Guest post by Lindsey Houchin
I’ve been seeking this adventure since Fall 2010.
During my last semester on campus at WKU, I sent a simple text message to my friend Aric: “I need to find a way to go abroad again.” I had completed a short-term study abroad program in London, and I was already anxious for another experience. He had a few adventures under his belt, and I knew he’d understand the wanderlust that was setting in just as the pressure of graduation was setting in. A Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar himself, he suggested that I meet him for lunch. By the end of that lunch, I was inspired by his imminent adventure to Scotland and hopeful that I might have a similar story to tell in the future.
Aric referred me to WKU’s Office of Scholar Development which, among other incredible things, supports students as they apply for nationally competitive scholarships. With the help of the team at OSD, I spent several weeks drafting (redrafting, scratching, drafting and redrafting again) strong application essays that would lead me to a panel interview by Rotarians from across Kentucky. Prior to my interview, I went through a handful of mock interviews hosted by OSD, which helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses in interviews and helped me know what to expect when the time came for the actual interview.
After about two questions had settled my nerves and I was reassured by the smiles increasingly revealing themselves on the faces of the panelists, I got the feeling that the interview was going well. I knew I was prepared for almost anything that could be thrown at me because of my preparation with OSD and Aric’s veteran advice, and I was confident that I was doing the very best I could have. I was sharing my passion for education and articulating why studying education in South Africa would supplement my own education and experiences to make me an effective educator.
I was pleased with the interview, and I was humbled by a comment the last panelist made: “Lindsey, I’d love for you to have the opportunity to study education in South Africa, but I can’t help but wish you’d be in Kentucky to teach students like my grandchildren.” I still remember calling my mom on my drive home from the interview. I told her that even if I didn’t receive the scholarship, I was more sure than ever that I was passionate about my career in education, which might have been the real reason I was led through the sometimes exhausting experience of the scholarship application. The sun was shining and I was full of optimism, and my mom said, “Linds, what if you actually get the scholarship? What if you actually move to South Africa?”
What if has since transformed to a more definitive when, and I sometimes still can’t believe it. Last Friday, the OSD team gave me a sendoff gift: a travel size Big Red, a red towel, a WKU notepad, and a card full of warm wishes from the team that has supported me from beginning to end. Without Aric’s prompt and without OSD’s wisdom, expertise, and experience, I certainly wouldn’t have so much to write about today and in the coming year. And, though this journey began over two years ago, it’s only just begun. So thankful.
Lindsey maintains an active blog. Follow her musings throughout her studies in South Africa.