Returning to the United States: My Life Story Continues

By Morgan Yearout

WOW! I have so much to be grateful for since leaving Madrid three years ago. I joyfully reflect on my time abroad while also appreciating all that has transpired since returning to the motherland. Here is an inside look at the evolution of my life since returning to the United States.

What have you been up to since returning to the United States? 

“I married an incredible man. We did a pop-up marriage ceremony at the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park in San Diego, CA with our immediate family! I helped my Momma as she fought against Pancreatic Cancer and once she passed, spread her ashes in Oahu. I joined a bowling league for a season with my dad and had weekly daddy-daughter dates at the golf course. While in Washington, I hiked, boated, camped, and enjoyed wineries. I drove cross country three times; twice solo and the other time with my cousin.

During the trips, I was able to reconnect with loved ones and enjoyed pit stops in Arches National Park, Antelope Canyon, and Santa Fe’s Meow Wolf! I am working towards my private pilot’s license, but still have quite a way to go. I’ve also been able to celebrate family and friends’ life milestones of getting a house, engaged, married, and/or having a baby! Life has continued to be one big adventure since returning to the United States.

After returning the the United States, Morgan married her new husband at the Sunset Cliffs in San Diego.

With regards to my career, I worked two and a half years as a Regional Senior Director of Revenue for The Lumen and a stunning, independently owned luxury hotel in downtown Dallas called The Joule. I also had the privilege of overseeing the Reservations Team for the two properties. During my tenure, The Joule ranked Top 10 in RevPAR (a key metric in the hotel industry) for Texas hotels. Additionally, I developed my replacement prior to departing. I have since left and am privileged to be part of the opening team of Hotel Drover, a newly built Autograph Collection by Marriott hotel, in the heart of the Fort Worth Stockyards! We are set to open in late 2020 and could not be more excited to welcome guests from near and far!”

How has your life changed since returning to the United States from Spain? 

“The major change has been returning to a full-time career in Revenue Management that I love. I really enjoyed my year in Spain teaching English, traveling incessantly, and living with a host family, but there is something so pivotal about working in a field that you are passionate about day in and day out! Traveling has slowed a bit and I am coincidentally more rooted and enjoying “domestication,” too. I am at peace with where life is and enjoy the “mundane” of walks around the neighborhood, home projects of painting the walls, staining the pergola, building furniture, laying new flooring, eradicating fire ant mounds, playing yard games, etc.”

What is the biggest difference between your life in Madrid versus Dallas? 

“Prior to living in Madrid, I felt super uneasy, as if I was “settling” for the big-city rat race of a 9-5, despite loving the work I did. I had a nice house, nice car, a motorcycle, lovely relationships, etc. You know, checking all the boxes so to speak. Nonetheless, I felt as though there were personal interests that I would leave unexplored by committing to that lifestyle for.ev.er. I also grew up with an immense amount of self-imposed pressure to excel at anything and everything that I did. So much so, that I withheld personal grace and had not fully invested time and energy into self-exploration.

Picture of a waterfall taken while Morgan was on a hike after returning to the United States 

Moving to Madrid allowed me to detach from the “supposed-to-dos” and be on an adventure of self-reflection while also immersing myself into other lifestyles. Madrid provided the space, time, and slower pace of life to wrestle with my cognitive dissonance; providing the freedom to dig deep into who I really am. Through the process of deciphering, breaking down, and rebuilding long-standing beliefs, I removed layers of shame and self-imposed expectations. It was incredibly hard, but also freeing. The self-work continues until this day.

Another key difference is that despite Madrid being more densely populated than Dallas, my lifestyle there felt much more relaxed. I really enjoyed the commutes via metro because I was able to read so much! In Dallas, I drive an hour each way for work, and it requires me to be hyper-focused in order to preserve my life. I listen to podcasts and audibles, but it is not the same as leisurely reading while riding the metro.”

What do you miss most about life in Madrid? 

