The Girl on the Train

A little over a week ago, I climbed aboard a train from Brussels to Ghent and settled into my seat. During the 30-minute trip, I became engaged in a conversation with the woman next to me. Our chat began with the usual pleasantries … Where are you from? What do you do? What brings you here? … before moving on to more personal topics.

My new friend Katrien, who lives in Ghent, told me of her dream to live elsewhere for a short time – maybe six months or so. She desperately wants to do a job exchange and teach elsewhere in Europe while allowing someone else to experience her work life in Belgium. Having the experience of a Fulbright-Schuman grant, I was able to offer suggestions on how such opportunity might evolve. We talked enthusiastically about ways to make it happen:

  • Post messages on LinkedIn
  • Google relevant conferences on her area of expertise and contact speakers from the conference (who, in our opinion, may be more likely to have an interest in expanding their professional expertise in such a way)
  • E-mail researchers who share similar areas of interest
  • Tell peers about her wish, in case someone might have a contact
  • Join a professional organization and message the members
  • Tweet it
  • Ask people to share it on Facebook

Ghent, Belgium

The possibilities seemed to be endless. I felt so happy for her that we were brainstorming ways to make a professional dream come true. At first, her response was shy and reserved, punctuated by shoulder shrugs suggesting a lack of confidence. I explained that I used to think this type of thing only happened to other people. Who was I to reach for something so ambitious? Now, like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” I realize I had the power all along. I wanted to share that sense of innate ability and boundary-free thinking with her, so I continued to creatively consider how she could make the exchange a reality.

As she took notes on a piece of scrap paper salvaged from her handbag, I realized that the most exciting part of our conversation was our shared belief that anything can happen. That you can create the future you want. Readers of this blog know I believe it’s possible to consciously create the life you desire. It’s just a matter of figuring out how, and asking for help is a great start. You just never know what will come your way.

About three days later, I was listening to a presentation at the European Commission when – to my delight – the speaker began talking about a professional exchange program that is fully funded. Fully funded! Wow! I jotted down all of the relevant information to share with Katrien.

With today’s blog post, I want to leave you with these inspiring messages:

  1. Anything is possible.
  2. Help each other out.
  3. Live the life you want.

Katrien and I have since connected on LinkedIn and continued our conversation via e-mail. It felt really great to provide her with information she may not otherwise have learned, and I wish her success in achieving her goals. Opportunity is everywhere. Take it from the girl on the train.


Photo credits: Tricia Richards-Service

Tricia Richards Thumbnail-Head Shot

Tricia Richards-Service is an adjunct faculty member of the Communication Arts Department at Marywood University and a doctoral candidate in health promotion. A 2017-2018 Fulbright-Schuman student research grantee, she is now in Europe, where she is conducting research on breast cancer in Ireland and Romania.


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