What happens when you travel to 11 countries on 4 different continents within 12 months? For Emma Morrison ‘08, the math adds up to a life changing experience. Emma earned a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics with a concentration in Biology from the University of Maine at Farmington ‘12, and a master's degree in Statistics from North Carolina State University '14. Her aptitude for math led her to a one-year high school teaching position at Tien Shan International School in Almaty, Kazakhstan. This past year she’s seized every opportunity to travel the globe, and it’s inspired her to pursue a second master's degree in Intercultural Studies at NC State, beginning in the fall of 2015. We caught up with her via e-mail to learn more about these experiences.
Q: What have you learned from living in Kazakhstan?
A: There is a purpose in life that is so much bigger than just being comfortable and happy. Living in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan specifically, I have learned to be patient with other cultures and other people. I have learned to love even when I am frustrated and completely baffled by the way things are done. Laws about driving, cell phones, and visas may change every few months, but the trouble is all worth it when I think about the people I have met and the relationships I have built. Yes, I still do not understand some of the cultural differences...but on a deeper level, people all across the world are essentially the same: we all want to be accepted and loved.
Immersing yourself in different cultures and traveling are important because you can be told so many lessons, but those lessons won’t move from your head to your heart until you actually experience them— until you take off your shoes at the door of a one bedroom apartment and sip tea while you sit next to a Kazakh woman who shares her life with you.
Q. Your father (math department chair Jack Morrison ‘74) and brother (math teacher Brian Morrison ‘06) both work at TA and are alumni. Can you comment on your family's strong relationship to this community?
A. Even seven years after graduation, Thornton is still an integral part of what I consider home. With my dad teaching at TA since before I was born, I grew up on the campus and around the teachers, some of whom I'm still close with. The TA community has been incredibly supportive of my family in both struggles and celebrations. My grandparents graduated from TA, as did my dad, my brother and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. Our closets are lined with maroon and gold. My family's loyalty to Thornton can attest to the fact that Thornton is a great community.
This story is one in a series of Thornton Academy Alumni Profiles; you may read others online at thorntonacademy.org/alumniprofiles. Keep up-to-date with Alumni news, gatherings, and more at: thorntonacademy.org/alumni