Higher Education & Student Affairs

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When Where You End Up is Not Where You Expected to Be by Allison Carruthers

I can trace my interest in student affairs back to a certain high school Spanish teacher named Ms. Lebel. Now, granted, from what I understand most people who end up in student affairs aren’t even aware of the field’s existence until they’re already surrounded by it, i.e. sometime in their undergraduate years. My story is no exception. It was during my last two years of high school Spanish class when language learning came to life. Workbook exercises were replaced with learning how to dance merengue, and previously meaningless words on a page were instead woven together into stories of growing up in Venezuela. It was in that class that I decided I wanted to study abroad in college and pursue a Spanish minor. 

Fast forward four years later. The overused slogan “study abroad changed my life” is in full force. After spending a semester in Sevilla, Spain sharpening my Spanish and falling in love with a culture I previously knew next to nothing about I had changed my major from social work to international studies. I got involved on-campus welcoming new international students and advising other domestic students considering going abroad, and contemplated spending yet another semester out of the country. Instead, I decided to stay my senior year, consoling myself with the possibility of spending a gap year after graduation teaching English abroad. Needless to say, the fact that I ended up committing to staying in the exact same city and university for two more years came as a surprise. 

In addition to teaching English abroad, I had looked at a handful of graduate programs in international education. However, the more I thought about it the more and more I came back to wanting to work at a university. Could an international education degree have prepared me for that? In some ways, yes. I knew international education was where I wanted to be, but I also knew that if I was going to be at a university I needed to understand its context. If I was going to seek to promote inclusivity and cross-cultural understanding on college campuses I would need to know how campuses functioned in the first place. That was when I started seeking out Higher Education and Student Affairs programs, and lo and behold, Baylor’s caught my eye and here I am. 

All cliches hold some truth, and the saying that life is full of surprises certainly upholds that rule. In many ways, I have found a happy medium between learning about ins and outs of universities and their students through my classes, while simultaneously learning the ins and outs of international education through my apprenticeship with Baylor’s Center for Global Engagement. While some days I may feel like I’m más agobiada que un teletubby en un sofá de velcro (more overwhelmed than a teletubby on a velcro sofa) I am reminded that there is purpose in the unexpected and that maybe, just maybe, where I did not expect to be is exactly where I was meant to end up.

megan_michener • October 31, 2017

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