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INTERVIEW

What inspires you to teach?

Knowledge is liberating. Expanding one’s knowledge base can lead to exploring new and challenging paths in life. Learning is an eye-opening experience, and it can help us see life for what it really is, instead of what we ‘think’ it should be.

Where does your passion for writing stem?

Mrs Black—my high school Year 11 English teacher—loathed my writing. It never mattered how much time and effort I put into my assignments, her feedback was demoralizing. Even though one day, my friends and I submitted the exact same essay paper written in our own handwriting, my results remained consistently low. With that experience, I refused to complete Year 12 English studies and only persisted with my writing as 90% of my tertiary-level course work was written assessment.

My Masters and PhD supervisor was the same person; an incredible woman who will forever have a special place in my heart. A small and fragile lady with a powerhouse of expression and written fluency. Her mentoring and patience elevated my writing to a level I never thought possible. I learned to write from the heart and edit from the head. Today, the significance of words is limitless and inspires me greatly. Working on my craft feeds my confidence, happiness, motivation, optimism, soul, and spirit.

What inspired you to go into research in higher education?

My mother always said that I was born an ‘old soul’. By definition, the literature says that one of the most striking traits that sets an old soul apart from the rest, is their insatiable appetite for wisdom and, to a lesser extent, knowledge. Indeed, I have an appetite for information, and often feel a pressing need for personal discovery and growth. And, the longer I stayed at university, the more challenged and excited I became about delving into areas of specific interest. I must admit, however, that I have often times posed and faced the question—Should I study many subjects in the field of education or specialize in one? I still cannot definitively answer this question. I write from the heart which takes me in countless, discrete, but equally stimulating directions.

What areas within higher education are you most passionate about?

With a PhD in Educational Sociology, influential scholars and their seminal works include [alphabetical]: Belsky’s Determinants of Parenting; Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory of Development; Epstein’s School-Family-Community Partnerships; Useem’s Third Culture Kids; and Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. My primary research interests are not limited to: academic acculturation; autoethnography and narrative inquiry; family-school-community partnerships; international and transnational education; schools as cultural systems; and study abroad programs. And my natural alignment is with qualitative methodologies: action research; autoethnography; case studies; ethnography; field notes; focus groups; participant observations; phenomenology; questionnaires; reflexive journaling; semi-structured interviews; and surveys.

How did you get involved with study abroad programs and where have you travelled?

At 16 years of age, I applied to be a Rotary international exchange student. Although my parents allowed me to proceed with the interview process, upon the announcement that I was the first choice candidate, their real fears were made clear. Their initial reaction was that I should thank the sponsors for their time and politely decline the offer. My counter argument was that I had been presented with a wonderful opportunity that necessitated serious consideration before I would willingly retract my application. Fortunately, my parents agreed and dedicated several days to the decision-making process. To scrutinize the many countries on my choice list, they consulted family, friends, professionals and other acquaintances. Finally, they announced that ‘Japan’ appeared to have an excellent social and educational reputation, and it was the ‘only’ country they considered plausible.

Today, I have studied, worked, travelled, lived and volunteered across 40 different countries and more than one time each. Between the period 2002-2006, I filled three passports in five years. I fervently believe in the saying by Saint Augustine that ‘The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page’. I rarely travel as a typical tourist, but rather, you can find me building mud brick houses, dancing in street parades, appearing on local television shows, leading field studies expeditions, and planting trees.

Countries Travelled

Austria Belize Cambodia Canada Chile China Costa Rica Cuba El Salvador England France Germany Greece

Guatemala Honduras Indonesia Italy Japan Malaysia Mexico Monaco Netherlands Nicaragua Panama Peru

Philippines Scotland Singapore South Korea Switzerland Thailand Turkey UAE United States Vietnam

What other milestones would you like to achieve in your lifetime?

Being the first person in my family to complete high school, my milestones have been to complete an undergraduate degree, complete a postgraduate degree, a Master’s, a PhD, and ultimately become a reputable Professor of Education. Other goals include authoring/editing countless books, traveling to distant corners of the globe, and watching my children grow into beautiful human beings.

How do you stay so motivated?

The reason many grow to dislike ‘learning’ is because of the way we are accustomed to learning i.e., a chore, and that is why we stray from it once our formal education ends. Once I find something that I am interested in, learning more about it becomes a driving force. The best part about self-education is that it is up to one’s self to choose a field of study and my passion for education (and writing about it) keeps me motivated.

For those who know you, what would they say about you?

There are few people who truly know my character. People perceive me to be a confident extrovert, when in actuality I am somewhat an introvert. I can go for days without speaking, and I often crave peace and quiet time for observation, contemplation, and introspection. I possess no natural talents, instead a deep and focused desire to be the best I can be in this life.

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