Name: Rachel Kelly
What years did you attend the Go Global Expo? 2011, 2015, 2016
What cities? Toronto, Montreal, Boston
Tell us about your experiences with the Go Global Expo.
My experiences at the Go Global Expos were overall really amazing. While I was in school, I went on an exchange program for a semester and I just had that travel bug in me. I wanted to be able to go somewhere else, so when I heard about the Go Global Expo I thought it was a really natural step to move forward.
From there—I don’t know how it worked out!—but I ended up working for Verge Magazine and the Go Global Expo several years later. It was after a trip, I had come back and wanted some work experience in the travel field. It was a really natural fit because I had conference planning experience, so I was mostly interested in helping run the expos.
Were you looking for anything specific when you attended Go Global?
When I attended the first time, I didn’t really know what I was looking for. I wanted to get out and work abroad. I knew I didn’t want to live in Toronto, but I was really overwhelmed. At the event, there were lots of people, and I wasn’t sure how or where to start. It was then that I saw Blythe International. I had actually done two programs with them when I was in high school. I noticed they were there and ended up being one of their ambassadors while I was at Ryerson. The rekindling of that relationship with them was at my first Go Global Expo.
What was your professional experience like working with Go Global and Verge?
When I was working with Go Global and Verge Magazine what I really liked about it was that it opened my eyes and make me reflect on some of the past travel experiences that I’d had. I really like the ongoing message of “travel with purpose,” I think that’s really fantastic. When I finished my contract with Go Global, I wanted to travel and I thought I should search from within the company for my next steps. That’s when I landed on the company that I did my volunteer experience with.
Tell us about your volunteer experience.
It was really incredible. I went to Zanzibar and taught English. They were super supportive and communicative, right from the beginning. When I got there I was immediately greeted, and what I thought was really cool was that it wasn’t just, “Okay, here’s your 2-week time, this is what you’re going to do.” It was mandatory to have Swahili lessons, and they talked to us about the U.N. Global Goals and initiatives.
What are those?
Basically, the U.N. put together these goals to achieve by 2020. One was to have clean drinking water, to have education for all… there’s a whole list. They went through what the goals were, and then told us what the volunteer’s role is in achieving them. When I was there, I actually knew what I was doing for the bigger picture.
Did you do any other cool traveling during that time?
I went to Kilimanjaro first! And then did a safari, and then I flew to Zanzibar to volunteer… and then I ended up going to England, then Morocco, then back to England and home!
What’s your favorite story from the time you went volunteering?
One thing that was really cool was that our volunteer community was on the beach. There were a lot of Maasai that would come and stop by and sell their jewelry. You’d finish your breakfast and hang out on the beach; we would just chat with them. One thing that really hit me was that at the time I was 25, and this one guy named Martin, he was 24 years old. It hit me so hard that, ‘holy crap, this guy is the same age as me and his life is so different.’ He would have come from the mainland and the reason they came from the mainland is that they could learn English, and all of the English classes are free. Without these English classes, people were making like $80 US dollars a year. If they learned English, they could work in the tourism industry at hotels, doing fishing excursions or whatnot. English completely enables these people to have a better future for themselves.
Tell us about teaching English?
Teaching English was really cool. I really thought I was going to love teaching the little kids, because they’d be super cute – and they were! – but learning English for them was mandatory, and it was just a class the same way we’d have French class. I actually ended up teaching the adults a lot better, because they actually wanted to do it and understood that learning English was bettering their future. They had a willingness to learn which was just fantastic.
What was it like coming back to Toronto?
When I got home, I didn’t know what to do next. I was freelancing, and living this ‘freedom lifestyle’. I was also part of a lot of online communities that were mostly women, participating in fascinating conversations without a physical space. I decided to start a co-working space to take into consideration all these women in similar positions, with all-over-the-place schedules. There are a lot of co-working spaces in Toronto, so I knew it had to be different. I started Make Lemonade, a co-working space for women in downtown Toronto. It’s been great. I thought it would be, but I wasn’t expecting such great reviews. Everyone here empowers each other.
Would you agree that Go Global had an impact on your life?
Definitely. I had gone backpacking before attending and working for Go Global, but never took into consideration the impact it had. Go Global taught me to have more awareness when traveling, and different methods. Professionally, it taught me to always be up to a challenge, to stay organized and get stuff done. It also showed me that you have a lot more answers than you think, and everybody has a different story. Go Global definitely opened my eyes to show that life is what you make of it.
Would you recommend the Go Global Expo to people looking for international opportunities?
Of course. Go with an open mind and a little bit of a plan! Narrow it down to some organizations you want to talk to. Do your research and use the tools on the website.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Enjoy! You’re in charge of your own future. Don’t just travel with purpose, but live your life with purpose.