Story by Jonathan Munroe, art by Celia Bergman, photos by Kylan Lane
Tucked back in the world language hallway, Cheryl Bowman, German teacher, calls her mother. It is 6:40 a.m. here in Kirkwood, but back in George, South Africa it is 1:40 p.m. Separated by this time zone barrier and 8,753 miles, this is one of the few opportunities that Bowman has to call her mother. At the end of her 20-minute international call, Bowman says goodbye to her mom.
“I tell her to say ‘hi’ to everyone back home, and she tells me that she loves me,” Bowman said. “Then we hang up.”
This daily conversation across the Atlantic has been happening since Bowman moved to America in 2005. She spent her whole life in South Africa until she decided that she wanted to experience another way of life.
“I was in college and confused about what I could do with a major in German and French, so I went to my professor and asked her what I should do with my life,” Bowman said. “She said that I should travel and I will find my purpose.”
Since she had already traveled to Europe in 2001 as an exchange student and she did not want to learn another language, Bowman chose to study abroad in America for a semester in 2004. Bowman wound up in Eastern Pennsylvania from August to December.
“America sounded like this beacon of hope and opportunity, and everything would be wonderful,” Bowman said. “America is more developed compared to South Africa and opportunities here are much more available.”
After returning from a semester abroad in America, Bowman decided that she needed to stay in America. In 2005, at the age of 21, she traveled back across the ocean. It was not until she was accepted for a master’s degree scholarship at the University of Missouri that she found her calling to be a teacher. For part of her scholarship, she was required to be a teacher’s assistant for a German class at the University for a certain amount of hours.
“The students had to write reflections and many of the students said that German was their favorite subject,” Bowman said. “They wrote about how much they liked me as a teacher, and I thought to myself that I could do this with my life.”