“I alluded to it above, but I definitely miss the pace of life and the metro as a main form of transportation. I also really enjoyed all the green space amidst exciting eateries, shopping, art, pop-up markets, etc. Living in the Dallas area, a commute is required most of the time to experience those things since it is not very affordable to live in the city.”

A picture of lily pads in Seattle that Morgan took after returning to the United States

How did living in Spain change or enhance your professional life

“It helped me settle into myself and acknowledge that I am not a person to yield sub-par results. Instead, I’ve learned to be kind to myself and really tap into my energy levels. For example, when I am feeling super creative, I channel that towards creative, thoughtful work. When I am feeling low on energy, I do mundane and less critical tasks. When I feel super energized, I use that energy to crank through projects that I may have been avoiding and need to hone in on to bring to completion. Spain gave me a year to fully know myself, practice self-awareness, give me courage to maintain my identity in the workplace, and speak up when things are unjust.”

What does your professional life entail now? 

“I am a Director of Revenue for Hotel Drover in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards. The hotel is under construction and set to open in late 2020! We are currently selling rooms and event space for the first half of 2021 and will continue to roll in inventory as we draw nearer to next year. 

We are embarking on mass hiring in preparation for the hotel’s opening as well. I will aid in the interview and onboarding process and am excited to welcome many new faces to the team! It is incredible that Hotel Drover can provide job opportunities despite the world being wrought by dire times.”

What do you enjoy most about living in Dallas? 

“To me, it is not about where you live that makes a place enjoyable; it is the relationships you foster. I really enjoy the friendships inside and outside of the workplace that I have been able to cultivate over the years. It also helps that Dallas is unbearably cold to me for only two months out of the year, allowing me to gallivant outdoors often! “

Morgan walking across a bridge with her husband.

Have you traveled since returning to the United States? If so, where did you go and what did you do? 

“I have! I went on three cross-country drives, as I mentioned before, two of which were solo. During those trips I traversed through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas. I have done several trips within Washington, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, as well. 

I went to Oahu and hiked, lounged on beautiful beaches, scuba dived, attended an immersive luau hosted by the Polynesian Cultural Center, and ate lots of delicious seafood. We ate and hiked our way around San Francisco with friends. While in San Diego for my wedding, we had a couple of fancy feasts, hiked, enjoyed beaches and visited the San Diego Zoo. I have spent time with family in and around Portland, Oregon. Hoyt Arboretum and the beach in Newport, Oregon are great! I ventured to Minneapolis for a work trip. Additionally, I went to Florida for a girl’s trip in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando for a friend’s wedding.”After returning to the United States, Morgan visited Antelope Canyon and took a picture of a natural skylight.

Morgan at Antelope Canyon after returning to the United States.

What does the year ahead hold for you? 

“I am focusing on opening Hotel Drover so we can welcome guests! Personally, I will continue to appreciate mother nature and the great outdoors. I remain active with running, working out, and meandering down trails. I enjoy cooking, engaging in beach activities, riding my motorcycle, as well as educating myself on racism, politics, and police reform. Social distancing is also important to me. We have new roommates and enjoy family time as a way to break up our routine.

We do have a trip planned for Aruba this year, but we shall see if that happens. One of my cousins is planning on getting married in Washington as well, so hopefully we can have some family bonding time up there come this Fall! Overall, this is a year of taking it as it comes and enjoying the slower pace of life. I have been embracing the lack of “control” over plans.”

Statue of a horse with mountains in the background

Morgan has not slowed down since returning to the United States three years ago. She is preoccupied with the opening of Hotel Drover in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards while leveraging her energy levels to complete a variety of tasks. Morgan has grown more accepting of things she cannot change and embraces the outdoors as the pandemic alters travel plans and traditional socialization activities. She is utilizing this year’s slower pace to educate, invest into her wellbeing, and complete home improvement projects.

