Meet Adriana Smith


MEET ADRIANA SMITH

SHE SHARES WITH US HOW SHE WENT FROM AN EDUCATION IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE TO WORKING AS AN ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS!

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND? ARE YOU FIRST-GENERATION, UNDOCUMENTED, COME FROM A MILITARY FAMILY, ETC?

I’M A FIRST-GENERATION COLLEGE GRADUATE WITH BOTH BACHELOR’S AND MASTER’S, AND THE FIRST IN MY FAMILY TO OBTAIN BOTH DEGREES. IT’S ONE OF THE PROUDEST MOMENTS OF MY LIFE AS I GREW UP IN A SINGLE-PARENT HOME WITH FIVE SIBLINGS. THROUGHOUT MY CHILDHOOD, MY MOM WOULD GIVE US MOTIVATION TO “GET OUR EDUCATION,” WHICH HAS STUCK WITH ME SINCE THEN AND HAS BEEN THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND OBTAINING BOTH OF MY DEGREES. BUT THAT LIFE MOTTO HAS DONE MORE FOR MY LIFE THAN JUST GET ME THROUGH SCHOOL OR COLLEGE, IT PUSHED ME TO CONQUER FEARS, SEE THE WORLD, AND FACE NEW CHALLENGES DAY AFTER DAY.

ULTIMATELY, I BECAME A MIDDLE SCHOOL EDUCATOR, VOLUNTEER SUPERVISOR, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF A STUDY ABROAD OFFICE, AND SO MUCH MORE.

DID YOU PURSUE HIGHER EDUCATION? WHY OR WHY NOT? IF SO, WHAT SCHOOL DID YOU ATTEND AND WHAT WAS YOUR DEGREE?

YES, I DID! BACHELOR’S AND MASTER’S OVER HERE! WOOT, WOOT! COLLEGE WASN’T EVEN ON MY MIND UNTIL I PARTICIPATED IN AN UPWARD BOUND MATH & SCIENCE PROGRAM WHILE IN HIGH SCHOOL. UPWARD BOUND, A TRIO PROGRAM CREATING A PATHWAY TO COLLEGE FOR UNDERREPRESENTED MINORITY STUDENTS, SOLIDIFIED MY DESIRE TO GO TO COLLEGE.

THE IRONY IS I DIDN’T WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS PROGRAM. I DIDN’T WANT TO SPEND MY SUMMERS AND SATURDAYS DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR AT THIS PROGRAM, BUT MY MOM FORCED ME (SEE WHY SHE’S MY SUPERHERO).

THROUGH THE PROGRAM, I MET SOME OF THE BEST MENTORS AND FRIENDS. THEY HELPED ME THROUGH SAT AND ACT PREP, SCHOLARSHIP AND COLLEGE APPLICATIONS, AND COLLEGE ITSELF AT MY UNDERGRADUATE INSTITUTION: UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA.

SO I PURSUED HIGHER EDUCATION BECAUSE OF THE SUPPORT FROM FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND MENTORS. I OWE IT TO THEM.

FOR UNDERGRAD, I ATTENDED THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA. I OBTAINED MY BA IN CRIMINOLOGY AND SPANISH. THEN I WENT ON TO ATTEND NEW YORK UNIVERSITY FOR AN MA IN SPANISH, APPLIED LINGUISTICS.

WHAT DO YOU FOR A LIVING? IS THIS WHAT YOU THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE DOING 5-10 YEARS AGO?

I AM THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS AT PRESBYTERIAN COLLEGE IN SOUTH CAROLINA. BASICALLY, I FACILITATE INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCES FOR DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS.

MY CAREER IN INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION HAS BEEN A HAPPY ACCIDENT. TEN YEARS AGO, I STUDIED ABROAD IN SPAIN. WHILE IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF AN AMAZING CHAPTER OF MY LIFE (WHICH I DIDN’T KNOW AT THE TIME), THE FIRST FEW DAYS OF THE PROGRAM WERE A NIGHTMARE. I GOT LOST IN MADRID AND CONSIDERED RETURNING HOME ONLY TWO DAYS INTO THE PROGRAM. I DIDN’T THOUGH AND I’M GLAD I REMAINED IN THE PROGRAM AND IN SPAIN.

