Jeremy Simon ’17: Environmental Outreach and Cross-Cultural Learning

June 7, 2019
Andrea Wang ’19
Three people standing in front of mountains and lake. Photo.
Jeremy Simon ’17 with fellow trip leaders in Bhutan. Photo credit: Courtesy of Jeremy Simon

Since his time at Oberlin, psychology graduate Jeremy Simon ’17 has led teen service and travel programs across Southeast Asia, combining his interests in cross-cultural experiences, youth engagement, and the environment.

His travels have taken him to Thailand, Bhutan, China, and Vietnam, among other countries—all in the span of fewer than two years. Jeremy is currently the student affairs manager at the School for Field Studies in Bhutan, where he has been working for the past year.

How did your Oberlin experiences guide you toward outdoors and outreach work?

I spent three of my four Oberlin winter terms abroad, learning experientially about a range of topics, from exploring my family’s history in Eastern Europe to studying traditional ecological knowledge in Thailand. From these experiences, I discovered the value of learning through hands-on experiences, the importance of cross-cultural understanding, and the transformative power of international travel. I was interested in helping to foster the growth and learning that can occur during an international immersive experience, which led me to pursue a job as a program leader for Rustic Pathways, a company that runs service and travel programs across the world. Two days after graduating from Oberlin, I left the United States for a summer contract in Thailand and Laos, which has resulted in a year of leading programs throughout Southeast Asia and Mongolia. I am currently working as the student affairs manager for the School for Field Studies in Bhutan.

What else were you involved in at Oberlin?

I was a member of Oberlin Steel throughout my time at Oberlin, which consisted of my most important community of friends. Through OSteel, I got the opportunity to travel to Trinidad one winter term to perform in the annual Panorama steel pan competition. I also worked for the bowling lanes and participated in league play. I was a member of OSCA throughout my time at Oberlin, eating exclusively at Old Barrows. I spent some late nights and early mornings on the waves as a WOBC DJ and spent afternoons volunteering at Eastwood Elementary as an America Reads volunteer.

Jeremy holding flowers, holding his thumb up. Photo.
Jeremy Simon ’17
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Simon

What are some of the best things about your work?

I work in an always changing and fast-moving environment, which has given me opportunities to spend time in many different places, meet new people, and learn constantly. While leading programs, I work closely with a diverse team of both local and Western program leaders, which gives me me a unique opportunity to work cross-culturally. I value being able to learn from the people I work with and the environments we visit. One of the most meaningful components of international program leading is helping to foster growth and development amongst participants. I really enjoy being able to travel for work and have learned to appreciate the transitions that come with a changing work environment.

Do you have advice for students figuring things out or who want to pursue a similar career path?

Most of the opportunities that I have had are because of people I met during my first week as a program leader with Rustic Pathways. It felt like the world of international education and program leading exploded in front of me, and I started to learn about many different opportunities. I think talking to people and learning from their experiences is really valuable. Also, do not feel pressured by a society-imposed timeline or expectation of what you should do post-college. Try out a job for a bit, if it does not work, try a new one! If you want to take time off and travel, feel validated to do so; you just spent your whole life in the education system. Make sure you enjoy what you are doing!

In the future, Simon hopes to work in youth mental health fields or wilderness therapy.

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