By Gabby Christensen
Newman Grove native Brittany Pieke had always wanted to become a teacher one day.
In October 2017, her dream of teaching led her across the world to Kalasin, Thailand where she taught mathematics to primary students through a program called CIEE.
Pieke said it was the best decision of her life.
“I was able to teach the most enthusiastic kids who were so excited and willing to learn every day,” Pieke said. “I literally loved my students so much and couldn’t wait to go back to school from the weekends.”
Pieke taught grades first through sixth with about 40 students in each class.
“They all really wanted to learn English, and knew they would have more global opportunities if they learned English,” Pieke said.
When she wasn’t teaching, Pieke was out exploring the country of Thailand.
Her passport even led her further to Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Germany, Greece and Iceland.
During her seven-month long trip, Pieke became Scuba Dive certified, volunteered to play with elephants through an elephant rescue, took a sunrise hot air balloon ride in Laos, played tomb raider in the Siem Reap Ruins in Cambodia, hiked in Sumatra rainforest while looking for wild orangutans, visited beaches in Bali and Gili Islands, took a scenic train ride through the rainforest and tea plantations and went on a Jungle Book inspired safari in Sri Lanka.
Pieke said her favorite part of the journey was crossing paths with so many great people and being able to experience so many incredible cultures.
“I’m so fortunate to have the opportunity to cross so many things off of my bucket list during this time,” Pieke said. “I learned about myself and gained self confidence to do anything. I learned to communicate and bond with so many others even without speaking the same language.”
This wasn’t Pieke’s first time out of the United States, though.
Prior to taking off to Thailand, Pieke had visited Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Cuba.
When she’s not traveling across the world, Pieke works at various group homes throughout Omaha, where she works with adults with mental illness.
She also substitute teaches locally for St. Michael’s in Albion and Newman Grove Schools, for all grade levels.
To support her adventures, Pieke sometimes works odd jobs to earn extra money.
“I try to do a little bit of everything honestly,” Pieke said. “I don’t want to limit myself to one area of trade. It keeps me on my toes, and I like to think that it keeps me young.”
As for the future, Pieke said she wants to travel to as many places in the world as she can.
Pieke also doesn’t mind traveling alone.
“If I’d wait around from someone to travel with me, I would probably be dead of old age from just waiting for anyone willing to go,” Pieke said. “I’m always up for a challenge or adventure.”
By Gabby Christensen