Continuing with the introduction of some of my engineering friends, I am pleased to introduce Kristen. You are going to LOVE her travel photos – she has been all over the world and is always up for trying something new. I met her while living here in Korea – it was always so nice to have another girl around the yard and she was nice enough to teach me a little something about drilling which was great. She’s had some pretty unique work assignments in Russia working on drilling rigs and certainly takes advantage of the opportunities she’s had to be in different parts of the world. Prepare to be amazed…
First off, introduce yourself:
My name is Kristen Eason. I was born and raised in Louisiana and I graduated from Louisiana State University in Chemical Engineering. Immediately upon graduation, I started my career as a drilling engineer. I began a rotating assignment (3 weeks on, 3 weeks off) to Far East Russia working on a drilling rig. This was quite the change for someone who had never lived north of Interstate 10 before. I decided to take advantage of my earned days off, and I could travel anywhere I wanted in the world. I visited every continent besides Africa and Antarctica within 1 year of graduating college. I was also given free Russian lessons since I was assigned in Russia, and after a few months I could read and write Russian and hold my own in a basic conversation.
After rotating for nearly a year, I was offered a live-in assignment in South Korea. I gladly accepted, picked up and moved my life to Asia. I had never even been to South Korea so I had no idea what to expect. I quickly learned that Koreans have an incredible culture and are some of the nicest, honest people you’ll ever meet. Living in Korea is safer than living in most US cities. It’s is centrally located to many fantastic countries, so I constantly took weekend trips abroad – Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, China – anywhere there was a direct flight from my city. I also was given Korean lessons, and learned to read and write Korean (although speaking is much tougher). Much less expected, I met the man of my dreams and got engaged after spending a year in Korea together where we were both on foreign assignments.
After spending 1 year in Korea, I was offered a live-in assignment in Far East Russia. I accepted and moved up to the tundra. It’s not quite Siberia, although that’s what my mother tells all her friends. I currently still live in Russia working as a drilling engineer. It’s that time of year where I can build a snowman whenever I want and go skiing on the slopes 5 minutes from my office after work in the evening. It will soon be my first white Christmas!
Why did you become an engineer?
I love trying to figure out how things work. It can be anything – cars, trains, planes, and rig equipment! I enjoy problem solving and I am good at math, so engineering was the right fit for me. It’s also, in my opinion, one of the best degrees you can earn after 4 years that doesn’t require additional schooling. After I heard that I could finish school forever in just 4 years, I said sign me up!
What countries have you visited while studying or working as an engineer?
Oh boy, well I’ll go in chronological order since that’s easiest to remember. I went on a 6-week backpacking trip across Europe after graduating. I visited Iceland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Germany, and Greece. Staying in hostels with people from all different cultures and backgrounds was amazing. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but it’s something I’d recommend anyone to try once. Traveling on a budget is what allowed me to do most of the adventures that I took while backpacking. After that I began my rotating job where I visited Thailand, Japan, Australia, Italy (again), Austria and Costa Rica within 9 months of one another. Once I moved to South Korea, I visited China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan (new cities) and obviously South Korea. I now live in Russia in a rather isolated location so I don’t get out much, but I’m always planning my next vacation abroad!
In addition to that, I made a personal wish to visit every Disneyland around the world. So far I have hit Disneyland in Florida, California, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. Only Paris is remaining (Florida is definitely the best and biggest one)!
How were you able to make the most of your time in places that you were sent for work?
I’m a big believer in learning the local language. If you are spending at least a day or 2 in another country I think you should learn to say hello and most importantly, thank you. Following this rule I’ve learned these words in about 10 languages, which is pretty neat. I take advantage of my work locations by learning as much as I can about the local language. You learn a language fastest when you are living in it. In most countries, they are much nicer to you if you attempt to speak the language rather than if you automatically address them in English and expect them to understand. After all, you are the visitor in their country.
Being located in Korea it was easy to hop countries on the weekends. My fiancé and I were in a different country nearly every weekend. If it was a direct flight, we took it! My travels have allowed me to meet people in so many countries. I do my best to get to know someone in each country, and now I have friends to guide me when I come back or to give travel suggestions for their country. It’s always better when you have a local opinion. They tend to know places that aren’t necessarily tourist attractions. I encourage anyone and everyone to travel as much as possible. Seeing and understanding different cultures gives you a completely new perspective of the world. Never miss an opportunity to go somewhere, no matter where it might be. Every city I have visited has taught me something new and interesting. Hopefully my story inspires people to go out and do great things! Engineering has been the ticket to see the world, not just for me but for so many others I know.
What is the most interesting story you’ve had while traveling?
I managed to get myself and a friend past 5 security checkpoints to stand in front of the Sydney Opera House on New Years Eve 2011 after it had been closed off for almost 12 hours. For anyone who isn’t familiar with Australia, being in Sydney is equivalent to being in New York City for New Years, and being in front of the Opera House is like standing front and center in Times Square and watching the ball drop as the clock strikes midnight. It’s a big deal and I wanted in – we were told it was really hard to get in unless you camped out the night before or got there early in the morning. There were 5 checkpoints to get to the front of the Opera House – I got us through all of them and have the picture to prove it. When the fireworks went off of Sydney Harbor Bridge at midnight, we had the most envied seat in all of Australia. We had done the impossible, and in a timeframe of only 30 minutes on Sydney’s busiest, most “secure” night of the year. It was my greatest New Years experience to date. And suffice to say, our friends from Sydney did not believe we made it until we showed them pictures!
What is something that you’ve done that you never thought you would?
When I began traveling, I decided that I wouldn’t turn down foods because they were weird, and I definitely wanted to try the specialty of each country I went to. This led me to eating cured (rotten) shark in Iceland, bugs (not sure what kind) in Thailand, and a whole raw fish (bones and all) in Japan. While I won’t try those again, it also led me to some great things. I now have unrealistic expectations for sushi around the world because I’ve eaten such amazing sushi in Japan too many times. I started eating fried eggs on my burgers (Australia) and mayonnaise on my French fries (the Netherlands). A Belgian waffle will never be as good as it was in Brussels. I had no idea what goulash was until I walked into a pub in Prague and asked for the house special. Experiencing the foods of the world has been incredible, and this is coming from the girl that grew up refusing to eat nothing but bread and butter. One thing I can say is that although it seems dirty, street food in any city typically surpasses anything you can buy in a restaurant. People who have been operating those little carts for years make the food and they know what’s good!
Other crazy adventures include playing with tigers in Thailand, whitewater rafting in Costa Rica, hang gliding in Switzerland, skydiving in Slovenia and diving on the Great Barrier Reef. When in Iceland, I got to go ice diving in between the Nordic tectonic plates; you could see where the massive rocks had split apart beneath the water!
One of the stupidest things I’ve done was going extreme canyoning in Switzerland; it’s basically risking your life for a period of 3 hours while jumping off of 40ft cliffs and trying to avoid boulders in the water below.
I consider myself extremely lucky to have had these experiences. I couldn’t have done them had I not been given the job opportunity I have that locates me in different areas of the world. If there’s one thing I learned, is ALWAYS buy the pictures/video/whatever they are trying to sell you after an adventure. You will be glad you did later.
Thanks for reading! Gracias, grazie, merci, mgoi, xie xie, komsamida, harigato, spaseba, danke, dikeh, ka poon ka, hvala