Teaching ESOL from Experience

by Caroline Hazelton

caroline hazelton teaching ESOLI wonder how you found this page? Perhaps you found it by Google, by social media sharing, or by mere coincidence. Good for you! Either way, I bet the only way you’ll keep reading after this is if you truly care about teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages. Even at that, because I said the word “experience” you are probably in need of such, AKA “teaching ESOL from experience.” 

Right now I’m on Year 7 in teaching languages. I’m always improving my teaching craft. I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it a certain way. Yet as I handed in my lesson plans this past Tuesday, I realized that teacher jargon doesn’t explain what simple experience can. And yet so much of the way I teach and have been successful from Year 3 onward is because of… experience — that is, “teaching ESOL from experience.”

I originally started this article with a list of teacher advice, but quickly realized you can find that anywhere. Instead, I think it’s best to reflect on the four institutions where I’ve actively taught ESOL and what each ESOL school taught me… through experience. I’ll list each school as “School A, B, C and D” for the privacy of each school.

School A: Finding Your Place as a Professional in School

For Pete’s sake, if you are a new teacher DEMAND A CURRICULUM. You’ll need one to stay organized, maximize learning, and follow the natural flow of language acquisition progression. Furthermore, set boundaries on students. Don’t accept their Facebook requests, don’t let them use their native language in class (even if it is the other language you teach and love) except for emergencies, and if any student starts to cross professional boundaries you must immediately but respectfully set them straight for the sake of your classroom control. Also, especially if you are a young teacher, you must especially look professional at all times.

Professional in School

School B: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions and Set Boundaries

Now that your demanded curriculum is in hand, ask the director/principal specific questions about the curriculum or the school they might be too busy to explain. Make sure to ask questions such as “When does the semester end?” or “How long is the book to be used for?” As much as you love your students, don’t be afraid to correct their English. However, know the goal of each activity and make your corrections specific (like adding a preposition).

Give general critiques (like encouraging students to add more information) so the students aren’t overwhelmed by their mistakes. Again, make sure you set professional boundaries. You love your job, but don’t work for free — make sure you are fairly compensated for your time. If you are not paid on time, immediately contact HR. And finally, always overestimate how long it will take you to arrive to class so you can breathe when you get there.

Ask Questions and Set Boundaries

School C: Use Your Own Experience When Teaching

Own your cultural identity and what it can bring to the classroom. I was the only white teacher in my ESOL department at School C. I owned it. At the beginning, I demanded my intermediate level students only speak in English. I made my students weird American things like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I taught them how Americans butcher Hispanic names in English and hate kisses on the cheek.

Make sure to hand the mic over to your students every once in a while. Let them voice both their cultures and the saddening situations that brought them over to the United States. Let them use Spanish… but only in emergencies or during non-instructional time. And finally, as important as that curriculum is, do not underestimate the importance of authentic cultural material that is relevant to the topic. Bring in the country music, clips of The Office, and Super Bowl commercials.

Experience Teaching

School D: Give Yourself Structure and Take Time to Learn

As an unorganized person, having an organized curriculum pre-planned for me each class helped me see just how learning can be maximized with the right pacing and assessment. I tend to get off task, but staying on topic is crucial for the learner. However, the ability to learn and quickly memorize facts about each student builds a good rapport with students. Finding a balance between staying on task and learning about your students should be found. Finally, students need to hear ways to improve their English. Working with a Chinese crowd at this school, I found it helpful to study common mistakes Chinese English Language Learners make, identify them in the student, and quickly address them with go-to examples. 

Teaching ESOL from Experience

I don’t think there isn’t a day where I’m not learning from my experiences. Just tonight, an argument broke out between two students over a political issue (Venezuelan dictator Maduro seizing and selling homes abandoned by Venezuelans fleeing) and a personal issue (these two students did not get along). After resolving the argument and further discussing with another Venezuelan student about the emotional state of those fleeing, I would like to do some further reading about helping refugees process their emotions. Situations like these help shape my responses to future tense situations. After every day that I teach, I make sure to do a nightly reflection. This helps me know what I’d like to repeat for next semester but also steer away from. 

