PAM: Welcome! I’m Pam Larrichia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Samantha Donndelinger. Hi, Samantha!
SAMANTHA: Hi, Pam! Oh, it’s so good to be here. Thank you for having me.
PAM: I’m so excited. Now we were recently introduced through a mutual friend and I’m really excited to learn more about your experience growing up unschooling. To get us started …
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family?
SAMANTHA: Sure! I’m 20 years old and I grew up in central Maryland with my mom and my dad. And then I have an older brother and a younger sister and we were actually unschooled our whole lives. My brother went to school for about three months, I think, when he was three and then very quickly, my mom realized this was not the right fit for him. And then after that, we just all switched to unschooling and we never looked back.
PAM: Oh, that’s awesome. That’s fun. Yeah. I didn’t know about homeschooling or even unschooling when my kids were young, but yeah, I eventually discovered it when they went to school and it wasn’t such a great fit. It was like, there’s gotta be another way and I eventually found it, so that was awesome.
I would love to know a bit about your interests growing up, like what unschooling was like for you growing up and how you pursued those interests.
SAMANTHA: Yeah. So, I was definitely your typical art kid. I loved watercolor, drawing, painting, all that stuff. Also, music and playing guitar and singing and nature. I was very fortunate to grow up in the country. We had lots of woods around us and I could go out hiking and exploring just all day. So, my favorite part of the day was in the afternoon. I would go down to our little stream and take my sketchbook and just draw all the little rocks and the plants and the animals and stuff.
And so, my brother, he had very different interests than I did. And my younger sister did, as well. So, it was kind of nice that we got to all explore our interests individually, but we also lived together and we spent a lot of time together. Whereas I think if we all went to school, we probably would never see each other, because we all had different interests, after-school activities. So, it was very nice we could explore them together.
PAM: That’s sweet. That’s the fun piece. When you have that space to just be yourself, it’s fun to see how different people are, even inside the same family. We really are individuals and it’s fun to see that siblings or even parents have different interests and are exploring them. I think for me as a parent, the route was the excitement that each of us had about what we’re excited about. That was always a place where we could connect. “I’m so excited about this,” and share that little piece, so everybody knows these other things exist in the world, but to have that time and space to dive into our own interests.
So, did that art interest follow you through most of your years growing up?
SAMANTHA: Yeah. Yeah. And it always stayed a bit of a hobby. So, I thought I was going to study psychology or English or something not strictly art-focused.
And then recently, it’s grown into more than a hobby. So, I’ve started doing a lot of commission work and I started selling watercolors on Etsy and stuff. It’s very interesting that it’s stuck with me my whole life and it’s just now I’m realizing, oh wait, I can actually do this for a living or I can actually get money for this in return and it’s very fun how it’s bloomed.
PAM: Yeah. That is an interesting piece. And I guess now you’re learning that whole world too, the Etsy world, the selling world, and the art piece, too. I’m thinking of other artists, as well, because you’re getting into that bigger picture and exploring. It’s interesting how your art lives alongside. I feel like that might help with your confidence with your art, too, in seeing how it lives alongside every other art that’s out there. Right?
SAMANTHA: Yeah, exactly. That’s very true. There’s a lot of validation in seeing it in a shop next to other pieces, because, growing up, you see this art in a store and you’re like, wow. They must be really good if they got it into a store. And the other day I was at work. I work at a little shop and someone was looking at the cards I was selling there and they just said, “Oh, do you have room for another wholesale account?” And I was like, “Sure.” And it was just that easy. And now I’m selling in their shop, too.
So, it’s interesting how the more you put yourself out there and just trust that the right people are going to find it, the more the universe gives you people that will guide you into the right places.
PAM: I know. It’s funny how that happens and it’s so hard to explain to people, isn’t it?
PAM: When you’re open and curious, these opportunities, we see them more. Somebody would ask you, because you felt like you were approachable about setting up another account. It is amazing.
