We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot
In the midst of travels that have taken Greg Curtin to dozens of countries, he came home this spring to see a former teacher.
Curtin , who is currently based in Kenya, returned to Sycamore when former music teacher, Paula Fair, came back for two days in early 2015.
“I didn't appreciate Mrs. Fair until long after she and I had both left Sycamore,” he says. “My love for music has grown over the years. I listen to a pop hit and dig into the chords, check the sheet music and try to guess how many supporting instruments are in the background.
“I wish I could go back and pick her brain as a 10 year-old.”
For Curtin, coming back to Sycamore was a chance to return to a place that gave him his most consistent sense of place in a life filled with diverse educational travels. The school also instilled a foundation for exploration and travel that he pocketed and expanded upon.
“I learned a lot from the field trips we took,” he says. “I remember swimming with sharks in the Florida Keys then learning about the different feeding techniques various species of shark used later in class. It was so much easier to retain the material in class after seeing different kinds of sharks act differently when I tried to feed them.
“While traveling the world, I've continued to seek out these kinds of experiences where I surround myself with something new and interesting in order to better understand it,” he says. “I still enjoy reading but I prefer pairing book knowledge with personal experience.”
For much of his adult like, Curtin has embraced the idea of the modern, millennial have-a-new-job-every-few-years nomadic existence. It has served him well.
“My first 20 years were typically normal for a middle-class American,” Curtin remembers. “The last ten have been extraordinary.”
“Playing rugby at Georgia Tech introduced me to teammates from Ireland, Wales, South Africa, and Argentina. The following summer I quit school and moved in with a teammate living in England. I took a job over there and began to make my own decisions. If I wanted to do something,” he says, “all I had to do was find a way to pay for it and I'd be on my way. I explored my limits and discovered my standards were much lower than what I was living with in America.”
Greg attended Sycamore from Kindergarten through 7th grade, in the years 1992 to 1999 and spent a year at Zionsville High School before he relocated to Atlanta for the rest of his prep years.
It was in college where Curtin began to follow his heart, and find the “next” fulfilling and exciting adventure
“I went to six schools, quit to work twice, and finally finished six and-a-half years after I started.”
He originally went to Georgia Tech in the fall of 2004 to study mechanical engineering and play rugby, and he stayed two years. He also attended summer classes at Georgia State to study physics. As a rugby player, he was named to the Georgia Area All Star and USA South All Stars teams. Curtin traveled to England in the Summer of 2005 to work, and then took a semester off in Atlanta in the fall before transferring to the University of Kentucky in the Spring of 2007 to play football (Curtin was a 2-year starter and team captain at Duluth (GA) High School playing linebacker, strong safety, and wide receiver, and he became their long snapper while studying finance. While at Kentucky, he was named to the SEC Honor Roll that fall.
In the Spring, 2008, Greg headed back overseas to the Vienna Business School to learn more about international finance, and then went to the London School of Economics and Political Science for a summer.
He was back at the University of Kentucky for one more semester in the Fall of 2008, this time playing rugby and continuing his finance studies. He then spent half a year in 2009 working in Chicago before finishing his degree in Finance at the University of Tennessee in 2010.
After this circuitous route to a degree, his professional travels were similar, spurred by a realization that he could go anywhere and make life work.
“I could go a lot further (professionally) overseas than I could at home,” he says. “If I'm living in China and hear about a company in Brazil hiring voice coaches, I'll shoot them an email and have a Skype interview. I don't like limiting myself until I find something I'm truly passionate about.
“I believe when I find a girl I want to marry, I'll end up doing what she wants so I might as well do what I want now while I'm still on my own.”
Still, with all the experiences, one senses Curtin has an embedded desire to grow roots in his life, and at some point will find a home that doesn’t involve a suitcase.
“My short term goals are to stick with one company for a while and be patient. It's been easy for me to move onto something more exciting so I'd like to fight through a job for a couple years to prove to myself and others I can do that.”
Besides Fair, Curtin said a couple of your favorite teachers gave him a love and deeper knowledge and desire to learn about history – and reminded him that Michael Jordan wasn’t important to everyone.
“Mrs. Snyder taught me in 3rd grade. She also took us to an Amish farm where I played basketball with a very talented Amish child that had never heard of Michael Jordan,” he says. “Mrs. Snyder taught me that even if all of the people in my life knew Jordan, I should be aware that there are many other people in the world who have different values, interests and hobbies.
“I've found that to be very true this last decade of globetrotting.”
Curtin had Mr. Stroebel for 7th grade history, and said he was the teacher that a young Curtin connected with the best.
“To this day I love digging into the context of historically important moments and people. I spend my free time watching documentaries and reading up on surrounding issues. He made me care about the past and try to learn from it,” he admits. “As one of just two male teachers at Sycamore, Stroebel also modeled for Greg that is was ‘ok to teach.’
“I ended up teaching adults in China,” he says. “I had no fear as I remembered how Mr. Stroebel commanded his classroom and made the past come to life.”
As with many Sycamore alums, the experience of their years at the school informs their adulthood decisions and sensibilities.
“I found the experiences gained from the field trips, art and music education made Sycamore special,” he says. “Being forced to perform in a 6th grade play, make science fair and history day presentations, join the middle school olympics, and travel around the Eastern USA really set me up for success.
“Mrs. Prince did an amazing job throwing every important painting and scultpure at us in her slides,” he continues. “After seeing many of the world's most treasured works in museums around the world, I'm one of the only young visitors who knows the artists and periods of pieces in the museums. I tell people I learned all this in the 4th or 6th grade. They are dumbfounded. I think a lot of the art and music pumped into me by Sycamore has served me well as an adult.
“It's too bad I didn't recognize this sooner.”
A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. - George A. Moore