Episode 38 │ The Power of Asking (UPROOTED/THINK GLOBAL SCHOOL)
Updated: May 4, 2020
"Part of wanting to work abroad was not just for me, it was to get other people to look at traveling abroad. Sometimes the logistics and not knowing anyone is the biggest barrier, so it's like, 'Listen, you have no excuse. You have me.'" (Tiffany, Episode 38)
Just like Lori from episode 36, today's guest Tiffany Green is a fellow podcaster whom I met through the WOC Podcasters group on Facebook. She happened to see something I posted in the group about Young, Gifted and Abroad and then messaged me through the podcast's Facebook page. Tiffany is a psychologist and school counselor who currently does therapy and college prep services for a globe-traveling high school (more on that later).
Tiffany was very curious as a child, and often read books about other cultures. She first started traveling through road trips that were spearheaded by her mom, whom she affectionately characterizes as "adventurous". Tiffany has been able to give up her home base in the U.S. and live a more nomadic type of lifestyle thanks to her current job, but she acknowledges that if her mom had had more of an economic advantage, Tiffany would actually be the "second generation nomad" in the family. Her mom wanted to travel and always encouraged Tiffany to do so, "She was my biggest advocate to push me into what I was always supposed to be, but just didn't know it existed." Being from New Haven and having a dad who worked in the mailroom at Yale University, Tiffany was aware of the community of people from all over the world who came to the university to engage in learning. But she was also acutely aware of the disconnect between Yale and the surrounding community, which didn't have the same privileged access to resources and conventional signifiers of "intellect".
Tiffany became an undergraduate student at the University of Connecticut at first thinking she'd become a lawyer like Joan Clayton from the TV series 'Girlfriends', but she actually changed her major numerous times. She was exposed to all these new subject areas, and professors frequently suggested she pursue certain things because they saw potential in her, and so she had a difficult time deciding what she wanted to do. In the end she graduated with a major in political science and sociology, and a minor in human rights and African-American studies. During undergrad she got to spend a summer in Cape Town in 2006, working with students at the University of Western Cape on HIV prevention, and occasionally organizing play activities for local township kids. Her first time on a plane was flying to South Africa for this, and she credits her experience there for making her want to move abroad for work.
Working abroad was Tiffany's dream, a definite must-do, but "life happened" and so the dream was delayed for a little while. She and her roommate moved to Washington, D.C. where both women were accepted into grad school at Howard University. Her friend had suggested that Tiffany pursue becoming a school counselor, since she'd volunteered with high school students during her time at UConn and often helped fellow college students arrange their majors and schedules (changing majors so many times came in handy!). But when she started taking school counseling classes she realized how political it was, overshadowing what actual counseling was going on, and so she opted to get a Master's degree in counseling psychology instead in order to become a therapist. The therapy route was a much better fit for her. But as a people person with a heart for students, she also realized that she wanted a middle ground between the boundaries inherent in therapy and the opportunity to have more casual and familiar connections with students, to help them expand their potential and feel supported.
She learned that a university in New Haven was opening a center specifically for first-year students, so Tiffany moved back to her hometown to work there, helping students adjust to college academically and also providing adjustment counseling for anxiety and depression. After five years there she became a school counselor at Achievement First Amistad High School. She'd heard about how the primarily Black and Latino student body had a mass walk-out in 2016 to demand more teachers and staff of color, and the school needed a school counselor anyway, so she applied and got the job. She loved working with those students and endeavored to bring in guest speakers from various fields of experience to help the kids be more aware of their future options than she was at their age. But her dream of working abroad never went away.
So one year, as she was planning a trip to visit a handful of countries in West Africa, a colleague encouraged Tiffany to contact American international schools in those countries to arrange meetings and see what those schools were like. School heads in Accra, Ghana and Dakar, Senegal were especially welcoming and informative. And upon leaving the school in Dakar, the head advised her on how to go about applying for jobs in international schools. She signed up for a service that matches candidates with available international school positions, and at some point THINK Global School saw Tiffany's profile and reached out to her about an open school and college counselor position. She got the job!
THINK Global School is a fully-accredited high school that takes students to a predetermined set of 12 countries over a three-year period. The school focuses on project-based and placed-based learning, and Tiffany (along with the other teachers and staff) is with her cohort of students in each country for two months at a time. Then they all have a few weeks' break in between where everyone gets to go home (Tiffany goes country-hopping), and then everyone re-convenes in the next country for the next phase of the program. When I spoke to Tiffany she was vacationing in Panama after finishing a school session in Costa Rica, and would be spending time in Cuba before heading to Greece for the next session of school (she's in Greece now). Her first full rotation has not finished yet, which means that she has been working for THINK Global School for under three years so far.
A sense of community and a place to recover
Having achieved her dream, Tiffany loves her current nomadic lifestyle. She gets to experience all the cultures that she grew up being curious about, and each adventure comes with new people to meet. And those people aren't just locals, but fellow Black expats as well! Tiffany has a podcast called The Uprooted Podcast, where she interviews Black people about their experiences and identities as expats/world travelers. In every country she goes to, it's a personal imperative for her to find ways to meet other Black people there. Once they have a chance to hang out and become friends, she invites them to be guests on her podcast and people often accept the invitation enthusiastically.
As Tiffany continues to travel, work for THINK Global, and do The Uprooted Podcast, she eventually wants to find a home base for herself outside of the States, so that she can have a stable sense of community and a place to recover from travel fatigue. And just like Alhia from episode 35 and Gina from episode 36, she has an initiative in mind to help more students of color go abroad too. She's still very connected to the high school she used to work at, and she wants to create a scholarship so that she can pay for those students' airfare when it's their turn to have international learning opportunities. It's still in the works, but just like moving abroad, it's high on her list of must-dos. Tiffany can be found on Instagram (@tiff_tastic1) or her podcast's Facebook page (The Uprooted Series) or website (Uprooted.me). The Uprooted Podcast can be heard on platforms including SoundCloud (here) and iTunes (here). Those interested in learning more about THINK Global School can email Tiffany at Tgreen@thinkglobalschool.com.
Be sure to listen to this episode, "The Power of Asking (UPROOTED/THINK GLOBAL SCHOOL)" for more! And don't forget to check out the resource list below!
Lincoln Community School (Accra, Ghana)
International School of Dakar (Dakar, Senegal)
Search Associates (finding jobs at international schools)
International Schools Services (finding jobs at international schools)
Preview (app for planning and scheduling Instagram posts)
Danielle G. is the creator, host, and producer of Young, Gifted and Abroad. You can find her other writings at DeelaSees.com.