That’s something that has been such a surprise for me with unschooling is that when you’re open and curious and you know what your interests are and you’re out engaging with the world, so many doors open unexpectedly. Yet it’s not an actual surprise, because you’re living in that world. You’re enjoying that world and you’re noticing opportunities that are around.
SAMANTHA: Exactly. Yeah.
And I think another trait of unschooling or something that unschooling helps nurture is bravery and just being okay with putting yourself out there and trying new things and knowing it’s okay if I mess up or I don’t get it right the first time, it’s okay. There’s really no consequence. I can just try again.
PAM: I love that you brought that up, because that is something that, certainly through school and more conventional parenting and society in general, mistakes are really looked down on and people learn, kids learn that they don’t want to make mistakes. So, that does make them more fearful of putting themselves in a spot.
Growing up, you learned, oh, that didn’t work. I’ll try something else. Oh, that didn’t work. I’ll try something new. You learn from those moments. It’s not about, everything has to be perfect or somebody’s judgment of what’s right.
SAMANTHA: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s interesting, even looking back on part-time jobs I’ve had, how sometimes my bosses, they would get really upset when people made mistakes and they would reinforce it by sending out a mass email saying, “Don’t do this and this person did this and don’t make that mistake.”
And the job I have now, my bosses are amazing. They’re like, as long as the store doesn’t burn down, you can make no mistakes and everything is fixable. And they just really nurture and meet you where you’re at, and I feel like because of that, I’m just thriving so much at the job. And they’re really like seeing my gifts and appreciating my gifts.
And they’re not saying, “Oh yeah, you go sit in the back and organize things.” Because I’m a people person, so they have me out on the floor talking to people. And I’m like, “Oh good. You recognize that I’m good at that. And that’s what I like to do. And now I can do more of that.”
PAM: That’s just another beautiful example, because some people, again, would be leaving those jobs, like, oh, you’ve got this job. You have to fit in. You have to make that work. And if you leave that job, that’s a failure, whereas you can find what fits well.
We wouldn’t see that as a failure so much as you’re learning something more about yourself. You’re learning that that environment didn’t work. And it doesn’t mean that those are the only environments that are out there. You can find things that make a better fit for us. And so, that’s just more information. And you also have choices, like if the money is important, staying there while you’re looking. There’s just so many options when it’s not about avoiding failure.
SAMANTHA: Yeah, exactly.
PAM: You don’t feel stuck. It’s like, okay. That’s not working that well. I’m going to keep looking. I’m going to find other things and life just unfolds, doesn’t it?
SAMANTHA: Yeah. Exactly. Yep.
PAM: I love that. Okay.
Now, when we first connected, you mentioned that travel is also an interest of yours.
I’m curious to hear how your interest in travel developed and if you could share some of your stories about your experience traveling.
SAMANTHA: Yeah, of course.
So, one of the reasons my dad actually decided to unschool or he agreed with my mom that yes, unschooling was a good fit, is because he thought, “Oh, we can travel a lot! The kids aren’t in school, we can take unschooling anywhere.” So, we had a little pop-up camper growing up and we would tow it behind our car and we would go camping and drive across country and just explore the US a lot growing up.
So, that really showed me just all the different cultures and all the different people that there are in the world and so many different places. And that really opened up my perception really young. And so, when I was 18 and I finished high school and all that, instead of going straight to college, I decided to take a gap year. And I knew I wanted to travel for sure and just meet some more people and make some more connections.
So, that’s when I went abroad for the first time and I traveled for about eight months. So, I started in Europe and then went to Costa Rica and Latin America and then ended in Australia. And it was an amazing experience.
PAM: Wow. So, what was your favorite part of it? Just pick one.
SAMANTHA: Yeah, probably all the people. All the people I met and all the connections I could make. I mean, I still talk to them to this day and I know if I’m in this small island in Australia, I have some place to stay, which is really cool. Or on the coast of Ireland, I have people there. I know people there, so I can chat with them. And especially with the pandemic going on right now, I’m checking in with everyone across the world and just hearing how they’re doing and how their life is different than mine right now. And it’s a means to stay connected.
