Broadening horizons

Principal Brandt recounts experiences living in various countries

Throughout his life, Principal Jens Brandt has lived in Germany, Egypt, Brazil and the United States. He was able to travel to these places due to his father’s work in international education.

“It really opened up my mind to what it’s like to live outside the United States and have a more global perspective,” Brandt said. “I think it’s a good thing for everyone to experience that. Whether it’s traveling or living overseas, it really helps with being more open minded and more progressive in terms of the way you think and the way you act.”

Brandt first moved to Egypt when he was five years old, and his father had gotten a job as the superintendent of Cairo American College.

Although born in Bad Schwartau, Germany, Brandt more clearly remembers the years of his youth spent in Cairo, Egypt where he had many adventures.

“Egypt, I loved,” Brandt said. “We would go out to the desert, dig for mummy beads and find ancient sharks’ teeth. I often described it being like a little wannabe Indiana Jones. I remember vividly my grandfather came to visit from the United States, and we actually found a mummy. It was amazing, and we brought it back to a museum in Cairo.”

Living internationally also taught Brandt to have an open mind when it comes to people of different cultural backgrounds.

“I really appreciate that because I think it helps me to be a person that sees all people as the same,” Brandt said. “We should, as the cliché goes, be judged by the merits of our character, not as who we are on the outside.”

Through his travels, Brandt learned to be aware of social cues, people’s cultural expectations and adjust to his own environment, which made him more adaptable as a person.

“It’s also taught me to, in many ways, be a chameleon, in terms of adapting to one’s environment,” Brandt said.

As a result of living in different nations,  Brandt was also exposed to the hardships experienced by those who lived in poverty.

“I was exposed, when living in places like Egypt and Brazil, to poverty that we can’t even imagine here in the United States,” Brandt said. “People literally living in boxes with tin roofs. In Egypt, there was very deplorable living conditions, yet, at the same time, there were people who are perseverant, people who are happy and people that find the joys in life.”

Brandt believes he was “really lucky” as a young man because of how his childhood prepared him for the real world.

“I got to experience life at a much earlier age, and it prepared me for college and beyond,” Brandt said. “You tend to mature a lot more quickly when you live overseas just because everything is presented to you at a much earlier age.”

One conflict that Brandt encountered was adapting to life in Brazil, where he did not speak the native language of Portuguese at first.

“I think one challenge would be being a chameleon,” Brandt said. “I initially was in shock. I was overwhelmed by the breadth of the city.”

Brandt overcame this language barrier through his passion for soccer, which eventually allowed him to make friends in Brazil.

“Slowly but surely, I made Brazilian friends,” Brandt said. “The one thing that I carried with me throughout my young life was playing soccer. Soccer has an international language to it. You don’t need to be able to speak a particular language to get out there on the field.”

In addition to moving to a new country, Brandt also found it difficult to leave the various places he lived in.

“Of course when you form those friendships and relationships, it’s very hard to pick up and go,” Brandt said. “I certainly left some best friends in each one of those locations.”

Brandt has a “closely knit” relationship with his parents who helped him endure the various challenges of traveling.

“They were big fans when it came to sports,” Brandt said. “They were at every single game, cheering me on, as crazy as they were. That was always appreciated. We were always going on trips together and exploring. My dad and I, to this day, remain very close with regards to soccer and talking about education.”

According to Brandt, his high school friends have recently started a Facebook page in order to collect as many of the alumni as possible.

“Social media has helped in terms of reuniting,” Brandt said. “It’s fun to see where people are at in the world, their family life, and what kind of profession they went into.”

In regards to his life, Brandt would “do it all over again” because of his positive experiences.

“The more we get to experience other cultures, other languages and other backgrounds