From Americorps to Colombia

Growing up in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, I was exposed to people from a variety of different backgrounds. Some of my closest friends in high school were Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and East Asian. Despite living in such a mixing pot of culture, the idea of living abroad was not something that I was exposed to in my household. My parents never discussed any desire to live anywhere outside of the United States, and I didn’t know of anyone who had ever studied or lived abroad.

As far as I was aware, my education and career options were limited to the confines of the 50 states.

The first time I encountered studying abroad as a concept, I was still settling into life on my own in college and the idea of living in another country was still too much to grasp. It wasn’t until my junior year of college, when a close friend of mine studied abroad for two semesters, that I told myself, “Hey, this is actually possible.” Yet, I still didn’t pursue it as an option for myself.

I instead grappled with a very different life changing dilemma during my time as a senior at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)  in Richmond, Virginia.  In the spring of 2014, I decided that I wanted to enter the field of education. Unfortunately, much to the dismay of my parents, this epiphany came after I had completed over 100 credits towards a degree in Public Relations and I was on the verge of graduating. Acquiring a second degree was out of the question, but that semester I applied to a program called Teach for America. This program would allow me to go straight into the classroom with no teaching credentials or education degree and teach underprivileged youth.

I didn’t believe that I needed credentials to be a teacher. I had seen certified teachers burn out and decide teaching  wasn’t for them when placed in challenging work environments. My driving force was a passion to help underprivileged youth, regardless of professional training. I made it to the final interview round before being turned down, but the fire was already set.

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Hal Dockins is a VCU graduate from Northern Virginia (or NOVA as everyone seems to call it). Though he majored in Mass Communications, tutoring and mentoring youth are his passions. He recently embarked on a journey to Colombia as the first step to his goal of becoming a certified ESL instructor.



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