PAM: That is so interesting. It’s interesting, because what stood out for me is you were also talking about the job that you’re doing right now and how you’re working out front because you’re a people person. And now when you’re talking about traveling, it’s about the people that I met, right? That’s what we get with the space to discover what pulls us the most, what fascinates us.
And it sounds like for you, people and connecting with people is the thread that’s weaving through a lot of your experiences. Is that right?
SAMANTHA: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And the funny thing is, I grew up so shy, so probably until I was about 10 or 12, I wouldn’t really talk to people and I was very shy and very introverted. And I think had I been in a regular school system, I don’t think I ever would have gotten the chance to develop the part of me that loves people and loves connection, just because I would be so scared and so nervous.
But the safe space that unschooling created, I eventually realized like, oh, okay. I can start to connect with people and talk with people. And then, once I started to do that more and more, I was like, yeah, I like this. And then it just kept growing from there.
PAM: I think that is definitely one of the really valuable things about unschooling is that people, kids, can develop on their own timetable versus somebody else’s timetable, to be comfortable with who they are in each stage. And that’s totally okay that you’re introverted and you didn’t want to connect or talk with people and giving the space for that. Because people can branch out and pursue things when they’re ready for them.
I feel like it’s just night and day, because they have agency in that situation, versus somebody for years saying, “Come on, Samantha, you really should go over there and talk to the people in that group.” Because it even takes the person’s agency away, because if they do it, they’re doing it to satisfy somebody else. They’re doing it because their parent is telling them to do it, so it takes the choice out of it. So, it’s even harder to peel back and figure out if it’s something that you like to do.
SAMANTHA: Yeah, exactly.
PAM: You don’t have the choice to go over there, so you’ve got all that baggage in there on top of, “So, am I enjoying this because I’m supposed to, or is this something that I personally, actually enjoy and want to dive into more?”
SAMANTHA: No, exactly. Yeah. And I think that applies to so many things with unschooling, too. Growing up, I loved literature. So, I would read Jane Austen and Henry James and all these books that were being assigned in AP Lit classes, but because I was choosing to read them, I was loving them.
And then I would talk to people who were in public schools and they were like, “Yeah, oh, I have to write this report on this book and I didn’t even read it,” or, “I didn’t finish it.” And I’m like, “What do you mean? That’s my favorite book! Let’s read it. Let’s talk about it.”
PAM: Choice is just like night and day, isn’t it?
PAM: That’s amazing.
I’d love to dive into the gap year that you mentioned after high school and the choice of college and alternatives to college. Now, did you attend high school at all, or were you talking about just high school age? You want to tell us a little bit about those years?
SAMANTHA: Of course. Yeah. So, I was in a couple co-ops during high school years. So, typically it would be one day a week and it would be extracurricular classes. So, lots of art classes. My friends talked me into taking an improv class one time, which was so scary. So, fun classes like that.
And then, they did a little graduation when I turned 18, at the end of what would be high school. So, I got a little bit of that closure, which was really nice. And then we would also write reports, little end of the year reports about our favorite things that we learned that year.
And that was also nice for unschooling, because I think sometimes, I felt a little bit like, oh, I should be doing more or I should be learning more. So, to be able to write it all down gave me a lot of confidence and like, oh yeah. I did learn stuff this year.
PAM: To notice.
SAMANTHA: Exactly. Yeah. I just didn’t learn it in a classroom, reading a book or writing it down, but I learned a lot, so that was very nice to be able to translate the skills that I was learning into more of an academic-approved skill.
PAM: That is a lot of fun, whether it’s just conversations or whatever. Sometimes we can get caught up in our days and I know sometimes it can feel like, what am I learning? I don’t know. Especially when you’re older, you often have more contact with kids who are in high school, and they’re writing the book reports and they’re doing the science experiments or whatever, and it can feel like those are what we should be doing.
