The next chapter

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.

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Me enjoying the water during a trip to Playa San Juan in Alicante, 2015

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.

4 thoughts on “The next chapter

  1. That’s so great you had an epiphany! I am still praying for guidance and until I gain complete clarity, I keep researching, always “flip flopping” and never quite finding something that “fits” perfectly. I know my family members are tired of hearing me talk about it, but I just REALLY DON’T KNOW. Reading your words reminds me that I am not the only one going through this process.

    I wanted to ask you about your choice of MS in School Counseling. Are you planning to be a school counselor (dealing with behavior issues at school) or do you want to advise college students and help them plan for their years at the university? It seems like these are two very different paths; are they under the same umbrella of MS in School Counseling?

    That’s really cool that you can do your hands-on hours in Spain. What is an international school? I can relate so much to what you write. I, too, would love to find a job that allows me to work and live abroad. Will you be a school counselor abroad?

    When you said you were going to work in Alicante, are you working as a language assistant (and is that the same thing as auxiliar?) or in some other capacity? I also love working with children, but do not want the responsibility of being a full-time teacher. I have been working as a full-time and substitute teacher for the last 5 years although it was never my intention to become a teacher; it’s not what I got my undergrad in. However, I graduated during the economic recession in 2009 and education was a “safe haven” for employment so I just kept working in the field. I struggle with classroom management and I hate planning lessons (and in general taking work home), but I just keep doing it because I’ve NO IDEA what else to do. I don’t want to invest money into a Master’s Degree without knowing it’s what I truly want to do. It sounds like after completing your MS in School Counseling you will have 3 Master’s Degrees from what I’ve gathered from your posts; is that right? I’m scared of debt! I’ve never had student loans. I do have Spanish citizenship so I’ve thought about completing my studies in Europe, where my education costs would be minimal but then I worry about how those credits/degrees would transfer. It’s all super confusing and overwhelming! Thanks for any insights/ideas you can share.

    Saludos
    Elena

    1. Hi! So, speaking of flip flopping, I ended up quitting the school counseling program. Like you, I find that the education field is a gateway to so many opportunities but it’s not my passion. I started to consider the implications of working in a school — the pressure, the responsibilities, the confined hours — and realized it wasn’t for me. I’ve gone down a lot of different roads since then but can’t land on any one thing. In the past year I’ve been admitted to a MS in nursing program, a MS in nutrition program, and most recently a MS in forensic anthropology course — all in the UK. Covid has made things difficult but in the end the truth is even without covid, I am interested in too many things haha. If you’re thinking of coming abroad, a master’s in Spain would be substantially cheaper. Student loan debt isn’t as scary as it sounds but it’s still not ideal. Best to keep it low if you can. I guess your first step would be deciding what you want to do. If you don’t want to be the main teacher, the auxiliar program would be a great option to feel out living abroad. In Madrid, you’ll only work 16 hours a week for 1000 euros which is totally livable. Most people have side hustles though, like private lessons, so the standard of living is really good. You will have to plan lessons but the pressure isn’t so great because they don’t expect you to be a proper teacher. So what constitutes a lesson can be really relaxed. Personally, teaching stresses me out so I don’t enjoy the auxiliar life, but if you have experience you’ll likely find it a breeze. I say it’s worth a shot and if you like living here, you can consider a master’s degree!

  2. I love your story because it feel your struggle in so many ways. I am so excited to read what happens next!!
    If I may ask, how did you get started teaching overseas? I have been looking into this option in order to be able to travel. I have see so many programs offering to teach you online with differing levels. I am not sure where to go & begin. I would be grateful for a recommendation? I already have a Bachelors of Science in Health Services, Organizations & Policy with a Business Administration. An Applied Sciences & Associate in Nursing, RN.

    1. Hi Donna, very sorry for the delayed response. I haven’t been good about keeping up with my personal writing on the blog lately and realized tonight I had comments I had missed while I was away. To answer your question, I first came to Spain to teach with a program called BEDA in 2014. Spain has several language assistant programs that provide placements all over the country. I chose Madrid though. After going back to the US and then Ireland, I ended up back here and have been here for the past three years. If you’re interested in teaching in Spain, you don’t need a teaching degree or background to do a language assistant program. Right now, the government program is open for applications and is free to apply and participate. All the information can be found here: https://www.educacionyfp.gob.es/eeuu/convocatorias-programas/convocatorias-eeuu/nalcap.html
      I highly recommend checking it out as a first step teaching abroad! Good luck!

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