Greetings from CIE's latest addition! My name is Laura Smith, and I'd like to introduce myself as the new International Education Intern. I am interning as part of my practicum with the SIT Graduate Institute (formerly the School for International Training) where I am earning my Master's in International Education. You can find me on the first floor of the International House for the next year. I am excited to be here and even more eager to meet students this summer and fall!
How does a girl from rural Pennsylvania end up working in the international field at a college in East Tennessee? I blame my travel bug and passion for all things international on Rita, my high school art teacher. Rita strongly advocated for international education at my tiny high school. I was fortunate enough to join her on two spring break trips she led to Italy, Ireland, and England. Most teenagers beg their parents for cars or credit cards, but after being abroad, all I wanted was a foreign exchange student. Mom and dad finally gave in.
Katya, a FLEX student from Ukraine, came to live with us my junior year of high school. I still give her tremendous credit for leaving her family, culture, and native languages at 15 to live in the middle-of-no-where Pennsylvania with strangers for a year. We all had our ups and downs: I learned what it was like to have a sister, for better or worse. My parents quickly developed coping mechanisms to mediate between two hormonal teenage girls facing cultural challenges. Bless them. Katya cheered at football games, dressed up for prom, and sang Ricky Martin songs in the shower (loudly and off-key). We've stayed in touch over the years. Katya even came back one year with her fiance to spend Christmas with us. Ultimately, she was my inspiration to study abroad. If she could do it in high school for a year, surely I could do it for a semester in college!
I attended Lycoming College, a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, and graduated with degrees in International Studies and Spanish. I spent a semester in Spain and backpacked around Europe. I spent my summers during college working at a summer camp in North Carolina, where I worked with a plethora of international staff, many Brits and Kiwis. I always went back North saying weird things like, "Don't forget your jumpers, y'all".
After college, I debated doing international volunteer work, but decided to focus on issues in my own country instead. I volunteered with AmeriCorps for two years. In AmeriCorps NCCC, I spend most of my time doing Hurricane Katrina relief work in the Gulf Coast. I spent my 2nd AmeriCorps term with the VISTA program at Chicago Cares, organizing and training volunteers for large-scale service events. After that, I worked as the Volunteer Coordinator for Travelers Aid at O'Hare International Airport. My volunteers were the sassiest, most committed group of globe-trotting senior citizens I have ever met. They gave directions, escorted international adoptees to their new families, met Haitian evacuees arriving days after the earthquake, advised passengers who accidentally flushed their IDs down the toilet--you get the picture. The volunteers have collectively been to every continent in the world, including Antarctica. Two of them have been volunteering at the airport longer than I have been alive. I aspire to live life as fully as they do. I most recently attended grad school at SIT in Vermont to return my focus to international education. Between my stints in school, volunteering, and work, I travel every chance I get. I spent last summer backpacking in Central America. I practiced my Spanish and lived in the mountains of Guatemala with host families to learn firsthand about their experiences working on the coffee plantations. This January, I participated in a graduate field course in Mali, where I did strategic planning for Camp Kungoso, Mali's first youth leadership and outdoor education camp. I made my way across the desert to spend a few weeks on the coast of Senegal and practice my broken French, which is kind of like trying to win a bad game of charades.
My experiences at home and abroad led me to East Tennessee. I am thrilled to be part of the small, tight-knit, international community Maryville College offers. I decided to come to MC because I believe in the power of small liberal arts schools to shape open-minded global citizens to look critically at issues that matter. CIE is an outstanding program that is unique for a small college. My desire is to provide support for students to create their own meaningful international experiences, either on campus or out in the world. Please stop by I-House to introduce yourself and chat! I can't wait to hear about your interests, country, favorite places in the world, awkward travel moments, etc.! I am honored and excited to continue my journey with you at Maryville College.
*When I'm not at work or traveling you can usually find me at a farmer's market, running, cooking, singing, practicing Spanish, baking pies, doing yoga, hiking, and plunking on my guitar--but not simultaneously. I'm a multi-taker, but I'm not that good!
**Find me on facebook through the CIE facebook page!
**Find me on facebook through the CIE facebook page!