SO TEN YEARS AGO, I DIDN’T THINK I WOULD BE THE ONE ADMINISTERING AND FACILITATING STUDY ABROAD PROGRAMS AND ADVISING STUDENTS TO STUDY ABROAD. NOPE. I THOUGHT I WOULD BE WORKING FOR THE GOVERNMENT, WHETHER THE FBI OR SOMEWHERE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM BECAUSE MY DEGREE IS IN CRIMINOLOGY. BUT, OVER THE YEARS, MY CAREER PLANS CHANGED. AFTER GRADUATING WITH MY MASTER’S IN 2013, I COULDN’T FIND A JOB AND SETTLED FOR THE FIRST I COULD GET AS AN EDUCATOR. I WORKED FOR A K-8 CENTER IN MIAMI GARDENS, AND EIGHT MONTHS LATER WAS TERMINATED IN 2014.

THIS TERMINATION ALLOWED ME TO INTERN WITH AN INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION PROVIDER, WHICH ENCOURAGED MY DECISION TO ENTER THE FIELD OF INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION. A FEW POSITIONS AND INTERNSHIPS LATER, I AM WHERE I AM NOW.

WHAT EVENT OR MOMENT OCCURRED THAT LED YOU TOWARDS YOUR PASSION?

WHEN I GOT FIRED!! ON APRIL 8, 2014, I WAS RELEASED FROM MY TEACHING JOB. I DON’T REGRET ANYTHING ABOUT THAT MOMENT OR WHAT LED TO MY TERMINATION, BUT THE FACT THAT I ALLOWED MYSELF TO SUFFER IN A JOB THAT JUST WASN’T FOR ME. I IGNORED MY MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH AS A RESULT OF THE PRESSURE TO BE THE “PERFECT” TEACHER.  THE BITTERSWEET MOMENT (I MEAN WHO WANTS TO GET FIRED!) LATER LED TO TWO WEEKS “VACATION” AND A NEW JOB AS A ESL INSTRUCTOR.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, THAT MOMENT BECAME MY “REBIRTH.”

I CONCLUDED THAT I WOULD ONLY FOCUS ON PURSUING OPPORTUNITIES TO EDUCATE STUDENTS, JUST NOT IN A FORMAL WAY. WHILE IT TOOK ME TWO YEARS TO OFFICIALLY BE IN MY CURRENT POSITION, MY PATH TO PURPOSE BEGAN ON APRIL 8TH.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS ONE KEY ELEMENT, ACTION, ETC., THAT HELPED TO GET YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?

PERSISTENCE. I WAS HUNGRY FOR THE NEXT STEP. I WAS A BEAST WHEN IT CAME TO OPPORTUNITIES, INTERNSHIPS, VOLUNTEERING, ETC. IF IT HAD AN APPLICATION AND IT RELATED TO MY GOALS, I APPLIED FOR IT.

LIKE I TOLD MYSELF ON APRIL 8, 2014, I WILL PURSUE MY PASSION. THAT. IS. ALL.

 

WHAT WOMEN (OR MEN) INSPIRE YOU? WHY?

MY MOM. SHE’S MY SUPERWOMAN. MY HERO. SHE HAS BEEN MY GUIDING LIGHT THROUGHOUT MY LIFE AND I HAVE TO ATTRIBUTE ALL OF MY SUCCESS TO HER. EVEN DURING THE TIMES SHE WAS OPPOSED TO ME TRAVELING ABROAD, SHE RAISED ME TO HAVE STRENGTH AND PURPOSE IN EVERYTHING I DO. SHE REALIZED HER WORDS PENETRATED AND HAD MEANING AND THEREFORE ALLOWED ME TO BE ME.