And when we’re following our interests, for me, so much of the learning is almost incidental, because you’re just doing the things that you want to do, so you hardly even notice that you’re learning. Because you don’t sit down to learn. You sit down to do something. You sit down to do your art or whatever it is that you’re interested in and passionate about. You sit down to do it. You don’t sit down to learn, yet you learn so much along the way.
But it can be so useful to just take that time to realize all those things that you have learned along the way, even if just in the past year, the past six months or whatever, just to have that level of self-awareness, so that you don’t feel behind other people. It’s just different. You’re just learning different things.
And for me, that’s always so fascinating, because people in general think learning is so hard. And when you talk to kids in school and in high school, it is hard. And so much of that is because it’s not their choice. They’re trying to learn things that they’re not interested in. And it’s harder to learn like that, because your brain is not connected to it in that moment. It’s just random pieces of information, because it’s not shared as part of something bigger picture, like an interest. It can almost feel bad that learning is so easy, so that you discount that learning, thinking that it wasn’t really important or valuable because it was just the thing that you were interested in. Recognizing all the learning that’s happening can be really valuable.
SAMANTHA: Yeah. Absolutely.
And I’ve even noticed that when I dual-enrolled in my senior year of high school in community college, for a little bit, I could feel myself losing that love for learning, just because it was so stressful. And I thought, oh, this is how it’s supposed to be. I’m supposed to be studying really late and doing flashcards and reading all this stuff and it’s very overwhelming.
And I would have to catch myself and be like, no, like I’m really interested in this topic and I’m paying for this class. It’s a privilege to be able to take this class and I want to enjoy it. So, how can I enjoy this experience? And then, that’s when I could kind of shift into, this is a choice. I want to learn this because I’m curious about the topic and I want to get my degree eventually, rather than being like, no, I have to do this. The teacher’s telling me I have to write this paper. No. It’s like, what would happen if I could explore this paper? And it makes it so much more fun.
PAM: Right? Because when you get into the system, it can be pretty easy to lose that feeling of agency, exactly how you described it, that, all of a sudden, I’m doing this for the teacher. I have to do this. It is easy to fall into that mindset. So, reminding yourself, no. I chose to be here. I want that longer term degree, whatever the reason you chose it in the first place. Because there is so much. It just gets so busy. And so, at times, you can lose that. But the reminder that, no, I chose this. I can choose how I approach it. This is stuff I want to learn and I want to play with. It’s night and day in the end when you remember to do that.
SAMANTHA: Yep. Absolutely. Well, the funny thing is, too, as soon as I made that switch, I started getting really good grades and other people in class would be like, “Oh, can we study together? How are you getting these grades?” And I just got interested in the material and I just actually was reading it because I wanted to know the answer. I would ask myself these questions, like, what does this experiment mean? And what would happen if this happened? And just really engaging with the material rather than trying to memorize it. And that’s what helped me remember it for the tests and stuff.
PAM: Yeah, because that is where the real learning lies versus the memorizing, in that curiosity and playing around with it. You’re finding the connections to what’s interesting to you personally. And then it sticks so much more, because you’ve actually learned it because it made sense to you the way your brain was processing and the way your brain was curious about it.
I love that. It makes so much sense.
SAMANTHA: Exactly. Yep.
PAM: That’s wonderful.
So, I’m curious. You’re 20 now. When you look back at growing up unschooling so far, what do you appreciate most about the experience at this point?
SAMANTHA: Oh, I love that question. I think I really appreciate the individuality that it offered, like how we were talking at the beginning, how it really meets the kid where they’re at and what they need.
So, for me, that was a lot of me being on my own and doing my art and getting to know myself. And then, when I was comfortable starting to step out into the world and make those connections and experiments, to see, oh, what happens if I do this? And what happens if I say this?
And then, for my brother, he loved math and he loved science, so he took a lot of math and science courses online and did that in his free time. And then, he played a lot of video games with friends and that’s how he connected to people.
