To know what you want to spend your life doing at a young age is a gift. To have a childhood—a schooling—which fosters that passion and that calling is a miracle. To find yourself fresh out of college in one of the biggest recessions in U.S. history is not the future every student imagines for themselves.
When FHC alumni Kit Lang graduated from Central Michigan University in 2008 with a Bachelors of Science in Visual Art Education K-12, she found her life-long dream of becoming an art teacher halted by the immovable instability of recession. In that time of great uncertainty, to pack up and go halfway around the world might not have seemed so crazy.
So that’s what Kit did.
“I realized that I needed to venture outside of my comfort zone to gain experience, perspective, and confidence,” Kit said. “So, I signed a contract to teach English with Disney English, which taught Chinese children English through immersive content, stories, and songs. I then boarded a plane in September of 2009 with a one-way ticket to China.”
That one-way ticket changed the direction of Kit’s life forever.
Living and traveling abroad has gifted Kit with lessons and skills it takes others a lifetime to develop.
“One of the reasons I continue to live abroad is to travel and experience different ways to enjoy, experience, and live life,” Kit said. “Whether it is improvising to make a meal with what you can find at the wet market, overcoming language barriers with your landlord, or adapting to new and different situations, living in a different country builds creativity, resilience, and tolerance. You are learning and growing all the time—whether you like it or not.”
And Kit has certainly embraced the opportunities she has had living abroad—traveling to twenty-five different countries by the age of twenty-five and then doubling that in just the last ten years.
Kit may be living a big life abroad now, but there was a time when she lived the suburban life in Forest Hills and attended FHC. While it may not seem like it at first glance, the upbringing Kit received in Forest Hills helped prepare her for the unconventional direction her life would take.
“Reflecting on my high school experience,” Kit said, “I realize that the education I received at Forest Hills Central was a high-caliber, liberal-arts-driven experience that championed exploration and excellence. From Mr. George’s creative writing course to Mrs. Steensma’s step aerobics class, I had committed and passionate teachers, a variety of courses and subjects to choose from, and incredible facilities to learn them in. I didn’t realize it then, but I do now and feel grateful to have spent my high school career in a safe, encouraging environment that helped shape who I am today.”
One of Kit’s high school experiences that played a role in shaping her is her time spent as Dorothy in theatre director Robbin DeMeester’s first FHC production: The Wizard of Oz.
“The Wizard of Oz was Mrs. DeMeester’s first production at Forest Hills and casting me was one of the many ways she campaigned inclusivity and casting students whom she thought could be directed and grow into a role,” Kit said. “She believed in me, so I rose to the occasion and gave that part my all.”
Kit’s intense dedication to her role was heightened and strengthened by her previous experiences with the theatre at FHC.
“After being cut from the cast of Grease as a freshman, to having only a small chorus role in the Music Man my sophomore year, imagine my surprise when I was chosen for the role of Dorothy,” Kit said.
Kit remembers feeling “extremely grateful, proud, and forever changed” by her time spent with DeMeester as Dorothy—feelings which she fondly and vividly recalls.
“Even after all these years,” Kit said, “I feel so proud to have been in that production alongside amazing talents who are actively promoting the arts within their work and community today (Kyle Black, Benje Daneman, and Hugh Little).”
Although Kit did not go on to pursue a life in theatre, she, like the others she listed, has continued “promoting the arts” in her community in China.
That young fourth-grader that had dreams of becoming an art teacher and the fresh-out-of-college young adult who packed up and moved to China have come together to give her a life so outside of what was expected.
“I knew I wanted to be an art teacher since I was in the fourth grade” Kit said. “I also knew I wanted to travel and that teaching could allow me to see the world. In high school, I took advantage of any opportunity that would help me work toward my goal. From taking every art class my schedule allowed and participating in the Student-Teacher Exchange Program as a senior, to working at Forest Hills Foods to save money to travel in the summer, the small steps I took in High School led me to where I am today. However, if you would have asked me back then if I could see myself living in China for ten years, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.”
And her advice for those of us that wish to spend our futures doing the unbelievable?
“Follow the yellow brick road, even if you don’t know where it will lead you; take the risk, build community along the way, and be brave to build a home on the other side of the rainbow.”