My name is Erin, and I am a Pittsburgher.

22 Nov

I was born and raised right outside of Pittsburgh. However, I haven’t always lived in this great steel city. When I graduated high school, I moved solo to Salt Lake City, Utah.

…Utah?! I wanted to be a weather girl. The University of Utah had a great meteorology program. The tuition was reasonable, I loved the mountains, and something about moving across country seemed pretty attractive at age 17. Well, meteorology lasted a semester. I daydreamed instead of studying maps. Workshops in computer labs made me feel beyond claustrophobic, and I struggled in Math 101 let alone calculus.

I did learn that I love people. I love talking to people, being around all sorts of people, meeting people, reading about people… I ended up immersing myself into politics. Through internships or paid positions, I assisted a couple Salt Lake City campaigns, a political consulting firm in Washington, D.C., a campaign supporting Utah Women Health, an Ohio Congressional race, and a Pennsylvania county sheriff campaign.

Campaigns definitely allowed me to communicate with all kinds of people. However, after all the late nights full of knocking on doors, calls upon calls, and eating 5-day-old pizza with no sleep, I was beginning to learn that being a campaign organizer may not be the best fit for me.

It wasn’t until my university supported me to serve a humanitarian internship the summer following graduation that I thought the nonprofit sector could be an option. I spent my first time abroad teaching English to young Burmese females in a refugee home in Thailand. Working in the refugee home opened my eyes to working for a cause rather than a candidate. I believed the girls taught me more than I taught them. They gave me a ton of “aha” moments. They taught me about how fortunate I am. They taught me about the power of giving with the little they had. Most importantly, they accepted me for my differences. Essentially, they were a big reason why I am a Public Ally.

One nonprofit leader asked a couple of us Allies last week, “What is your passion?”… Honestly, I am still trying to answer that one. Through working at my placement organization, talking to community members, and volunteering to assist refugees in Pittsburgh, Public Allies is my outlet to find out.

What’s your passion? Maybe I can learn something.

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9 Responses to “My name is Erin, and I am a Pittsburgher.”

  1. Cynthia James November 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    Great Post Erin! Thank you!

  2. Campbell Minister November 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    Way to represent Public Allies Pittsburgh!

  3. Diane Bacha November 22, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    So it’s not Pittsburghian? Darn, I had that wrong!

  4. Kaleena November 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    Passion is something that is hard to pin your finger on. This is especially true when someone asks you to narrow it down to your true underlying passion. That one thing which drives the reason why you do everything else. I too haven’t been able to decide since I have a great number of interests, hobbies, and topics that I am passionate about. One way I have tried approaching this topic is to look back at as many past experiences as I can to see what common thread lies underneath. Perhaps the answer you are seeking will reveal itself as you continue to post for the blog.

  5. Diane Bacha November 22, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    Great observations! To Kaleena’s point about looking back at one’s past experiences, here is a book I love: “Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation” by Parker Palmer http://tinyurl.com/6rjy434. Personally, I’ve never been able to answer the “what’s my passion” question and I’ve tried a long time! I have found it more effective to think about values. But it’s different for everyone, to be sure.

  6. erinkucic November 22, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    Cynthia & Campbell – Thanks for evvveryyything you do. I couldn’t have better supporters in the program.

    Kaleena – You couldn’t have said it any better…”to look back at as many past experiences as I can to see what common thread lies underneath.” My only concern – I wonder how long it will take to find that common underthread. I have so many things to explore! 🙂 I am sure you do too with your many hobbies – one of which I admire (music).

    Diane – LOVE the book suggestions! If only I had the time to read!… Its a good thing though. I am excited to pick up a good read in July 😉 Also, I never thought of finding your passion through thinking about your values. Keeps me thinking… Thanks your your insights.

  7. pemadb November 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    I’m curious about your internship Erin – I grew up in Thailand and have met many humanitarian workers that worked with Burmese refugees in the north. From what they told me there are many problems of assimilation, and human rights issues associated with asylum seekers and how Thailand accepts them. What are your thoughts?

    • erinkucic December 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

      I would love to hear about your experiences growing up in Thailand. Ever since I came home, I wanted to be back there! Where did you live?

      I worked in Chiang Mai after visiting Mae Sot. You are exactly right. There are many problems of assimilation, and it really depends on the Thai individual whether or not they accept asylum seekers. Luckily, I lived with a Thai family that did not mind my work. It took them a while to figure out where I went everyday, since I kept what I was doing sort of hidden. I was afraid of their reaction that I was assisting refugees. Turns out they were loving and very accepting of my choices. A lot of Thai’s are not like that though. I was not allowed to tell others where I was working or who I was working with. I was strictly a traveling tourist in the eyes of others who asked me what I was doing. I found myself in some awkward situations, taking public transportation to places westerners usually do not go… I got questioned quite a few times… but it all worked out. Since it was my first time abroad it was a bittersweet experience. It was sad, exciting, nerve racking, yet beautiful. The girls changed my life.

  8. imdelgado December 12, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said, “That which is to give light must endure burning.”

    Erin, I commend your courage and continued dedication to the refugee population, even when it meant going against social norms in a culture you were probably trying to fit into.

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