainous task, but I was not sure what to do next. I was only 17, and though I loved learning, I was not ready to go to a university. I decided to do a culinary arts program through a technical college instead of going to a typical undergraduate program. I did two years at the program, worked in the culinary field for a year, and then decided I wanted to get back to learning.
Post-High School and University
Though I wanted to keep learning, I was not sure if I truly wanted to go to a university. I struggled with the idea for a long time. I finally decided to apply to the university near where I lived, which also happened to be the university both of my parents attended: Brigham Young University (BYU). I was not sure what would happen, but it felt like a good step forward for my education. I ended up getting in. I went to one semester and took a normal freshman course load while working full time. Though a wonderful school, with wonderful professors, the path I was on did not fill my heart with joy, as learning once had. I did not have the spark within me that learning used to stoke. After the first semester I decided to not continue. I did not know what I needed to do, but my time at a university did not fuel my desire to keep learning.
I took a few semesters off. I read all the classics I wish I had read in high school. I read Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher and the Rye, and many others. I felt the spark I used to have for learning come back. I continued reading voraciously. I decided to try school again, but this time a little differently. I had moved to California, which has the wonderful option of community college. I do not think every 18-year-old (or 21-year-old in my case) is meant to go straight to university. Community college is a great middle ground to help ease people into a four-year university. I ended up getting my associate degree at MiraCosta Community College, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The ability I had to learn how I wanted to, and learn about what I wanted to, saved my love for learning. After getting my associate degree, I decided to try BYU again.
Around this time, I decided that I wanted to go to law school someday. I knew I wanted to continue learning. I was not sure I wanted to be a lawyer, but I knew I wanted to gain enough education to support myself and help others. I knew that going to law school would allow me to do most anything I wanted to, outside of something that required a hard science. When I went back to BYU, I had the ability to take classes in my major, psychology. The ability to focus with greater intensity on one subject was helpful for me in loving my classes. The professors seemed to care more about the subjects they were teaching. The students were more passionate about learning. The discussions within the class were more thought-provoking. Overall, the enjoyability of the experience exceeded the time I had spent at BYU previously. I truly liked my time there. When it came time to choose which law school to attend, I chose BYU as well.
When I was preparing to take the LSAT and applying to law schools, people would ask me why I wanted to go to law school. Outside of my desire to keep learning, my answer was to help the educational system. Up to this point I had had an untraditionally traditional school experience. I knew the good and the bad of my education. I had a great education, and I knew that I had a narrow idea of what education in the country, much less the world was like. There was this large part of me that thought, even with my narrow understanding, that I could make the educational system better. I knew what education could do. I knew that education could open doors and expand views. Education is a stepping-stone to most of the greatness in the world. This does not just mean formal education, but education of all kinds. I believed I could help others gain education in many ways: through helping to better the educational system, through gaining experiences that would educate, and through making education more accessible to all. I was not sure how I would do all of this, but I knew it was important. I felt as though this was my mission.
Attending law school was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I stretched, grew, and transformed in ways I could not have even begun to imagine when I applied. The caliber of professor at BYU law school is incredible. I learned so much about rhetoric, philosophy, policy, and of course, law. The professors truly cared about the students. Throughout my experience in law school the help offered to me and the other students there exceeded anything I could have dreamed of. While in school I decided that financial stability would have to be my first step to doing what I truly wanted to do. While educational policy was what I felt my mission was, it was not going to pay well enough for me to live and pay off my student loans. During my first year of law school I met an incredible professor. My first day of law school was her first day of teaching after a career as a tax lawyer. She was my contracts professor. She taught us about various careers in the law, and it was through her taking the time to educate us about what the legal field and careers look like that I started to learn about other areas of the law that were of interest to me. It was in that class that I learned about transactional law, and the idea of doing legal work for corporations. Though this was not the work I wished to do forever, nor did it make my heart sing, I knew it was a good choice to get to where I wanted to eventually be.
Career After School
After law school I started work at a firm in Salt Lake City, Utah. This firm was great. I enjoyed what I was doing and who I was working with, but I wanted more. I knew that drawing up legal documents for banks was not the only thing I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was lucky enough to have the money to do what I needed to do. I was able to pay off student loans at a quicker rate than I would have been able to otherwise. I was able to get LASIK to correct my “legally blind” vision. I was able to save money for a down payment on a home. But I wanted to do more. I wanted to go outside of myself. I knew that I was meant to do more. I began thinking I should start a nonprofit someday, but I was not precisely sure what I wanted to do. I listened to the audiobook version of Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie. This book was a great reminder of what I wanted to do, a reminder that I did not want to only fill in forms and make money, a reminder that I was meant to do more. That was when I started thinking that I wanted to start an education nonprofit. I did not have much more than that. I knew I wanted to promote education and help those who did not have the opportunity to get a good education, but I was not sure how I would go about doing this.
The Start of Education Through Travel
One day, a few months later, I was talking with my dad about how I wanted to travel more than I was able to with my schedule at work. He told me I should quit and be a travel influencer. I kind of laughed it off and said something like “if only” and started talking about something else. Afterwards, I started to think about that more. I knew I was passionate about traveling. I knew that traveling the right way can expand views and help one experience different cultures. I began thinking to myself, “how can I travel and do an educational nonprofit?” I was not sure it was possible, but the seed had been planted.
A few weeks later I was listening to Hurdle, a podcast hosted by Emily Abbate, where she hosted a special episode on November 13, 2019 titled “SPECIAL EPISODE: 4 Female Powerhouses Share How To Find Your ROAR.” In the episode the women are just discussing how they have found their passion and worked hard to make it their reality. I listened to this episode about a month after it came out. It was December 22, 2019. I was driving from Salt Lake City down to Provo, listening to this podcast and I started thinking. As I thought about what my passion was and how I could work to make it a reality I decided that I was going to figure this out. In the 50-minute drive I started to create a plan of what I wanted to do to create this nonprofit. I started brainstorming and making voice memos so I would remember my thoughts.
This was when Education Through Travel was born. I knew I wanted it to have three branches, each of which would promote education in its own way and incorporate travel as well. The three branches I came up with as I drove were teachers teaching teachers in other countries, students in the United States being given the opportunity to travel to various places in the country to expand their view of the world, and for people who could travel to be able to go on humanitarian trips to promote education. It was as if the idea had been there the entire time, but it had not surfaced until just then. When I got to my boyfriend’s house, I began to tell him about it. Words spilled out of my mouth as I was trying to get the words out quickly and coherently. I remember telling him, that I felt like this was something big.
After that things started falling into place for the formation. Two of my good friends from law school were the ideal choice to be on my board of directors. I decided on the name and had a friend create a logo for the company. Then a website was created. Though there have not be any trips, and no one has been helped yet. I still feel this is something big. I truly believe in this mission. There are many great outcomes that can emerge from the focus of this nonprofit. I am excited to get started and I hope that people will buy into this vision with me. Every child deserves an education. Every person deserves to have their views of the world expanded to have greater understanding of the cultures and societies around them. This is, at its core, what Education Through Travel is striving to do. My whole life has been leading up to this and I am excited to see what can come from educating through travel.
Looking to the Future
While the world right now is uncertain, I am certain that there is a place for Education Through Travel. Education is always needed. While there may be uncertainty about traveling, health care, and the economy, education is still the foundation of everything we do. Though there may not be a trip to teach teachers or build a school in a developing country in 2020, there is still so much we can do to help teachers across the world as they are learning how to teach remotely. We can also help children who are no longer in classrooms have the support they need with technology, education, lunches, and other needs they may have. We are excited to help out where we are needed and where we can until travel is safe again.