My first glimpse of the world outside the United States came when I traveled to Europe with my high school French teacher. That taste of experiencing different cultures firsthand encouraged me to look for other opportunities to study overseas. Therefore, inspired by my sister, I decided to spend a gap year in Grenoble, France as a Rotary Exchange Student from 1991-92. It was at that point that my taste of Europe grew to creating real bonds with host families and friends with whom I still hold close contact to this day. I continued to study overseas as an undergraduate student, but they just did not happen to be opportunities in francophone cultures because I was focusing on the plant world at the time. As I neared the end of my undergraduate studies, I decided to join the United States Peace Corps. I spent over two years living and working in Benin, West Africa from 1996-98. Even though coming from rural, southeastern Ohio afforded me a better understanding of village life on some levels compared to my peers, my Peace Corps experience allowed me to see the beauty in a culture radically different from my own as well as the unfortunate injustices that exist.
All of these experiences helped shape the teacher I have become today. Though I acknowledge that studying another language in a classroom setting may not be easy, it is truly important for students to learn how to communicate words, expressions, gestures, and tones in both a written and spoken format in order to become competent in engaging in critical conversations on a whole host of topics on a global level.