This M-powering Moment is special to me. It’s the story of my cousin Kendra, who recently relocated to the Middle East to teach. This is her story. 🙂
My name is Kendra Gray and I’m 25. My permanent address is Bowie, Maryland but I’m currently residing in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in the area of Al Ain City, which is about 1 hour away from Dubai.
I was educated in Anne Arundel County Schools, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia in 2009 and in 2011 I graduated with a Masters of Arts in Teaching Secondary English Education from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
After graduating from Clark Atlanta, I joined a program called Teach for America, which placed me in a lower economic area to teach underserved students in Baltimore City Public Schools. I taught English at a high school in the Cherry Hill neighborhood for three years, which also inspired me to take on the venture that I am experiencing now, teaching abroad. I loved my kids in Cherry Hill a lot. They were fearless, relentless and always attempted to make the best out of their situations. Because I started teaching fresh out of college, it seemed like I was always chasing the next challenge. Most of my coworkers called me the “baby” because I started teaching at 22 and most of them had at least five or more years of experience. Needless to say, I felt like I had a lot more vitality left in me to do something amazing so half way through my third year of teaching I decided to apply to teach abroad with a program called Teach Away.
After the recommendation of one of my college frat brothers, I decided that teaching in Abu Dhabi would be the next chapter in my life. After a long interview process, about six months I was offered the position to teach high school girls English for two years. Months and months went by of answering questions like “Where are you going to teach?” “What grade?” “Where are you living?” I think after a while people thought I was crazy because I would tell them all the same answer, “I don’t know,” because I really didn’t. I literally only knew I was hired to teach English in a girls high school and that I would be living in an apartment provided by my employer. My ticket arrived in August and I left for Abu Dhabi on August 8, 2012.
In September, I moved into my permanent housing and started working during the second week. I have had a lot of difficult days adjusting to being away from my comfort zone of family and friends. You realize you take a lot of little things for granted like being able to drive a short distance to hang out with your friends or Thanksgiving dinner but then you also realize how amazing an experience like this is when you are face to face with a camel or are looking up at the world’s tallest building, The Burj Khalifa. My school here is very different than in the states. I work with only women in a school of about 1500 middle and high school girls who speak varied ranges of English, which has definitely taken some adjusting.
Overall, the most important lesson I’ve learned thus far is to be flexible. There have been many of times that I wanted to pack up my suitcases and go back home, but I have learned to take this experience day by day and to be mindful of those before you who have paved the road for your successes. Although I do not know what my future holds, everyday I try to find one positive thing about being 14 hours away and I always find one. Many people are very intrigued by this part of the world, and I am grateful to have this experience because the application process was highly selective. People ask me if I had to do this all over again would I still do it and I say no, because I am too busy enjoying the now each day to worry about an imaginary restart. I have to finish what I’ve started before I do it all over again.