Most people see reunions as a chance to reunite with classmates, reminisce with friends, maybe do a little networking. But Emmanuel Reed, FCRH ’02, went to his 10-year Jubilee and found something unexpected: the inspiration to seek out a job on the other side of the world.

Affectionately called the “Forda-fan” or the “Fordham Man” by his friends, Reed grew up in New York City and came to Fordham with financial support from the University’s Higher Education Opportunity Program. He also earned a partial scholarship to play the trombone in the University Band. “Fordham offered [me]a lot of opportunities. … I’ve been very blessed,” he says.

Reed was working as a teacher in Brooklyn for several years when he says he decided to attend his Jubilee “to see some friends I hadn’t seen since I graduated.” One such friend, Kristin Nazario, FCRH ’02, GSAS ’04, was best friends with Reed’s roommate, Brendan McGinley, FCRH ’02.

Though they weren’t close friends during college, Nazario and Reed stayed in contact through Facebook. Having seen his travel photos and posts, Nazario broached the subject of international teaching when she bumped into Reed at the Sunday brunch. In two months, she said, she’d be departing for Italy for a two-year teaching contract at the International School in Genoa.

“He was enthralled by the idea from the first mention and kept saying, ‘I’m going to do this. You will be my mentor,’” Nazario says. After going abroad, she kept in touch with Reed via Skype, sharing her tales of life as an expat and counseling him on his resume and applications.

Reed already had some international experience. While working in New York, he earned his master’s degree in special and general education summa cum laude from Touro College, through which he did a summer semester abroad in Salamanca, Spain. But after what he calls his “fateful conversation” with Nazario, he dove full-force into pursing his vocation overseas.

He interviewed with seven schools in six countries, ending up as a finalist for schools in London, Zurich, and Beijing. Though he didn’t land any of those jobs, he stayed positive and expanded his options. “If I’m going to consider Beijing, why not Hong Kong?” he thought, so applied for a position at the West Island School. He was hired as a special needs teacher, something Reed, the son of a pastor, attributes to providence—and maybe even a bit of luck. It had been his eighth school interview and in Chinese culture, eight is an auspicious number.

While teaching in Hong Kong, Emmanuel Reed, FCRH '02, is visiting landmarks, including the Great Wall of China.
A teacher in Hong Kong, Emmanuel Reed, FCRH ’02, travels often, including this visit to the Great Wall of China.

Located in Pokfulam, Hong Kong, West Island School is part of the English Schools Foundation, with students from around the world. In addition to working as a special needs teacher, Reed is a U.S. admissions volunteer in the career department, helping students apply to American universities. He’s also heavily involved in debate, as a coach for the senior team at the school, as the assistant coach and team manager for the Hong Kong National Debate Team, and as a chief adjudicator for the World Individuals Debate and Public Speaking Championship in Hong Kong.

He says he’s adapted well to his new home. “I surprise my friends and family when I say this, but it’s a lot like New York, in terms of the vibe of the city, the people, the hustle and bustle,” he says. “But you also have those huge disparities of wealth, too.”

Reed says West Island School is actively involved in community outreach, helping the “street sleepers, the cage-dwellers, people who you would consider the working poor that can’t afford the ridiculously expensive housing.”

He also encourages his students to mentor others. Last year he organized a school service trip to Chiang Rai, Thailand, where his students provided teaching supplies and helped teach English to the people there. “That was really, really great,” he says, recalling the “Fordham model of service to others. That’s something that I grew up [doing]with my mom, [volunteering at]soup kitchens and clothing drives.”

Last October, Reed had the chance to meet some fellow Fordham alumni living and working in Asia, when Fordham hosted networking receptions in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing. One person in particular, Bryan C. Reilly, GABELLI ’08, who works for JPMorgan Chase, has been a regular connection for Reed in Hong Kong. They are working out an opportunity for Reilly to come to Reed’s school to speak to students interested in business. “Having that Fordham network available to you like that here” is helpful, says Reed.

He’s also staying connected to Fordham in New York. He recently reached out to Monica Esser, associate director for international admissions at the University, who took him up on his offer to host a small lunch at a restaurant for the five incoming freshmen from Hong Kong. “It was a great experience to be able to do that for my university. Coming here has been a series of fortunate events for me,” says Reed, who counts his encounter with Nazario at Jubilee as the catalyst.

Nazario echoes that sentiment. “That’s what I love so much about the special Fordham connection—many of my great Fordham friends were folks I became close to through events after graduation.”

– Rachel Buttner