Justin Hughes-Coleman Shares His Five Year Updates

August 2021 has arrived. It has been five years since the events that lead to the birth of
Dreams Abroad at a Spanish language school, TANDEM. To recognize this anniversary, we have asked founding members to look back at each year in turn. What have they learned? Where has their life taken them? Do they still work abroad or work remotely?

I remember meeting Justin Hughes-Coleman for the first time in Madrid, on a sweltering day in the Spanish capital. My initial impression of his character was of a reserved but, at the same time, happy-go-lucky individual. He exuded a warm, bubbly personality with a lust for life and a smile that bounced off every wall in a room. Getting to know him better, I discovered more complexities webbed throughout Justin. He is an intricately layered professional who has known his fair share of pain as much (if not more) as pleasure.

Let’s rewind to 2016 first. What was the most significant thing you learned that year?”

During 2016 I learned that if I shift my focus to my goals and break down those goals into smaller achievements, I could live the life I want. Getting to Spain required so many little and big things to be in place, from finances to storing my belongings. Actually, living in Spain opened up another world of goals. My passion has been to travel and explore the world. Now I am focused on making that a long-term, sustainable lifestyle. 

What caused a shift in your thinking in 2017?”

During my second year in Spain, I tried to focus on both maximizing my limited time left in Spain while also planning for the future. I knew I wanted to have a career I could work remotely in so that I had the option to travel. During 2017 I networked with many technology professionals to find a career path that suits my desired lifestyle. 

How do you best remember 2018?”

Bittersweet! In June 2018 I left Spain. I ended a chapter of my life that I never thought I would experience and that changed me forever. In Spain, I made incredible friends that are still close to me to this day. My students and teachers sending me off in style is something I won’t ever forget. I will also remember 2018 as the year I realized I really need to put my goals first or else I will never achieve them. 

Justin in 2018 with friends

What was your major professional development of 2019?”

I enrolled in a professional technology program that was supposed to lead to a job in the tech industry. It was meant to be the first step to living abroad long term. The boot camp was in Data Science and I was instantly immersed in a new world. I’ve really enjoyed the field so far. Not only is it challenging and innovative, but it also has a real-world impact. 

A photo of computer code.

Where did 2020 take you?”

My boot camp concluded a mere month before the pandemic so I really struggled to find a job. I was offered two positions that were later rescinded. Eventually, I took a step back and started doing more freelance projects just to keep my skills up to date. 

How would you sum up how your life has gone so far in 2021? Have you begun to work remotely?”

First and foremost, I am very fortunate. No one in my life suffered from COVID and I had the financial means to not need to worry about money during the pandemic. At the moment I do feel a little lost as I am still looking for a permanent full-time position in my field. However, I am committed to moving this year and my area of specialty allows me to work remotely. I am exploring American cities that will make a good home base for my travels. Right now I’m looking at Atlanta, GA, Miami, FL, and New Orleans, LA. Any feedback on any of these places is greatly appreciated!

Justin sitting outside during sunset, ready to start work remotely

Justin left Spain three years ago. However, his Iberian memories still burn bright. Moving forward, Justin has plans to discover his native country more by securing a position that allows him to work remotely. We wish him the best of luck and look forward to hearing about his next five years and beyond. Dreams Abroad is honored that Justin was one of our first members and we appreciate all his contributions.

by Leesa Truesdell

Quarantined and Teaching from Home

by Stephanie Best

Typically, those closest to me would describe me as adventurous, spontaneous, adaptable, and tenacious. However, the past few years (and particularly the past few months in quarantine) have deeply humbled me to realize my limits. I have somehow found myself going from fearlessly backpacking foreign countries solo to ordering groceries online because I am hesitant to even go to the grocery store. The sudden change has been deeply unsettling. 

Suddenly, I have gone from constantly being surrounded by students and friends, to teaching online and being quarantined alone. I have never been one to spend much time at home. I would much rather go to the gym or study from a coffee shop than work from home. However, I have had to figure out how to make things work from home. Even as things start to slowly open up, I am trying to only be in physical proximity with the few people that I have seen since the lockdown began. Still, I have found it important to keep connections. 

teaching from home

Finding Sanity Mid-Quarantine

Here are a few of the things that have helped me keep relatively sane during this unprecedented time: 

  1. Video chat: As often as possible, I have tried to be in contact with friends and family via Facetime or other video chat sources. Although maintaining physical distancing has been difficult, this makes it a little easier to feel a sense of connectedness. 
  2. Workout from home: I used to go to the gym most days, but now I have been working out from home. Although it’s much harder to find a routine that works, I have found that having an app or video to follow has been helpful in working out more efficiently than if I just worked out without guidance.
  3. Find a good book or show to watch: I have never been one for TV, but being in quarantine, it has been nice to find something to occupy my mind when things get too quiet. I’ve also enjoyed catching up on reading.
  4. Routine: I’m not best at this, but it’s definitely helpful. Waking up early and making a to-do list has certainly made my days more bearable. 

As soon as quarantine is over, I will be the first to be planning my next adventure. However, until then, I am trying to make the most out of a difficult situation. Perhaps when the dust settles, we will have a newfound appreciation for things that were once taken for granted. 

Teaching from Home

For many students, teachers, and parents, the move to online instruction has been a challenge. Although I have been using instructional technology in my practice from the beginning of my teaching career, the sudden change has been difficult for students and teachers alike. Even before the outbreak, I was already using Blackboard to supplement in-person instruction. However, I had to quickly adapt my courses to be entirely online. It looks as though instruction will continue this way through at least the summer semester and potentially into the fall. Here’s some advice for teachers, students, and parents alike during this time:


  1. Be Empathetic: Regardless of what age/subject you are teaching from home, all of our students are going through rough times. Perhaps your students have new roles and responsibilities or are otherwise struggling. They may not have access to proper technology or wi-fi. They may be experiencing financial struggles, or health issues. Accept late work, and ask your students how they’re doing — how they’re really doing. Be flexible in getting them through the semester.
  2. Collaborate: My experience has been that teachers are good at sharing and working together. Share with your colleagues. We’re all better when we work together. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. 
  3. Be Flexible: Pencil in plans, but don’t be too attached to anything. Things are changing constantly, and adaptability and flexibility are key.

Parents (K-12):

  1. Try to create space at home dedicated to virtual learning. Students focus better if they’re not near their TV, video games, toys, bed, etc. You don’t need to have a separate room. A learning station at the kitchen table can work.
  2. Communicate with your child about their work, but don’t be too involved. This may be a hard line to draw and is an exercise in balancing needs and support. The bottom line is that it does children no favors to do things or assignments for them that they’re able to do it themselves. While it can be helpful to talk through homework, do not do it for them. 
  3. Encourage your children to complete their assignments, but don’t stress them out unnecessarily. Mental and physical health must take priority at this point. We’re all living in unprecedented and highly stressful times. 

woman and girl using ipad


  1. Make a list each day of the things that must get done. Cross them off as you complete them. It will help you to stay organized and feel a sense of accomplishment. 
  2. Communicate openly with your teachers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your teachers are learning as they’re going along much as you, and most teachers take student feedback into consideration.
  3. Pay attention to all instructions. Don’t just skip to the end to try to get through quicker. Listen to the instruction on your modules or the Zoom/Blackboard Collaborate lecture. Most likely, the answers to your questions are there.

kids learning on computers

Quarantined and Teaching from Home

It will be interesting to see how this situation changes education. Perhaps this time will allow us to hone effective use of instructional technology and continue to effectively incorporate it when we are able to return to in-person instruction.