Amy Williams '90 -- To Russia with Love
This intrepid alumna embraces change and is filled with unshakeable confidence that leads her through open doors right into her next adventure.
By Donna Parker
Amy Williams Trains Kiva Partners on Microlending Process and Goals - photo by Liz Fish
Amy Williams, who earned a B.A. in Russian studies, missed her graduation ceremony because she was following her heart and living abroad in Leningrad.
"Then, when school was over, I wanted to continue learning Russian, so I signed up for an additional semester with the intent of again living in Russia. I secured a job teaching English to Russians and worked for a venture capitalist for a year before returning home to Dallas," explains Amy.
It wasn't too long after she was back in the States that she decided to sell everything she owned and move to St. Petersburg to live for the rest of her life. "I lucked into another wonderful opportunity there with the University of Texas at Dallas joint management school with the Polytechnic Institute. They needed an American to start a university and oversee grant money for nine months."
Following that stint, Amy hopped a plane back to the U.S., changed careers, and spent the next 13 years in computer support. But it wasn't long before Russia came calling...again.
"I needed a big change in my life and wanted to live abroad, so this time I signed up for the Peace Corps and told them I would go wherever they sent me."
Amy's initial assignment was Africa, so she set about learning French until that was replaced with an assignment in Armenia, where she served as a community business development volunteer. She finished this past July and thought to herself, ‘What next?'
That's when her current position with the Kiva Fellows program came available. Amy jumped at the chance to nurture business development in conjunction with lending partners in Armenia and Georgia, supporting micro lending around the world.
"Everybody has a story and it is fascinating to listen to them and lend a hand," says Amy.
"Recently, I met with five borrowers to learn how they used their loans. One used the loan to repair his tractor, and his mother could not thank us enough for the difference this made in their lives. It literally was integral to their survival, as it sustained the family by allowing them to harvest their hay."
An added plus: Amy felt the emotion in the mom's voice, but also understood the language enough to get the meaning of her words of gratitude.
As a resident in Armenia, Amy lives in an apartment that she shares with her landlady and the two have become friends and recently attended a play together.
"I like to spend time getting to know people one-on-one rather than electronically. It is so much more fulfilling. When I worked in the computer industry, computers were my job, and now I don't want to spend my free time in front of them."
"Since I've been here, I've even learned Armenian dancing and love to explore by taking walks and just wandering around."
Trinity was where Amy's love affair with Russia began, cultivated by Sarah Burke, her Russian professor and adviser.
"She described Russia in such an easygoing manner that I began to believe that moving to a country so far away and learning about their people was completely attainable-even a country that was supposed to be our enemy. Dr. Burke let me know that it was perfectly fine to pursue that dream."
Amy lauds her liberal arts education at Trinity for providing the great opportunity to explore classes outside her major, such as oceanography, which she calls "wonderful because it combined physics, biology, and chemistry."
"I also took theatre classes, which I think concerned my dad because he pulled me aside and suggested I take something more practical such as business classes," laughs Amy.
"But, I had no interest in that and pursued my own path, rather than what other people thought made sense. I enjoy my life and what I do and let my passions lead me."
"Now, I'm just a much happier person with a great support network and I remain open to anything."
"That's exactly what I would tell incoming freshmen: follow your passion because you really will excel if you enjoy what you do."
You may e-mail Amy at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Story Posted: November 2013