Alumnus Madison Ward graduated in 2011 and went to Costa Rica. While in high school Ward participated in swimming, Spanish club, and theater.
What have you done after high school?
“This is my best attempt to paraphrase the last crazy six and a half years of my life: It all started with my senior trip to Costa Rica after high school,” Ward said. “I had a grandmother who lived there and I decided it would be a nice place to visit. Over the course of my three week vacation I mustered up the courage to call my mother and tell her that I wasn’t going back. I had found a job working on a permaculture farm and decided to live there for a few months while trying to master the Spanish language during the rainy season in the jungles of the mountains. After a while, my longing for the city coupled with my need for human companionship pushed me into a University in San Pedro, Costa Rica. There I met friends and eventually fell in love… with a chef. when I dropped out of Uni, I began to work with my partner learning the ropes of the kitchen, helping him open some of the most amazing restaurants in the city. Our relationship ended after three years but my lust for cooking never burned out. I continued to cook and teach yoga for events, parties, and festivals until one festival lead me, yet again to working on another farm in the mountains, only this time it was just a ten minute ATV ride away from the most beautiful beach I had ever been to in my life. I worked here for about six months. I spent four and a half years in my second homeland (Costa Rica) until my thirst for travel overcame my love for the country’s beauty. I went to Texas to see my family for a few months and bought my ticket for France. I found a handsome hopeless romantic who gave up everything to travel for the first time out of the country with me to the land of l’amour. We lived there for a year, working at a hotel in Condom, France where I assisted French chefs who did hotel events. Through this job I got an amazing opportunity to work a season as a teacher and the head of the kitchen for an international yoga retreat in the south of France run by a bunch of crazy Berliners. After my time was up, I returned to the motherland in hopes of planning the next venture, where I found out that my little sister (who married a sailor who was stationed in Japan) was pregnant! nine months later I find myself where I am currently lodged in Japan, where I have been teaching English, learning my fourth language and looking for apprenticeships in a career field more suited to my skills.”
What made you want to do what you are doing now?
“My spirit and never-ending curiosity,” Ward said. “Ultimately, I have always wanted to travel, to meet new people, visit new cultures, adapt, change, overcome. So far, I have been to Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Jamaica, the Cayman islands, Spain, France, Thailand, Japan, and loads of other countries airports.”
What did you learn or experience in high school affect you in college and beyond?
“I would have to attribute my most useful skills, again to the theater,” Ward said. “Technical theatre got me through farm life by having taught me how to properly measure wood, use a drill, and cut precisely. The theatre also taught me the importance of proper annunciation when talking to people, especially those of different cultural backgrounds, and how far hand gestures can get you when you are reiterating a point ( or trying to find the nearest bathroom, restaurant, etc…). Children’s theater has been especially useful in my current job of trying to make English seem like a fun and easy language to a bunch of 9-13 year old Japanese students. Lastly, the art of The Audition, has taught me bravery. To stand up and give yourself away to be judged for a part that you want so badly gave me the courage to do it everyday asking for a job in a country where you are still learning the language and the thick skin to do it over and over again when you are rejected. With grace, with elegance, and always with a smile.”
Explain your job now, what you are doing, different aspects of your job.
“I am currently working as an English coach with a company that works for all of the schools in the Nagasaki prefecture of Japan,” Ward said. “We have loads of different programs: some where we grade the kids on their efficiency in speaking about certain topics, another program we have is walking around an amusement park with the students engaging in casual conversation with them, other programs we travel to islands far off the coast where many student don’t have much of a chance to interact with anybody foreign. The students range in age between 9 years old all the way to 13, so it is really a physically engaging job running around museums and amusement parks, dancing and singing.”
What are your plans for the future?
“Before I die, I plan to learn ten languages, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and I know that I will own land in less than three years,” Ward said. “Other than that, I have so many things on my bucket list that I would just have to take a photo of it and upload it online to save everybody time.”
What is your advice to current high schoolers?
“I have heard so many times, ‘cherish these years.’” War said. “And, ‘this is the best time of your life.’ Well, I am here to say, ‘Screw that! High school is not the greatest moment of your life” (I hope). Being an adult is amazing! It is also scary and exhilarating, and sometimes messed up but rewarding because you are doing it on your own. You are doing what you want to do, if you have the discipline and the cajones to do it. Everyday push yourself to be better, to be more humble, to be kinder. There are times for weakness and there are times for strength and it takes a balance within yourself to know the difference. Use what you have learned as a stepping stone and never as a crutch.”