 

Finding Balance After Spain

Sam Loduca was born in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin but has lived the majority of her adult life in large cities such as Chicago and Madrid. After living in Madrid for two years, Sam moved back to Chicago and landed a job in human resources at a consulting firm. Her focus is on placing employees in different locations around the world. Sam got a degree that specializes in human resources and was working in human resources before she moved to Madrid for two years.

Finding Balance After Spain

After returning from Madrid, Sam wanted to work in a profession that combined international affairs and human resources. Sam’s new role does just that and much more. Although she doesn’t have as much free time as she did in Madrid, Sam explained that her new role provides her with a sense of fulfillment. She is helping others achieve their travel goals and dreams.

What have you been up to since leaving Dreams Abroad?

“Since leaving Dreams Abroad, I remained in Spain for an additional year of teaching English. Since then, I have returned to the states. I’ve begun working at a consulting firm as a global mobility professional. I moved back to Chicago (where I was living before my time in Spain) and had to readjust to the old life I was used to there. I miss Spain every day and have already been back once to visit. Now, I am focusing on my career. I’m spending time with the friends and family I didn’t get to see much when I was abroad.”

castle in spain

What is your best Dreams Abroad memory?

“I really enjoyed our monthly meetings where our diverse group met and talked through our experiences. We would brainstorm ideas for articles and topics that would be helpful to other people working and teaching abroad. It’s truly fascinating to see a group of people all working in the same job, living in the same city, all from the same country, and how different their tales of the experience were!”

What are your future plans?

“My future plans include continuing to develop my career in international business. Hopefully, I will be able to do so by living abroad again. I’d love to live in Europe, South America, or Asia.

I am also working on obtaining my Italian citizenship. Going international will be a bit easier if I want to live or work there.”

What would you say to someone interested in traveling abroad to teach, work, study, or just to travel?

“Do it!! Don’t give yourself excuses like it’s not the right time, I will go later, etc. Go now – it will never be the right time to leave everything behind and go on an adventure, so you have to just do it!

Finding Balance After Spain

Don’t do it just because you think it would be fun. It will be sooooo much fun! BUT… to truly flourish in another culture, you really need to put yourself out of your comfort zone. If you aren’t willing to do that, you might as well save your money and stay home. Start conversations with people — ask lots of questions about why people do things the way they do them there (it is OK to acknowledge that people and cultures are different and try to learn why). It’s absolutely necessary to try things you wouldn’t normally try (hobbies, food, styles).

It will be one of the most rewarding things you ever do in your life. It’s hard, it’s exhausting, and because of that, it is truly life-changing.”

Finding Balance After Traveling

book store in spain libros

Around the time of this interview, Sam had just returned from her second trip to Madrid to visit the city that she will always call home. Looking back at her first interview, Sam still remembers the need to feel the nature of her life slow down and she felt it while living in Madrid for two years. Even though she took some time to smell the roses, Sam also understands the American way of life and is thriving in her job.

Sam, like many of us who have lived abroad, struggles with having one version of herself still in Madrid while still remaining content and present in her home country, the USA. She is looking forward to learning new things as a global mobility professional. She continues to travel when able. We are so happy she is found her sense of fulfillment. We look forward to hearing from Sam in the future.

This is Sam’s favorite quote from her first interview; I thought it would be an exceptional way to wrap up this piece:

“Every one of a hundred thousand cities around the world had its own special sunset and it was worth going there, just once, to see the sun go down” – Ryu Murakami

Finding balance is no easy task while traveling or working abroad, or even afterwards! If you want to meet like-minded travelers please join our Facebook group. There you can keep up with Dreams Abroad members and their stories.

by Leesa Truesdell