By Kevin Gary, Alumni Relations Assistant
Ask anyone who has traveled extensively what the most rewarding part of their trips has been and you are likely to be regaled with stories of different cultures, fascinating customs, and interesting locals. Travel is a way to briefly get beyond the small world that we live our daily lives inside: work, family, friends, our town or city. Travel can expose us to things that make us well rounded people and better members of the communities we inhabit at home, citizens with insight into the ways people are different and similar at the same time. Part of the reason that travel or living abroad can be so stressful, and is sometimes avoided, is that we are removed from familiar surroundings and our preconceived notions are challenged. That is also, of course, what makes travel, whether internationally or inside the United States, so beneficial.
The same could also be said about attending college, in fact. And that is where Rosemont alumna and veteran traveler Jamie Jenson Pomerhn ’03 seemingly honed her love of learning and participating in new things. She says, “I really took advantage of the unique opportunities Rosemont offered that a larger college or university couldn’t: I was involved in student government, served as a Resident Advisor for two years, was captain of the tennis team, and also participated in other clubs and organizations. I had an impressive resume for someone just out of college, and I would encourage all Rosemont students to take advantage of what Rosemont has to offer!” Clearly Jamie is not someone to shy away from trying new things, preferring to treat the unknown as exciting rather than intimidating.
Once she received her degree in English Jamie began her career as a teacher. She credits the college’s English department with preparing her: “I went on to teach high school English for eight years. I cannot say enough about Rosemont’s English department! If you can read, write, and speak well, there is nothing you can’t do—regardless of the field in which you work.” After eight years of teaching English to American high school students, Jamie found herself facing a big change in the form of a move overseas to Germany. She explains, “My husband is in the military, so whether we liked it or not, we were heading to Europe! However, we are both very adventurous, so this move was right up our alley. The only negative aspect of the move has been putting my teaching career on pause. It was really hard to walk away from that, but I knew this was the best move for my family.”
Living abroad was, as expected, an eye opening time for Jamie. “This has probably been the most humbling experience of my life,” she says, “When you are forced out of your comfort zone, and when you really take a look at all of the beautiful things around you, you realize just how big the world really is. It is easy to get caught up in the everyday problems that arise in life, but my travels to both Egypt and Morocco exposed me to the world of extreme poverty. I saw children begging for money in the streets, sifting through piles of garbage in the hopes of finding something edible.” What she learned was something that cannot be taught in a classroom. It is something that must be seen and felt first hand. Reading about other cultures and visiting different places is certainly worthwhile but, if feasible, living in another country can be a truly immersive experience. It was even affected the way she sees the U.S. Jamie says, “It has been completely life changing, and I am so grateful for all that I have. This experience has also made me appreciate the United States even more than I already did. I miss the simple conveniences: ice in my drinks, air conditioning in restaurants and hotels, salads with an assortment of dressings from which to choose! It’s the little, everyday things we take for granted that are missed the most!” No doubt these experiences inform the current writing that she has been doing, which you can read on her blog.
Jamie has plenty of advice for those considering traveling or living abroad but who might be scared by the immense culture shock that could await them. She states, “It can be scary, and I’m so happy I’m not here alone, but traveling and living abroad is such a rewarding experience. My first international trip was to England, Ireland, and Wales. I think that was a fantastic way to start because there was no language barrier, and things are relatively similar to the States. It also pays to do your research on where you’re traveling. Know exactly what you want to do, plan out an itinerary, and stick to it. If you’re thinking of living abroad, make sure you have your work visa and other paperwork in order prior to making the move. The more organized and proactive you are, the less stressful your move will be. Also, don’t underestimate the power of social media—there are a ton of fantastic ex-pat Facebook groups with people who are probably dealing with the same issues you are. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.”
Beyond that she advises all Rosemont students and alumni to go out and seize every opportunity that life has to offer. It is in these strange and unexpected experiences that people have the chance to learn the most about themselves and others. And it is often the trips we never took and the experiences we missed out on that we regret the most.
If you are a Rosemont graduate living outside the United States, and you are interested in being featured in our Alumni Abroad series, please contact Kevin Gary.