AND, THEN BLACK WOMEN AS A WHOLE INSPIRE ME. I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND INTERSECTIONALITY. I SEPARATED MY IDENTITIES AND TREATED THEM AS SUCH. NOW, I’M PROUD TO BE BLACK AND A WOMAN. WE’RE A SPECIAL GROUP OF WOMEN WHO ARE OFTEN UNDERRATED AND OVERLOOKED PROFESSIONALLY AND PERSONALLY. STILL, I LOVE BEING SURROUNDED BY THE GREATEST CREATION EVER. PLUS, I LOVE SHARING THESE IDENTITIES WITH MY MOM, THE SUPERHERO. SHHH, NO ONE IS SUPPOSED TO KNOW THOUGH.

 

WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE TO YOU? IS YOUR IDEA OF SUCCESS DIFFERENT FROM A PREVIOUS VERSION?

WE TEND TO ALWAYS DEFINE SUCCESS THROUGH MONETARY VALUE. IF YOU MADE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, THEN YOU’RE SUCCESSFUL. IF NOT, THEN YOU’VE FAILED. SUCCESS TO ME IS BASED ON HAPPINESS AND CONTENTMENT.

THAT INCLUDES BEING HAPPY MENTALLY, EMOTIONALLY, PHYSICALLY, PROFESSIONALLY, AND PERSONALLY.

I USED TO THINK THAT SUCCESS WAS BASED ON THE MONEY IN MY BANK ACCOUNT AND THE FAME THAT CAME ALONG WITH IT.

I’D NEVER HAD OVER $2,000 IN MY SAVINGS SO I FELT SUCCESS WAS FAR OFF FOR ME, NOT REALIZING ALL THAT I HAD ACCOMPLISHED UP UNTIL THAT POINT. SUCCESS IS RELATIVE AND SUBJECTIVE. I HAVE TWO DEGREES, A GREAT CAREER, A CAR, MY OWN PLACE, A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE, TWO LOVING DOGS (SOMETIMES), AND MY FAMILY IS DOING WELL. SO, WHAT MORE CAN I ASK FOR? YES, MORE MONEY AND NO DEBT. BUT, I’M NOT WILLING TO SACRIFICE MY SANITY OR HEALTH OF MY FAMILY FOR IT. I’M DOING THE WORK TO GET TO WHERE I WANT TO BE. THAT’S “SUCCESS” TO ME. THAT’S MY DEFINITION AND NO ONE HAS TO AGREE.

PERIODT.

IF YOU COULD GIVE ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER, THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD SELF, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

DEAR THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD ADRIANA,

WHO CARES IF “SHE” CONSIDERS YOU A FRIEND OR PRETENDS TO BE ONE TO YOU! LOVE YOURSELF FIRST AND DON’T BE AFRAID TO WALK ALONE, EAT ALONE, AND BE ALONE. AT LEAST YOU ARE TRUE TO YOURSELF AND DON’T HAVE TO BEND TOWARDS ONE PERSON OR ANOTHER. YOU’RE A MATURING YOUNG LADY WITH LOTS OF TALENT, INTELLIGENCE, AND PATIENCE. BUT, DON’T LET THAT GO TO WASTE, USING THAT TOWARD SO-CALLED FRIENDS. IT AIN’T WORTH IT.

YOURS TRULY, 

THIRTY-YEAR-OLD ADRIANA

P.S. YOU WON’T BE FRIENDS WITH HER AFTER MIDDLE SCHOOL ANYWAY SO STUNT ON ‘EM WHILE YOU CAN. :)

 

WHAT HOPE DO YOU HAVE FOR THE FUTURE?

CONTINUED HAPPINESS AND GOOD HEALTH. THIS WILL ENABLE ME TO CONTINUE MY PURSUIT OF FACILITATING INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCES FOR STUDENTS, ESPECIALLY STUDENTS OF COLOR. I HOPE TO BUILD A PLATFORM TO BUILD RESOURCES, AWARENESS, AND FUNDING AROUND ONE OF THE GREATEST OPPORTUNITIES IN THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY FOR YOUNG FOLK. TO LATER BUILD A WORKFORCE AND GENERATION OF DIVERSE, EDUCATED, ACCEPTING, COMMUNITY-FOCUSED AND LOVING GROUP OF LEADERS.

WE DEPEND ON OUR FUTURE. SO WE NEED TO INVEST IN IT TODAY. 

LET’S GET SOCIAL!

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