And then my sister, she liked more structure. So, she would make a little structure for herself, like, “Okay, this is what I want to focus on today. And then this is what I want to focus on tomorrow.” And that really helped her organize herself. Even now, I see her do it, because she’s in college right now. She’ll write everything out on her planner and all her tasks and she’s just so organized. So, it just really nurtures the kids and their individual needs.
PAM: I love that, because it is back to what we were talking about before, how kids, even in the same family, are all very different people. To be able to explore and embrace and figure out what works for each of you individually, that is priceless. Because it’s really valuable to figure that stuff out and when it doesn’t happen, at some point, as an adult, we realize we need to do that inner work.
And, for me, I think it’s so much harder at that point, because you’ve had so many years of being told what to do and being told what’s right and wrong and good and bad, that that’s a lot of layers, which is what unschooling parents who did not grow up unschooling, that is the work that they’re doing to figure this out and to realize the value of that, so that they can support their kids earlier in being able to figure out how they tick really.
SAMANTHA: Exactly. And it’s funny, because I think that’s also how life is after school and after college is, you’re not going to be assigned this course and then you do all the research and then you get a grade at the end. That’s not how it works. So, you’re trained to work this certain way and then you have to untrain yourself afterwards. And, at least for me, it just made more sense to not train myself that way in the first place. And it worked for me.
PAM: Yeah. And that’s what we talk about so much. It’s like, okay, we’re just going to choose to start living life now.
SAMANTHA: Yeah, exactly.
PAM: And the kids gain experience. Your younger sister loves structure. It’s all about the to-do lists and that kind of stuff and ticking them off. That’s great to know. And you can structure yourself and your life even without having to have school in it. Like you said, when she was growing up, she came up with what she wanted her day to look like, and she laid it out for herself, and she followed that. And I’m sure she gained some experience with how she felt when it didn’t go the way that she was planning it out or whatever.
There are just so many experiences that you can have growing up and that you can learn from that you take with you instead of, “Okay. I’ve graduated college. Now, all of a sudden, I have to figure out this whole new real world. Finally graduated to the real world.”
SAMANTHA: Yeah, exactly. And I think that’s also why I was so comfortable traveling after I turned 18.
Because I had a very good sense of my world in Maryland, at least, and how my brain worked and how I could interact with people. And so, it was a lot easier to go off and travel, because I wanted to learn more about the world and I already had a good starting point. Where I feel like if I was in school for almost 18 years, I wouldn’t have had that real world experience, that I would need a lot more time before I could jump into something like that.
PAM: Yeah, I can imagine. And so often, I think that’s why people who have been through school take that time off. They need those transition years. So, in those transition gap years that they take between high school and college or whatever, it’s more learning about themselves than it is learning about the world. Whereas for you, the travel was about learning about the world, but they find they have to go somewhere else in the world to get completely out of that environment so they can actually explore who they are. Does that make sense?
SAMANTHA: Yeah. That’s so true. That’s so true.
I started the gap year with a program with a lot of other kids who were in public school. And it’s so funny, because I know for myself, I need a lot of alone time. So, after a full day of doing activities with the other people, I would go for a walk by myself or it’d be like, “Okay, now I’m going to go journal for a little bit.”
And everyone thought I was so weird at first. They were like, “What do you mean? You don’t want to hang out with us more?” And I was like, “No. I really like you guys. I just know for myself, I’m going to feel better tomorrow if I take some time for myself right now.” And they were like, “Oh. Okay.”
It was just interesting how we had such different perceptions of what we were working on, basically. Like, I already knew that about myself and so I had other priorities and they still were figuring that out and it was just interesting. We all went for different reasons.
PAM: That’s really interesting. Yeah. No, I didn’t know you were part of a formal program. That is very cool how you can see how different people were approaching this freedom, this time, right?
SAMANTHA: Yeah. Yeah.
Now, I would be very curious to hear what advice you would give to newer unschooling parents as they start out on this unschooling journey with younger kids. What would you like to share that you think would be helpful for them at this point from your position?
