In 2006, I wrote in a journal after a few weeks at EF:
I got hired as a Regional Manager for EF which, as you are probably unaware, is like, the largest foreign exchange program in the world. Basically I got hired to be entirely in control of every exchange student in California and Kentucky. I’m in charge of all the volunteers working in those states, too. Totally major stuff. So far my first two solo days have been INSANE. I love it. I love the feeling of dedication to a cause that I do believe in. I love the spontaneity of the position. I love the people and this job totally works for me. I’m excited to see myself in six months; in a year!
Within that year, I had changed jobs. In the two years that followed I worked hard. Hard enough that my parents started to worry. I took advantage of new networks and empty couches and traveled as much as I could, even when I couldn’t afford it. I learned as much as I could about being a young adult, about targets and about team work. I learned how important the smallest and easiest things are. I learned about myself through helping other people.
I saw a lot of people complain. I saw a lot of people leave. But I always felt lucky, like I was in the right place. I became a leader, I became a life-long friend and a long-distant confidant. I had things stolen from me, fights with roommates, line-crossing landlords, got sick and got together and broke up more times than I can remember, but I always felt safe. I had friends from university who had jobs, but I had something else. Something important to me, something I wanted to protect.
In 2009, someone asked me what I wanted to do next. It was the first time someone ever asked me that, and after 3 months I left the US for China. I got robbed again, got tricked, got kicked out of places and apartments, got food poisoning, got accused of spying and for the first time I considered stopping. But EF taught me better than that. I pushed through, made friends, made impact, had ideas, tried things and grew. I taught in one place, taught in 10 places, trained in 50, wrote classes, created content, made websites, changed technologies, lead teams, pitched ideas, pitched them again, started new things, met my wife, learned a language, started over completely and made my own opportunities.
I protected what I had with EF and it paid off. I have met the best, most interesting, most exciting people I’ve ever known, and every year I meet more and more of them. Without these people, none of the above would have happened. I would have had a job. A boring job. Instead I have done something valuable. I have so many memories and war stories, both cherished equally. I learned the trick to a happy life: put in everything and you’ll get even more. I was a Recruitment Manager, took a step down to become an English teacher and ended up the head of IT and Tech Support. And even as I write this, that’s changing!
It’s been an incredible and unusual run. I am very much looking forward to the next 10 years. Thank you, EF.