Taking risks and Tripping Roads: An Interview with Erin Thomas

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I can't believe it! This is Inside Study Abroad's last Feature Friday showcasing my rockstar interns. Where did the time go?? Well, our last but certainly not least featured intern is Erin Thomas, a member of my amazing outreach team (I'm sure a few Global Pros out there have already met her!) Born and bred in Miami, Florida with mornings fueled by Cuban coffee and afternoons halted by torrential downpour and the occasional hurricane, Erin's eyes were opened to this wide world of travel when she studied abroad for the first time while at FSU. Needless to say, while abroad her love of travel became her passion and she decided to make a career out of it. Changing her major to International Business, Erin embarked on many adventures from working for a Norwegian Cruise Line as a personal cruise consultant to a 10,000 mile road trip across the US. She currently works for PassportsandVisas.com (for all of your travel document needs!) and is embracing her warm weather roots in San Diego.

If you're going on a 2 week international trip, what are 3 things you'll take with you? And, why?

Aside from my passport, Capital One Venture Card (gotta get them points!), underwear, and a toothbrush.. my top 3 travel must-haves must be…

  1. A backpack. JanSport preferably. What can I say? I’m a ‘throw all my sh*t into a bag and sling it over both shoulders’ kind of girl. I don’t do purses. They are just a pain to carry and I pretty much always seem to leave mine on or under a table at the bar. I like to have all of my smaller must-haves accessible at all times: wallet, camera, headphones, water bottle, sunglasses, receipt for the donuts that I bought 5 days ago- the usual. My backpack stays with me at all times when traveling and I (usually) don’t have to worry about leaving something important behind.
  2. Sunscreen. No matter where in the world I am traveling, the sun is out to get me. I was born to some extremely fair skinned caucasian mutts that have engrained the fear of skin cancer into my soul. Getting a bad sunburn on a 2 week trip can put me out of commission for days- no thank you. Better safe than sorry!
  3. Work out shoes- my Nikes or Brookes running shoes*. I like hiking up to the highest point of my surroundings to catch a good sunset or 2. Nothing is worse than making a trek in sandals or crappy keds. I think walking around a city is the absolute best way to mingle with locals, find great food, and explore hidden treasures of international cities. Good shoes are definitely a must for a long day out on the town.

*I bought these shoes last week for my first 5k. That makes me a runner, right?

What excites you most about a career in international education?

The pure thought of my own short lived two month study abroad experience excites me. The chance to motivate and empower students to gain an experience of their own gives me hope that our future generations will embrace the world’s cultures unlike the generations before us. It has been nearly 8 years since my time in Spain and I am still unpacking my experiences as I encourage my younger siblings and their friends to expand their horizons and reach outside of their comfort zones. As cliche’ as it may sound, studying abroad changed the trajectory of my career and ultimately my life. I am passionate about travel, but I am even more passionate about educating students on the personal and societal growth that results from international education. Learning a new language, a new city, or a new culture not only benefits the individual whom is directly experiencing these elements- but that individuals home community and peers as well. The more we are able to learn and take in about the world around us, the better we are all able to interact as one species on this planet.

When have you been the most satisfied in your life?

I think that everything happens for a reason. I truly believe in living in the moment and appreciating every new day. I believe that every experience that I’ve had in life thus far, the good and the bad, has led me to this point in time. Right now, today, I am as happy and as satisfied as I ever have been. I live in a beautiful city with my beautiful girlfriend, I have a great job and great friends across the country, and I take on every new day with the desire to be a better person and to accomplish more than in the previous day.

That being said, one of the greatest and most satisfying experiences that led me to my current happy place was taking the plunge to leave my hometown of Miami, FL in an epic 10,000 mile road trip adventure across the USA. 2 ½ months on the open road with no responsibilities except for finding a place to sleep each night-which typically ended in a night under the stars in a national park- was as liberating of an experience as they come. Finally making it to San Francisco, finding a place to live and a job, and succeeding in a city without the help of my support system back home- was (and still is) one of the most gratifying feelings I’ve experienced. I grew up; I ‘found’ myself. I started my own journey and am constantly surprised by what I am capable of. Taking a risk and embarking on the unknown has brought me to a life that I never would have expected!

Which one would you choose: interview with your dream job, or free trip to dream country/city?

Wait a second.. how long does this trip get to be?! Either way I have to go with a free trip to a dream country. Life experiences are one of the only things that can’t be taken away from you. Material possessions, jobs, even people- they come and go. Experiences though, they stay with you forever.

A few destinations on the list:

  • Thailand is in the works for 2016- donations are welcome. I live to eat and I LOVE Thai food. Get in my belly.
  • Machu Picchu is high on my bucket list- I’m afraid it won’t be accessible for many more years to come. Who’s taking me with?! Patagonia is up there too- 180 Degree South, anyone?

Want to learn more about Erin? Connect with her online! You can find her on LinkedInFacebook, and Instagram. Have a question for Erin? Shoot her message in the comment section below.