A broad perspective

Andrew Gillmore,’10, shares his unique post- graduate experiences abroad

Alexandra Cline

What do hiking in Thailand, an ancestor’s murder of an elephant and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz have in common? Andrew Gillmore, a Washington and Lee alum of the Class of 2010.

For Gillmore, life after graduation provided a time for risk-taking and exploration, allowing him to pursue an untraditional career path and begin teaching in a foreign country.

These living abroad experiences were the premise of his lecture to the Washington and Lee community on Sept. 29.

The author of The Red Fish Project: A Uniquely Honest Account of Living Abroad, Gillmore offered numerous stories, ranging from a hike in Thailand with a German traveler, to a first date, all to explain the difficulty and courage required to live abroad.

“I really want to provide a realistic picture of the experience of being outside the country,” Gillmore said. “It’s not all roses and running through fields with rainbows and sunshine.”

Despite the challenge of acclimating to a new environment, Gillmore told the audience to consider three suggestions regarding the future, saying that his unique experiences generated self-confidence and a sense of determination.

“Don’t go with the flow, experience the world and recognize that your limits are self-imposed,” he said.

Although he admitted feelings of discomfort and awkwardness during his first year in a foreign country, Gillmore said he was determined to persevere. He reminded himself that daring actions possess the potential to create truly exceptional experiences. “Interesting people do things radically and dif- ferent,” Gillmore said. “Something [exceptional] doesn’t always just show up, you have to go out and find it.”

While discussing his first time abroad, Gillmore emphasized the value of a simple moment in reassuring himself of the decision, allowing him to realize his capability of thriving in an unfamiliar locale. For Gillmore, such instance occurred when he crashed his scooter in Thailand and a stranger offered him a smile and some assistance.

“You never know what could happen abroad,” he said. “The experience could be good, bad or most likely something in between. But there will be someone there to offer you that smile.”

Students who attended the talk said they wanted to learn more about international travel and to determine if such an option would best serve their goals.

“I really wanted to attend to hear [Gillmore’s] thoughts about living abroad,” Corey Connelly, ’18, said. “He was a really motivational speaker and had a nice message.”

Gillmore spoke about the wide range of prospects that exist in other countries and debunked assumptions of the cost of travel and feelings of isolation from family and friends.

“Living abroad gives you time and space to figure life out away from all the background noise,” Gillmore said. “Instead of coming up with excuses, fight through resistance of the unfamiliar and broaden your horizons.”

W&L’s Career Development program, which facilitated Gillmore’s talk, encourages students to widen cultural and world views by aiming to offer additional options to graduating students.

“We plan to bring a wide range of speakers here and diversify the alumni and employers who come to campus,” Christopher Browning, associate director of career development, said.

The idea of informing students of the variety of career plans available was echoed by Gillmore, who advised W&L undergraduates to resist temptation to quickly settle into a certain profession and to enjoy their time.

“When you graduate, there is this pressure to be instantly successful,” Gillmore said. “You can always make money later because experiences are much more rewarding. It’s not necessary to simply have stuff because that’s not what you’ll remember at the end of your life.”