In the middle of July, Tay MacIntyre will rent a moving truck, put her VW Beatle in tow, and begin the long 35-hour trek to to Mexico. She’s making stops in Aspin, Colorado, and Marfa, Texas, with her “sidekick” Bingo the dog.
Here’s hoping she’ll recognize her new home – Tay has never been to Monterrey, the city she is moving to.
It’s a brave leap in a big world, but one that Tay is ready for.
Back in January, Tay announced that this will be her last school year at OES, where she has been the Upper School counselor since 2011. She’s moving to Monterrey, where she will begin the 2014-2015 school year as a counselor in one of the premier prep schools in Latin America, the American School Foundation of Monterrey.
Tay has always loved traveling. “Since I was 11, all I’ve wanted to do is go other places.” She first visited Mexico almost twenty years ago on vacation, but jumped into the culture of the country five years ago when she spent a summer in Mexico on a Spanish immersion program.
The warmth of Mexico – in all senses of the word – is a huge draw.
“The climate has really gotten to me,” Tay told me. She is an Oregon transplant who came here from the Midwest after attending college at the University of Western Michigan.
It was after graduating that Tay wondered about the possibility of moving and teaching abroad. She’s always had a self-described “itch” to expand her world by leaving the country.
After getting the job at OES, Tay decided to stay in the city, but the itch went unscratched.
The school in Monterrey was a perfect fit – they are trying to move towards an American model of counseling, and through a patchwork of Skype interviews, a meeting at a job fair in Atlanta, and a lot of research, the school brought Tay aboard.
The counseling staff is mostly Mexican, while about half the faculty members are American. The school offers AP classes, and all classes are taught in English, though the main language spoken at the school is still Spanish.
Tay’s role is changed from what she has done at OES. She’ll be working predominantly with eighth and ninth graders, and using her degree in “comprehensive school counseling” to aid with academic work, and collaborate with a team of counselors.
Though Tay is not yet fluent in Spanish, she is working towards fluency, and now has no choice but to succeed. “Immersion is the best way to achieve fluency.”
While this is the biggest move of her life, it’s not Tay’s first time jumping into the deep end. 11 years ago, she, “quit my job, sold my house, and moved here” to Portland.
This is the next step in her personal growth. “Putting yourself outside of your comfort zone is really conducive to growth.”
She’s going to make it, but she’s going to have to slow down. You have to be fully present in the moment when communicating in a foreign language, and that thoughtfulness that goes into understanding every word is grounding. “I think that’s going to be really good for me,” Tay said.
Although Tay has never been to the city of Monterrey, she has spent a lot of time in Mexico recently and has some friends in the city. “I love how Mexicans treat their families and children,” she says. New friends are sure to come. “People take time to greet you in the street.”
This isn’t necessarily or frequently true in the overwhelmingly individualistic and hurried culture of the US. But although she’s leaving, Tay has incredible gratitude for the opportunities provided by the country where her family still resides. “Being an American has given me the chance to do all of these amazing things,” she says.
But it’s time to take advantage of those chances. Tay has been readying herself to move abroad for years. As a student, Tay was ready to go to Denmark on an exchange program. Everything was in order.
But at the 11th hour, the school in Denmark rescinded Tay’s acceptance.
She was stunned and crestfallen. In place in the trip to Copenhagen, she was offered exchange programs in Chile, Ecuador, or the Dominican Republic – nations with “lower academic standards.” She declined, and still regrets it today.
Moving to Monterrey is a chance to erase that regret, and answer all the fleeting questions and insights of living in a foreign culture. After years, it’s finally happening.
“Mexico feels like a place where people see you,” Tay says. And as she clearly understands, the world is a place worth seeing.