Rockstar by Day, Adventure Seeker by Night: An Interview with Lesa Sexton


Welcome back to Inside Study Abroad's Feature Friday! Today, get to know Lesa Sexton, an intern on our Global Pro Institute team! Lesa's love for travel came about when she participated in a pen pal exchange program in middle school, and she hasn't been able to sit still since! She was lucky enough to study abroad twice during her undergraduate years, has taught 2nd grade at a bilingual school for two years, and served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant for a year in Malaysia. If that's not rockstar material, then I don't know what is. Oh, and did I forget to mention that she was recently accepted to grad school at NCSU?! Way to go Lesa!

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

First of all, SWEET! I’m going to assume we’ve already taken care of the basics (electronic chargers, quik-dry towel, hand sanitizer, stomach medicine…)

Regardless of where I’m going (Antarctica? the tropics? ziplining in the remote jungles of Borneo?), there’s no way I could ever leave without my Kindle filled to its gigabyte brims with books. To continue in the technology vein, I would also have to bring my iPhone loaded up with the latest episodes of my favorite podcasts and any travel or language apps appropriate for my trip. And because you never know the sleeping situation, I would have to bring an eye mask. I’ve tried to sleep on enough brightly light buses to know you will never wake up a happy camper.

What was the deciding moment or event that led you on your first study abroad experience?

In 6th grade we had the French teacher visit our classroom to talk about the French program and encourage us to sign up. She started by teaching us a few basic phrases and I nearly swooned at how beautiful they sounded. I began to envision how cool I was going to look in a beret, and then she went in for the kill-our school participated in a pen pal exchange program and all students would ultimately have the opportunity to go visit their penpal in France. As she listed all the things we would see, do, and eat, I must have looked like a Bobblehead doll with how much I was nodding!

Two years later I went to France, met my penpal, saw the Mona Lisa, climbed the Eiffel Tower, and there it all began...

What excites you most about a career in international education?

Having seen and done so much (yet not nearly enough!), I know how powerful those experiences abroad can be. Going outside your comfort zone is a challenge and it can teach you so much about yourself. You learn to be brave, adaptable, adventurous, and confident. My time abroad revealed so much about myself, and I want to work with other students to give them the opportunity for growth and self-discovery. I want to encourage them to explore this big ol’ world and boldly discover all that’s out there.

What's your superpower, or what's your spirit animal?

It might sound a little cheesy, but I would love to have the power of omnilingualism (don’t worry, I had to look it up too). To be able to speak and understand any language would make me unstoppable when traveling. I would always know what was going on, there would never be any miscommunications (well, fewer), and it might even help me not get ripped off so much!

What project or accomplishment do you consider to be the most significant?

After college I accepted a job in the Dominican Republic working as a 2nd grade teacher at a bilingual school. I moved there never having studied Spanish, never having taught before, and knowing next-to-nothing about the Caribbean. Part of me was thrilled by the opportunity, but the majority of me was just scared straight. We had a week of training before school started, but when you factored in lunch times and tea breaks and social hour, it was much less substantial instruction than I was expecting.

I wanted learning to be fun so I did my best to make the lessons interesting and engaging. At the end of the year a mother told me that her daughter used to hate going to school. Being a native Spanish speaker, she was afraid she would make mistakes in English class and embarrass herself. But the mother told me that all changed with my class. Her daughter now bounded out of bed in the morning, eager to start school. My classroom was a safe space where she felt empowered to explore the limits of her potential. Score. Best compliment of my life.

Want to learn more about Lesa? Connect with her online! You can find her on LinkedIn. Have a question for Lesa? Shoot her message in the comment section below.

Be sure to check back next Friday to get the inside scoop on our team here at Inside Study Abroad!