How do you find your purpose of life? This question propelled Chiara Fuller into a journey across five countries, from Ghana to Belize to Japan, where she found her calling as an educator. Now pursuing a master in International Development at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University, Fuller recalls the steps to her journey and the lessons learned along the way.
New York, New York
Success is being courageous enough to visualize, believe and achieve your dreams so that you can positively influence others by opening doors for them to do the same. I have immersed myself in 22 nations, lived in 5 countries and stepped on 4 continents. At the age of 20, my global journey was born from a personal goal to make the world my classroom. My passion for international educational development grew while I studied at the University of Ghana, Legon in the spring study abroad semester of my junior year at Mount Holyoke College. When I completed my study abroad program, I had received so much knowledge that it was clear I wanted to give back to communities that could use my assistance. For the next 11 years, I worked in the international education field with a concentration in ESL education. I worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Barranco Village, Belize, an Assistant Language Teacher and Supervisor in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) in Yamagata Prefecture and a WorldTeach Volunteer educator and Language Department Coordinator in Esmeraldas, Ecuador.
When you live abroad, every day presents you with opportunities to step out of your comfort zone and learn a lesson.
Some of the biggest lessons that I have learned is to trust in God’s love, grace and protection over my life. As a community member, I have also learned that humility, kindness, respect and a smile take you further than any degree behind your name. Learn the language, culture and people. As an educator, you can only excel forward by learning from your students and the community in which you serve. As an effective teacher, you need to teach to your student’s intelligences so they can reach their full potential. As an agent of positive, effective, dynamic and sustainable change you need to step out of your comfort zone and realize that serving is not about you. On a personal growth level, I have learned that the love you put into responsibilities far exceeds the working hours you put in. Throughout my life, my mom and dad have shown me this particular lesson through their unconditional love.
Three of the countless invaluable lessons I have learned along my global journey stemmed from challenges that were planted in daily activities.
First, I have worked diligently to create an identity of excellence for myself by shattering any less than positive stigmas associated with distorted identities of African American women through various media outlets.
Second, listening to my inner voice saying “Yes, you can” spoke louder than discouraging voices that didn’t believe in me or the strength, versatility and talents of my students. Thirdly, the best plan you can have is being willing to adapt to situations when plans don’t develop the way they were written.
If I could give advice to my 20-year-old self I would say to dream BIG DREAMS because you are more than capable of turning them into reality. As you dream, be humble and unapologetically courageous. Always remember that your mom, dad, family and true friends will be right with you along your journey, even if it seems as if you are worlds apart.
I would also say dance down the path that was created for your life even if society isn’t ready to celebrate it.
As I forge ahead, I know that God is writing my destiny. Now, I am studying International Educational Development at Teachers College, Columbia University and receiving the education I need to deepen my knowledge of my field. I am also finding spaces and audiences who welcome the life lessons I’ve learned through my personal global experiences. My future steps along my journey will be revealed as I continue pursue opportunities that reflect my passion and dedication towards international educational development with a focus on literacy, language and culture.