I would say to trust yourself is really important, because I know talking to my mom about her decision to unschool, it was really scary at first. And she knew it was the right decision, but everyone else around her wasn’t so sure. And so, she started to doubt herself when her dad would say things like, “Oh, but what about college?” And, “Well, what about friends?” And she couldn’t really articulate how she knew it was going to be okay, but she just knew intuitively.
So, I would say, you know your kids best, so trust yourself and then listen to your kids and meet them where they are. Unschooling for your oldest child might look really different than unschooling for your youngest child. So, it doesn’t always have to be the same type of unschooling. It’s really about meeting your kids where they’re at.
PAM: Oh, I love that and meeting them where they’re at and as who they are, like you were saying, our whole style, our communication style, how we support them, can look very different for each child, right?
PAM: That is a very big piece. And I love what you said about your mom. When I first started unschooling, I think there was a good six months there that we, as a family, cocooned, because my kids left school. They were in grade four, two, and junior kindergarten. So, for them, this was that freedom to just be able to play and relax and just unwind from that.
But for me, it was also useful because, yes, I could not answer the questions yet, even though I intuitively knew that this was a good thing for us. So, not only did I not have to try and articulate answers, I also was able to watch my kids and learn more about how unschooling works and start to see it in action. And I finally found the words so that I could then go out and answer those questions.
SAMANTHA: Yeah. Exactly.
PAM: I totally know what she means when she talks about that. That’s definitely something that newer unschooling parents often struggle with. Like, this makes so much sense to me, but it’s so hard to explain to other people, because you don’t have the language. You don’t have the experience within your own family, seeing it in action with your own kids. And it takes a few months for that to happen, because, as we were talking about earlier about unschooling parents, there’s a big shift in what learning even looks like.
Because, at first, you grew up in school, typically, and you think learning looks like that. So, that’s the lens that you’re looking at your kids through. “Oh, they’re just playing.” But when you start to see that learning, you open up your lens and you see all the learning that’s happening every day with just about every encounter, and see them making choices and seeing that even though siblings make different choices, they are the choices that work for them. I can see why they made that choice. And the other child made this choice, even though they’re different. They’re so in sync with who they are as a person. It’s such a stressful time, but such a fascinating time, too.
SAMANTHA: Yeah, absolutely.
And I think also, like the exercise that I was talking about earlier, how at the end of the year, or even if you do it monthly or every six months, typing up what you observed or what you guys have been working on, that could be another way to validate some of those like inner critic voices in your head, like, “Oh, but is this really right?” If that’s something that works for you and you’re a more structured person, but your kids aren’t as structured, that could be a way to meet them in the middle. Like, “Okay, well, Gary likes to play with blocks. So, we’re learning about geometry and this and that.” And so, you’re transferring what they’re doing into the language that you’re already familiar with.
PAM: Definitely. I actually still have some of my journals from that first year, because, yeah, I needed that. I’m one who has to write things down to figure out what I think. That helped me process. And it was easier for me to see the patterns having written things down.
And yes, at first, they were much more structured to, “Oh yeah. See? This is math and this is reading,” and you can tell, over time, as that lens kind of falls away, that I didn’t need to justify to myself anymore. Over time, learning is learning and all learning is valuable. So, it is really fascinating.
It helps to understand how we ourselves learn as people and how we process things. So, it could be writing, or you could be making audio notes for yourself if you like talking, or even photographs, if you’re more visual. Just a photograph of an activity can bring that back to mind. It’s like, “Oh yeah, no, we’re learning. Look at what they’re doing.” And that brings the scene back to you.
SAMANTHA: Yeah, absolutely.
And then I would say the other thing, too, is to find a community for yourself, as a parent. Yes, connections are important for your kids, but also, as a parent, to find other parents who are unschooling. And now, it’s a lot easier, because you can do it online, so you can do Zoom meetings or chats or Facebook groups. There are more and more unschoolers out there than I ever realized.
PAM: That’s another great point, because you do find yourself, especially in that cocooning time, pulling away, because of feeling like you have less in common now with people. Or interactions feel more judgy at first. Like, “Why the heck are you doing that?”
