How to be an International Woman.
My first international trip was a 9th-grade exchange trip to France. We visited Kenosha’s sister city, Douai in the north and also spent time in Paris. This trip was life-changing for tons of reasons, one being that it was the catalyst for me to get my first job. I had to earn the money to go; thank you 5:00 am biscuit-making shift at the McDonald’s on Sheridan Road! In spite of that trip being a life-changing experience, it took me over thirty years until I traveled abroad again.
Theater got me to Prague, becoming certified to teach English at The Language House TEFL allowed me to stay. During my three years in the Czech Republic, I met some amazing, international women who changed my outlook on life. I was introduced to khachapuri by a friend from Georgia; from a woman from Egypt, I listened first-hand to stories about the war in Syria and how it has separated her family; I taught alternative teaching methods to female teachers from Kazakhstan; I visited a dear friend in her home country of Croatia, whom I met while modeling in a Chicago hair show. I am forever changed by these experiences because it taught me who I was through their eyes and their lives. And now, I too, am an international woman.
I do encourage you to travel. Find a way. I never thought I would go to Prague. But, it happened. Back in 1997, in spite of her telling me I would, I never thought I’d meet my friend Mia in Croatia. When I left Paris as a 15 year-old girl, I never thought I would get back there, but I did. Whether you’re in the early part of your twenties, where you’re not sure what’s going to happen to you next and things are up in the air…or approaching your mid-forties and you’ve followed several paths to get to where you are now, yet still don’t know what to do next, travel may be your answer.
If you don’t have the immediate resources to travel and see places first-hand, you can certainly be exposed to international culture locally. All you need to do is to look. Visit the consulate in your area to find events, community centers and perhaps language classes to enrich yourself. Look for InterNations and join; this organization is a community of international expats and offers a multitude of events and resources. There are branches in LA, Chicago, Houston, Mexico City, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Toronto and more! Or, go to MeetUp.com and search for folks like you who want to experience good times with language, art, food or fun from different cultures. Go ahead, look for the international inspiration you seek, or create your own. By the way, until you can plan your trip and buy your ticket, you can always travel through food! This post inspired me to find a place in LA that made Khachapuri! #devouredit
This month, in honor or International Women’s Month, we’ll feature guest contributor articles from our International Betties, Masa Hilcisin, Juwana Jenkins, Zeina Kanawati and hopefully Vi Huyen Tran. These are all women who have participated in the Be Your Own Bettie workshop, thus giving them a special Bettie badge. More than that, I hope that what they share will help you know that their lives are not so far away from yours. I also hope that you’ll be inspired to perhaps visit their homes and become…international.
I’m incredibly honored to have been able to spend time in their presence; to soak up whatever it was that the Universe wanted me to learn from them and vice versa. I hope you enjoy their words.