Deanna Baboi – Humans of UofL


    I picked my college simply by wanting to be south. The idea of quicker springs, hot summers, a more mild winter and a southern drawl was exhilarating. It seemed like everything a girl could ask for. Plus, I was tired of Ohio winters. I grew up in a very small town and was looking to go away to college and make a new life. I dreamt of heading all the way south; to Florida; but I knew that was not a financially wise decision. I would not be able to drive home during breaks and on weekends if I really wanted to visit home. Therefore, I settled on the University of Louisville. Here is where I would build my adult life.

    I was a first generation college student; graduating even before my big brother. Reaching my graduation day was a challenge in itself. I didn’t have anyone in my family to teach me the ins and outs of all the aspects of being a college student. I was on a steep learning curve and I had to observe from others, seek counsel, and keep my eyes on the prize: a diploma. By the time I reached my junior year I was ready to quit school. It seemed like the no sooner I had secured scholarships, grants and/or loans; it was time to do it all over again. Not only that I was beginning to conceptualize the impact paying the loans back would have on my future life. This was the most exhausting part of being a student.

    During my junior year I was having a hard time finding financing for the upcoming year. This was a time when the economy was not strong and there were projections that it was not going to get better. In fact it got really bad. The market crash of 2009 completely affected the trajectory of my career. In hindsight that crash has been a propellant for my career in international education.

    Finding a job after graduation was hard. I bounced from sub job, to long-term sub positions, to waitressing in the summer. Often babysitting nights and weekends to make ends meet.

    I tried a career move to a daycare that hardly payed the loans I had taken out to obtain my degree. It didn’t prove rewarding and daycare was not where my heart was. In 2012, 2 years after graduation I came across a placement agency that placed teachers internationally. I felt desperate, hopeful even, but also jaded. I went with hope and filled out the application.

    I got hired. It took three months to secure all the necessary documents to be an international teacher; then I left to teach abroad in South Korea. In my whole life I had never left the United States. I packed up a few bags and here is where my international story begins. I started on a journey of dotting the globe teaching.

    In South Korea I fell back in love with teaching and it reminded me why I chose the field. I became passionate for travel and education and this opportunity allowed me to grow as an educator. But not only growing as an educator it gave me time to reflect on the bigger picture. How I viewed the administration, the parents, the students, and myself and how each part played its role best in the cog of education. During my 14 months in South Korea I travelled: Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, London and Ireland. Returning home in 2014 gave me a clearer picture about who I was and how I could change the world, one mind at a time.

    In 2014 I visited Tanzania for holiday. After I returned to the United States, my body was here but my heart was in Africa. At the end of 2015 through friends at church I got in contact with an organization that runs missions in Fort Portal, Uganda. They were in need of a classroom teacher. So in 2016 I bought a one-way ticket. I was going to try my hand at developing a small school in Fort Portal, Uganda. I knew no one there. I only knew that I would have a bed and 30 children surrounding me. Thirty children half of which were very far behind academically, for numerous reasons. I like a good challenge. I spent the school year working alongside a native teacher. We did an amazing job this past year. It taught me that if we have high expectations for our children, they rise to the occasion. Optimism is contagious. Many of our children returned to local schools after testing back into their grade level. Some have remained at homeschool because not every learner has the same needs.

    These opportunities have been life changing and now I am looking to enter the field of international education, reform and curriculum writing. Had I quit my junior year of college, I most certainly know I would not have all of these experiences because I wouldn’t have a bachelor’s degree. So, I carry around my bachelor degree from the University of Louisville as a proud reminder of the university and city that has made me, who I am today. The way the College of Education shaped me has been a blessing that has doubled tripled and quadrupled since graduating. Through the education program I have taught hundreds of international students: quite possibly some future leaders. I have lived in affluent South Korea and then lived a more modest life in Western Uganda. Both have taught me so much about education; but this rings true the most. Every child deserves an education; a chance to reach their full potential. And I am proud to be an educator.