I write this as I sit in a hotel room in Louisville, Ky. By the time you read this I will be back at the College, safe and sound in the Northeast, away from cowboy hats, bourbon and accents that sound like someone dumped a bunch of marbles into their friend’s mouth and then asked them to speak slowly.
I was incredibly hesitant about coming down here. Is it warm? Will I get a tan? Is it close to Nevada? Does it count as the South or is it kind of Midwestern? Is everyone going to be super religious? These questions plagued my mind straight through the moment I stepped off the plane.
I’m here as part of a recruiting weekend for a program called Teach Kentucky (TKY), which recruits recent graduates from around the country to work as teachers in the Louisville public school district. The program incorporates an amazing amount of support with a fellowship that allows participants to receive a Masters in the Art of Teaching through an alternative certification program, while teaching in a public middle or high school in one of the nine Louisville school districts.
This specific program, however, is not why I am writing this piece tonight. I am writing because I finally get why I am here. I am here to answer all of those questions. Yes, it does snow in Kentucky, no, Louisville is not close to Nevada, and to date no one has tried to convert me to anything.
The people I have met here are fantastic. Louisville has an amazing art scene and a surprisingly hip local coffee shop culture. People love bluegrass and folk, but the alternative scene is big, and I even met someone who swears the punk rock scene is “totally happening.” Urban farming is on the rise and the teachers I met are passionate about the food system and teaching kids about nutrition.
Kentucky isn’t what I expected it to be, and I reckon that a lot of places would surprise me if I only gave them a chance. I moved to New England for college and was quickly indoctrinated with all the stereotypes that Americans associate with America. Minnesotans are nice, Texans are conservative, everyone from Oregon loves hiking and microbreweries and everyone from California has a medical marijuana license. Duh.
The teachers who I met in Kentucky are not from Kentucky. Many of them are from New England and many more went to schools in the Northeast. Most of them never planned on coming here. But when graduation rolled around, they took the leap, and many have stayed here for over five years.
But of course some don’t love it, and the retention rate isn’t perfect. Not everyone wants to spend the rest of their life teaching, sure, but what better way to spend your 20s than learning about what it is you want from life, or, maybe more importantly, what it is that you don’t want?
We are young, and we are (mostly) free of commitments. Someday we may have to take that high paying job or that placement in an amazing school district because we want to have children or a house or an amazing doggy day care center in our area. But for now, most of us aren’t dealing with those decisions. This is the time to give something new a chance and take a risk or two.
So if you are afraid of applying for that job in Singapore, or that placement on a farm in Maine, or that really freaking cool internship in Austin, Texas – I say dive right in. No matter what, you’ll take something good away from it – be it a tan or a thorough knowledge of the Austin public transportation system. At least you won’t spend the rest of your life wondering what could have been.
This weekend I took a chance on a city I never thought I would enjoy as much as I have. Williams has given us an incredible opportunity: It has opened doors to almost anywhere. Don’t be afraid to walk through them, even the ones no one else seems to be walking through – you never know what amazing adventure might be waiting on the other side.
Liliane Nienstedt ’14 is a chemistry major from Abu Dhabi, UAE. She lives in Dodd.