An Ode to the Education Community that Forever Changed Me

Hi There Live Out Louders 👋🏽

Oh how I’ve missed you so! So much has happened since my last post. So to be truthful, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed on how to share all of these updates with you in a variety of beautifully penned posts. But, I’ve got to work on ridding myself of this “quest for perfection” thing that I’ve always had, and just be proud to share my raw truth with you.

So before I jump into these thoughts that I want to share, I want to give you the life updates that led me to write this post!

img_6641In August, I left the best academic community and place of employment that I’ve ever known – The American University – to start my new big girl job as a diplomat. But let me back-track a little…

As most of you beautiful Live Out Louders know, I graduated with my master’s in International Training and Education this past May. Crazy, right? Those two years FLEW BY.

After having completely re-routed my career trajectory from corporate sales to educational diplomacy, I remember starting my master’s program in August 2017 full of hope…but also crippled with apprehension, anxiety and uncertainty.

Back in 2017, I left a seemingly lucrative sales career and was awarded a prestigious fellowship that offered to pay $96,000 for my graduate school, two internships and provide a pathway into a foreign service career. All that seemed amazing, in theory. But as I look back to reflect on my actual sentiments at the time, I realize the only feelings that I truly experienced in the midst of all that wonderful promise and hope of what seemed to be another bright future, was fear and “what the *#$! did I just get myself into!?”

But, when I entered my new academic community, I remember feeling wildly “at home” within my first two weeks. Absolutely mortified by the amount of work that came with going back to school – YES! But soothed by being at AU to do it.

It was the first time in my adult life where I was completely surrounded by people like me. Well, people that mirrored a huge part of me outside of my race – multi-faceted millennials who’d studied abroad extensively, spoke different languages, fell in love with their host-country cultures, and wanted to fight for what was right in our world. I no longer felt like an outlier or got called “college” in my everyday work life.

In my first month of school, I remember my shock about being able to have the conversations about social justice, race and equity that I’d always wanted to have with non-minorities, IN A CLASSROOM SETTING. Like, what? MIND BLOWN. 🤯

serenaI particularly remember my feelings of surprise when many of my non-POC (person of color) cohort mates initiated conversations about their personal acknowledgement/battles with their privilege. Like, I’m sorry – you’re acknowledging your privilege? Like, I don’t have to battle with you to even tell you that it’s a real thing? WHERE HAVE Y’ALL BEEN OUT HERE IN THE WORLD? 

And don’t even get me started on the course material and professors. Sprinkled throughout courses like Transitional Justice in Education, Youth in Conflict, Non-Formal Education and Training Design were discussions on how to improve access, quality and equality to education both domestically and internationally and projects centered around how students can be thoughtful, evidenced-based change makers in the process.

American University was empowering. My professors made me feel like I could be on the front line of these activities and that I had the appropriate tools and research knowledge to make impactful change.

And that was my life, for two amazing years.

But as much as I talked about the exciting career change that was always at “the finish line,” I never realized how sad I’d be to finish the race.

Because finishing the race meant that I would have to leave an entire group of adults who offered endless support, encouragement and opportunities. It meant saying “see you later” to peers and colleagues who genuinely wished me well and wanted me to succeed along with them. It meant leaving the ease of meeting like-minded people who wanted to have those “hard conversations” without them being adversarial. It meant mourning my farewell from a non-competitive environment where I felt that failure didn’t exist. It meant saying goodbye to a place where I felt valued, respected and challenged for the better everyday.

And I’ll tell you friends, parting ways with that sort of environment is probably the hardest thing that I have ever done in my young adulthood (minus thwarting a murderous attempt). But it will always hold an amazing space in my heart because American University gave me the chance to find myself and my true love of education. And to them, I am indebted.

As I write this, having been in my new job for three months and missing AU daily, I realize that there’s no such thing as a proper goodbye or chapter closing. So, instead of calling this post a “goodbye,” I decided an ode was more fitting. But since the classical definition of an ode is a “lyric poem in the form of an address to a particular subject,” I guess I should close with a comedic, yet realistic attempt at one:


After 12 classes, 3 bouts of the flu, 2 jobs and 1 Board position

Countless bootleg meals, long nights, complaints, smiles, a 157-page capstone completed while scrounging for snacks in the kitchen

I bid you, adieu

Not in bad vein, though you caused me occasional stress, sickness, and pain

You were the sweetest place to ever help me grow.

See y’all soon 🙂