How did I become a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher? How did I end up here in Finland researching at the University of Helsinki? Why did I choose Finland? These are all very interesting questions and the answer is very simple. God planned it. He set out an intricate plan for my life. He wove a very intricate trail of experiences that have led me to this point at this time for His purpose.
It all started with me wanting to spend a year in Bolivia in November of 2013. Yes. Bolivia. A country that couldn’t be more different than Finland if it tried. I don’t know why in particular I wanted to spend a year in Bolivia. Maybe I had just hit the 5 year slump as a teacher and felt I needed a change…… and teaching in Bolivia would be a real change. I do know that in October of 2013 I suddenly felt very restless. I had started dating a great guy, but I realized I didn’t want to settle down. I was terrified of commitment and I wanted to do something else. Something big. I broke it off with him and knew that right now if a “normal” life with a house and kids was not what I wanted then I had better start pursuing what I did want. I remember finally expressing this decision out loud for the first time to my group of girlfriends at our favorite restaurant in November. I told them my fears of leaving a school I loved, but that I felt like I needed….more. More of what I wasn’t sure, but I know I needed change and a challenge and Bolivia seemed like as good as place as any. I could learn Spanish. It would be cheap. And that was all I knew. I had literally just picked Bolivia out of thin air, as if I had just picked it out of a hat. I knew it was in South America, but that was about it. The following weekend I told my parents I was planning on spending a year in Bolivia. I didn’t have a plan or a reason, however I have the most supportive friends and family in the world and they told me that I needed to follow my heart!
So, I had finally made my proclamation and verbalized the fact that I wanted to move on to something new. Now I just needed a game plan. I remembered that a woman I had met randomly in July 2013 when I was researching in China suggested I looked into researching for Fulbright. I was telling her about my project in Asia and she said a Fulbright placement was just right up my alley. I hadn’t heard of it before, but I wrote it down and thought I would check it out later. God had sent her to me all the way in China to plant this seed in my head. However, He usually has to drop me several hints before I recognize His plan. Then last October (2013) I found myself back in Idaho with my great aunts visiting my great uncle. Idaho is where I go to recenter myself and this trip meant so much for several reasons. During my time there, I was starting to discuss my feelings of unrest with my Uncle. He also brought up Fulbright.
So a few weeks later when I was looking up opportunities in November of 2013, Fulbright was fresh in my mind. I started trying to find a Fulbright placement in Bolivia. I didn’t meet the requirements for the placement, as I would need a PhD. I decided it would be easier to switch programs than get a PhD. So, I started looking down a different rabbit hole. I looked into other Fulbright placements and found myself in a placement described the Fulbright Distinguished Award in teaching. I read the description of what this program did and I KNEW this was for me. I JUST barley made the requirements. You had to have 5 years of teaching experience. I was currently in my 5th year. You needed to have a minimum of a master’s degree, which I had JUST completed thanks to a seemingly random and quick decision on my part 18 months earlier. I just kind of woke up one morning and signed up to get my master’s degree. I literally went to work one day not even thinking about going back to school. Then I got an email advertisement for a program through Purdue and signed up that afternoon. It seemed like a whim, but it was God working everything out! He had me start and finish my degree just in the nick of time!
So, I met ( barely) the Distinguished Award in Teaching criteria, but there was one problem. They didn’t have a program in Bolivia. So, I started looking at where they did offer this program. I looked at the list and Finland instantly jumped out at me. I didn’t know much about Finland so I started to research and read about its education system and became mesmerized and obsessed. The more I read the more excited I got about the prospect of studying and learning here from some of the BEST educators in the world. I discovered that Finland was one of the few countries where girls out performed boys in mathematics and I knew I just had to figure out what they were doing to support female development in math! So I sent a text to my parents and my friends: “Change of plans: Finland, not Bolivia.” Yes, like Finland, Finland! And they were all instantly relieved.
So, I started the application that fateful morning! And as I did I started to laugh and cry at the same time. I prayed that God would use this, and I thanked him for leading me to this point in my life. I was so filled with joy at the prospect of going to Finland and researching here, but more importantly I was filled with absolute glee at knowing I would be fulfilling God’s plan for my life. I thanked him for that and my heart was in a state of reverent worship and total giddiness as I wrote my application. I seriously sat there laughing and crying because I knew….I just knew that God was going to make this happen for HIS glory! And if He didn’t, he had something even better planned. The absolute joy of knowing God is in control of your life is truly indescribable. He was in control not me. I don’t have to be perfect. And although I just barely met the criteria for this award, I knew that if He wanted me to go He would make it happen! This became even more apparent to me when I botched the interview. I did not do very well on the interview, but I am so thankful for that. If I had done well, I would have been tempted to give myself the glory. However, God gets all of the glory here! He worked it out even though I was/ am imperfect and I messed up. This is the beauty of our God! He uses imperfect and messed up people like me to fulfill His purpose and to bring Him glory!
So, why am I here? I am here because God led me to this point. That is all I know for now…and that is good enough for me! I know that without a question of a doubt. I just pray that I am open to the opportunities He sends me to expand His Kingdom and bring Him all of the Glory and Honor and Praise forever and ever!