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Alumna Immerses Herself in New Climate, Culture, and Languages
04.30.13 |
Relocating from her home in Pennsylvania to a warmer climate a thousand miles away was something Lebanon Valley College alumna Kelly Zimmerman ’12 never saw herself doing – until she graduated in May 2012.

Zimmerman hadn’t ever been too far away from home; even LVC was a short 25 minutes from her home in Pine Grove, Pa. But the opportunity to immerse herself in a new culture was far too appealing to pass up, so she chose to move to Miami, Fla., to use her secondary English education degree at International Studies Charter High School.

“I have a rare opportunity to work at an international school. Most of my students are Hispanic, French, or Italian. All of the students that attend are required to speak at least two languages, and it’s a charter school so they only take the best students,” Zimmerman said. “Being away from home and being completely submerged in a new culture was overwhelming at first.”

Zimmerman claims the experience she’s gaining is invaluable – something she really couldn’t have gotten if she stayed in Pennsylvania because she’s been immersed in so many different cultures at one time. Not only are her students diverse, but the other teachers are, too.

“I speak Spanish, but not fluently. Being in Miami has forced me to learn quickly,” Zimmerman said. “That’s the hardest obstacle I’ve faced with my job.”

Applying to jobs in Florida was challenging, as she was still located in Pennsylvania during her job search. She applied to more than 30 schools and received only five interview opportunities.

“A week after my interviews, when I was back in Pennsylvania, I got a call and a job offer, but the company wanted me back in Florida the following week for a conference in Disney! I packed my whole life into my car and my dad and I drove to Miami. My first experience meeting other teachers was in Disney; it was awesome!” Zimmerman said.

“This experience has changed my life. I now realize how small my world had been,” Zimmerman said. “I’m definitely much smarter, stronger, and independent because of this. My relationship with my family has actually gotten stronger, too, because now on the rare occasion I am home, we all realize how precious our time is together.”

While being 10 minutes from the beach is a luxury Zimmerman isn’t ready to give up, she admits that she does miss the overall lifestyle she lead at LVC.

“It was great to be able to stay up or sleep in, to go to class and discuss things I was passionate about, to come back from class and see my friends, to not have to worry about paying bills and student loans, and yes, to not have to cook every meal I eat. I do miss the dining hall,” Zimmerman admitted.

“When I was at LVC, it was the best experience of my life. But that’s just because I didn’t know there was better. Now the new life I’m living here in Miami is the best experience I’ve had, but only because LVC prepared me for it. Everything I was involved with there always emphasized community. Now that I’ve moved on, I’ve found a new community to be a part of,” Zimmerman said.

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