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Laurentian alumna prepares to embark on international work and travel adventure

Travel enthusiast, Lisa McGowan, journeys towards mental wellness

While the COVID-19 pandemic has substantially altered ways in which we travel, Lisa McGowan (Guelph, ON), a Laurentian University graduate of Psychology (2011) and Education (2012) is eager to embark on a four-month work and travel adventure through Europe and Africa. McGowan expects to depart for this journey this month and in January 2022 through the Remote Year program. Destinations along the way include Portugal, Croatia, Spain, and South Africa. While abroad, McGowan will work to further develop her business, Pop Up Studios, specifically in the realm of travel photography. What’s more, McGowan looks forward to embarking on a journey towards mental wellness; travel has always supported her mental health. Reflecting on this, she described that “any time spent abroad, immersed in another culture, stepping out of your comfort zones, exploring the world, is time well spent and immensely valuable.” 

McGowan is no stranger to international travel. When she was a third year student at Laurentian, McGowan studied a semester at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. She was able to do so through the LUGO (Laurentian University Global Opportunities) program that recognizes the value of the university experience outside the classroom. Participating in an international exchange can create opportunities for growth in vibrant and diverse ways. “I “wanted to make the most of the University experience and study somewhere else apart from Canada alone,” said McGowan. “Travel has had such a profound impact on my well being.” It finds McGowan prioritizing her passions, and she has set the “goal to create a life for myself where I can forge my own path to the version of success where prioritizing my mental wellness and protecting my energy is foundational.” 

McGowan’s participation in LUGO catalyzed her interest in other global opportunities. Soon after her graduation from Laurentian, she was hired by EPIK (English Program in Korea) to teach English as a Second Language. While this experience was initially to occur over a 12 month period, McGowan lived and worked in South Korea for nearly two years. “I moved to South Korea in February 2013 and lived on the mainland in Daegu. I worked at two different public schools with children aged 3 to 12, which was an incredible experience. After that first year, I found a teaching job at a private academy on Jeju Island and lived in an apartment there. I loved immersing myself in Korean culture, and getting to live that life was a beautiful gift.” 

For McGowan, teaching English as a Second language came with its challenges, but more importantly, its rewards. Her experience teaching abroad enhanced her passion for helping to positively develop the minds of youth, and she later found herself employed back in Canada through the Upper Grand District School Board. A most memorable moment for McGowan teaching Canadian students was when she developed an extensive six-week long Shark Tank simulation project for her grade seven class. This project found McGowan helping to develop her students’ self-confidence and creativity while also learning about entrepreneurship. It was this project that catalyzed McGowan’s interest to develop her own enterprise. 

While it is likely that protocols surrounding the global pandemic could have an impact on McGowan’s fast approaching journey, she remains hopeful that she will be able to take on this adventure. “This is one of my wildest dreams coming true! I’m going to make the most of it.” 

All are encouraged to follow McGowan’s travels via her Instagram as she pops up around the world. No matter where she travels next, her experiences at Laurentian will always be kept close to her heart.