Episode 72 │ Branching Out (BERLIN/DUBLIN)
Updated: Sep 22
"I was just like, 'I'm not gonna stress myself out about this.' I was just there to learn and soak in two new cultures... It was a good, relaxing trip for me, while also learning a lot in this lovely structured way where I did not have to exert energy I didn't have." (Tura, Episode 72)
(Note: A study abroad advisor named Adam emailed me a few weeks ago to express how valuable this podcast's insights are for international educators, and I read that email aloud at the beginning of this episode. Thanks again, Adam!)
This latest guest on Young, Gifted and Abroad is someone who initially reached out to me as a listener! Back in the fall I read a message from a listener in Arizona writing to tell me how much this show has helped her pass the time and satisfy her wanderlust during quarantine, and that listener is Tura Dover. In subsequent conversations she mentioned having done a two-week graduate seminar in Europe as an early graduation present to herself, and I invited her onto the show to tell me more about this. Tura is a librarian, and the seminar—focusing on library and information science—took her to Berlin, Germany and Dublin, Ireland.
Tura was born and raised in the Caribbean/South American country of Guyana, until her family sent her on a plane to the United States as a preteen. Her dad, who had already relocated, was there to meet her when she arrived in New York, and eventually Tura's family made their home in Illinois. That's where Tura lived the majority of her stateside life until very recently (more on that later), and she went on to attend both undergraduate and graduate school there. For undergrad she studied psychology and business at Illinois State University, with the unfortunate timing of graduating at the height of the Great Recession. Even though her kindergarten back in Guyana was housed in a library, she'd regularly frequented libraries in both Guyana and the States, and generally loved to read, learn, and be entertained, Tura never dreamed of becoming a librarian. However, her path toward librarianship and the field of information science at large would be set in motion during those first post-graduate years.
Tura sought to take a "gap year" in light of the recession and found two part-time jobs to hold her over: one at an insurance company, and the other at a local library. As she gradually learned what working at a library was all about, she realized that, "I like it here". So much so that when a full-time position opened up after her first two years there, she took it. She spent the following years working in various departments, and had worked at the library for nearly 10 cumulative years by the time she opted to go to "librarian school" in 2015. In other words, she pursued a master's degree (MS) in library and information science (LIS).
As a kid Tura and her family would travel to different states (and even Canada) to visit relatives, but in undergrad she didn't get to travel or study abroad because working and supporting herself through college took precedence. An earnest desire to re-engage with travel after undergrad led her to take several domestic trips as an adult. She took a small-scale or "low stakes" approach, gradually warming herself up to more ambitious adventures including two weeks in Melbourne, Australia visiting a friend in 2013. And upon starting at the School of Information Science at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015, Tura resolved to do things differently during this round of schooling, starting with finding a way to study abroad.
One of Tura's first graduate courses was about international librarianship, and this got her excited to explore her options for traveling with her degree. After realizing that librarian conferences wouldn't be feasible due to timing, cost, or misalignment with her interests, Tura narrowed her search to programs lasting two weeks maximum. That's how she found the 2017 summer seminar in Germany and Ireland, as offered by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Information and Library Science. The trip came after an extremely hectic semester that included demanding consulting projects, and Tura was already set to complete her degree that December, so she chose to not take the seminar for academic credit and instead soak up what she could while having the most enjoyable time possible. She'd never been to Europe before, and this trip was her early graduation present to herself.
Along with a group of fellow grad students from various American universities, Tura arrived in Berlin in May. There was much hype about fintech (financial technology) at the time, and according to the program summary that Tura read me, the Berlin/Dublin seminar was meant to examine "the ways info gathering, dissemination, privacy, and security affect business" and "the juxtaposition between multinational tech companies and the entrepreneurial start-up scene". The Berlin week was jam-packed with activities, meetings, presentations, site visits, tours, and also some downtime for participants to explore on their own. Highlights included Deutsche Bank, Hackesher Makt, Sansscouci Palace (in Potsdam), and a walking graffiti tour that lasted four whole hours because the enthusiastic tour guide was so fond of Tura's group.
The Dublin week also involved scheduled visits to places like the Guinness Enterprise Centre, the Trinity College Library, and Google, but also afforded the participants more free time than in Berlin. Tura and her fellows took advantage of opportunities to explore Ireland outside of Dublin, and even went to Northern Ireland to see nature attractions like the Dark Hedges and the Giant's Causeway.
Recovering from burnout
Tura was dealing with extreme burnout due to the semester she'd just had, so during those two weeks in Europe she only had the energy to be in the present moment and not worry or overthink about too much else. An "intense" amount of walking frequently left her body tired and her feet sore, but other than that she had a wonderfully memorable time with her fellows, and she found being in a new environment to be "rejuvenating". In fact, the trip gave her the extra boost she needed to finish grad school with renewed motivation.
After completing her master's degree, Tura continued working in Illinois until 2019 when she took a new job at a community college in Arizona. Although she was and continues to be fascinated by how tech and IT-inclusive her field can be (she even took programming classes during grad school!), she was also curious to see what academic librarianship would be like. As a cataloger and adjunct college librarian in "the desert", these days Tura enjoys interacting with students and helping them with research, in addition to all the other various tasks that are within her purview. Tura proudly calls herself a "lifelong learner" and hopes to continue working in the LIS field for years to come, in whatever facets that appeal to her.
Looking toward the future, Tura is eager to return to Berlin, as she was impressed by how unique and art-oriented the city is. She also wants to go to all the Caribbean islands (including re-visiting Guyana for the first time since graduating from high school) as well as to India and Dubai. She's also contemplating moving to Canada (specificially Toronto) or Australia. Luckily for her, in each of these places she has friends and/or family whom she can enjoy reconnecting with upon arrival. Tura can be found on Instagram (@2radovah).
Be sure to listen to this episode, "Branching Out (BERLIN/DUBLIN)" for more! And don't forget to check out the resource list below!
Sanssouci Palace (Potsdam)
Great Ocean Road (Australia)
Tura's Book Recommendations: The Best Year of Your Life: Dream It, Plan It, Live It (Debbie Ford); Go Girl!: The Black Woman's Book of Travel and Adventure (Elaine Lee); black and (A)broad: traveling beyond the limitations of identity (Carolyn Vines); Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain (Lori L. Tharps)