I didn’t know homeschooling existed, because no one in my circle knew about it, in Canada. It was years behind the US. So, it was so valuable to me finding an online community. It was like, oh, there are other families living this way. And just sharing our days, sharing what our kids were up to, was inspiring, sharing the relationships that we had that were so different. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like without that community. That online connection is just as valuable.
Then, we traveled to conferences once or twice a year and we would actually meet up face to face. But online was my lifeline. I would pop in for even just 10 minutes each morning. It got me re-centered. It got me re-energized and just excited for the day when the kids woke up. So, I love that point, Samantha.
I’m curious what you’re up to right now. What are your plans for the next little while and how can people connect with you?
I’ll put links to your Etsy store in the show notes, as well, if people want to look at your art. So, you’re working towards filling up your Etsy store with art and you’re working at a store. Is that an art store? What kind of store is that?
SAMANTHA: Yeah, so it’s a really cool store. It’s called Nest Natural in Clarksville, Maryland and it’s all about fair trade and ethically source, handmade, small batch artwork. And yeah, it’s a fun environment to be in.
And actually, I’m enrolled in school in Australia. But because of the pandemic right now, and the borders are closed, and it looks like they’re going to be closed for the rest of the year, that’s why I’m just chilling here in Maryland for a while and doing my art. I’m working at the store and then I’m working at an animal shelter right now that I used to volunteer at in high school, actually. And now, I’m there part time, which is really, really fun. So, yeah, just making connections and doing my art stuff and eventually, I’ll go to Australia.
PAM: What are you enrolled in?
SAMANTHA: I’m studying photojournalism, because, like we were talking about before, I love connecting with people and hearing their stories. And then there’s also that art piece of the photography and taking photographs. And I can travel with that, too. It’s the perfect degree for me.
PAM: All those different pieces weaving together. That’s beautiful, Samantha.
SAMANTHA: Thank you so much. It took me a while, because I knew I wanted those three components, the art, the connection, and then the ability to travel and the freedom. And it took me a while to decide on that degree. I didn’t even know it was a thing until I was actually traveling. I was on my gap year traveling and I met a photographer there and he was giving me more and more information about what he does and how much he loves it. And I was like, yeah, that sounds like something I would like. And then after that, it kind of snowballed.
PAM: Wow. That’s brilliant. I love that. And, again, the timetable doesn’t matter. The timetable is what works for the individual.
SAMANTHA: Exactly. Yeah. And that’s also what I like about international schools is they are a lot more laid back. Most of them don’t even have homework. They’re very in the moment and the experience and if there is homework, it’s like going out and doing stuff in the cities and in the world, which I really appreciate. And then, gap years are a lot more common overseas. So, I think half of the students at the school I’m at, they enroll when they’re about 18 and the other half are 20 and over when they first come in, so it’s nice that there’s more diversity and more experiences and different ages. And it’s just a very rich, fun learning environment.
PAM: That’s so cool. So, are you doing online classes right now or are you just going to start once the borders open up and you can travel?
SAMANTHA: Yeah, so I considered online, but with the time change, they would be through the night. And since it is photojournalism, it’s a lot about looking at photos real time and portfolio review. So, they had to be live classes and I was like, you know what? I think I’m just going to wait. I’m in no rush. So, I’m just gonna wait until the borders open and I can go in person.
PAM: That’s brilliant. That’s brilliant. I love that, Samantha.
SAMANTHA: Yeah. And I’m having fun here, too. I really like my job and my art now, so I’m having a good time.
PAM: Oh, well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. It was so much fun.
SAMANTHA: I had so much fun, too! Thank you for having me, Pam. I had a lot of fun.
PAM: Oh yay. I’m so glad. And, like I said, I will put links to your stuff in the show notes so that people can connect with you if they’d like.
SAMANTHA: Thanks so much. Thank you. Appreciate it.
PAM: Have a wonderful day.
SAMANTHA: You, too. Bye, Pam!