Name: Andrew Cote
Where from: Connecticut, New York
When and where were you born?
I was born in the United States on the East Coast, on 6 April 1971.
Who did you grow up with?
I grew up with my mother, father, and older brother (Michael).
Who or what has had an especially strong influence on the direction of your life?
My father has and continues to have a very strong influence on my life. He had a very rough start to his own life, and he did all that he could to make life better for his sons than it began for him; a task at which he succeeded enormously. He also helped to cultivate my sarcastic sense of humor, which I appreciate though not everyone does. Of course my mother was a great influence as well though a bit too practical and sensible most of the time, but they both supported me and allowed me to make my own mistakes and to learn from them, something which I now know must have been very difficult for them.
Family aside, my wanderlust was fueled in my formative years by authors such as Kipling, Twain, Garcia-Marquez, and a large group of others, who showed me a world that I had to go out and explore for myself.
What is your favorite food?
I love Indian food, Japanese food, and Cuban dishes. Really I like almost all spicy hot foods and a lot of rice.
What was a challenge or a cool job you've done?
One of the most challenging and rewarding jobs that I have ever had is the one that I have now, as Professor of English Language and Literature at 'Dzemal Bijedic' University in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina (of course this month we are on holidays.) It is a new department, and there are tremendous difficulties in getting things up and running, but, my students are enthusiastic, eager, and intelligent, and their positive attitude and unwavering support make everything more than worth any problems we may face.
I have had a lot of different jobs, though. I have been a taxi driver in New York, I have tended sheep in Ireland, been a fry cook in a kebab shop in Wales, a barkeep in Japan, an importer from Guatemala, a cinema projectionist, a security guard, an ice-cream scooper... the list goes on and on, and most of them I did just for the experience of doing them.
Where is your favorite place?
I love la Habana, Cuba; Marrakech, Morocco; Kyoto, Japan; and Guayaquil, Ecuador the most of all places. I know that they mostly are not the hot spots for tourists, but they all hold special memories for me and all told I had many good years in those places. And where I am based now, Mostar, Bosnia-Hercegovina, is becoming one of my favorite places to be on the strength of the great people here. But of course home always has something that nowhere else has.
What are you afraid of?
I'm afraid of not making the most of my time, not taking the best advantage of opportunites that come my way. I am afraid of getting old and having regrets about not having done something, so I am trying to do everything that I want and possibly can now that I am able. I am also afraid of most dogs.
What are some really fun things you've done?
Last summer I was in Guatemala and I went swimming in an ice cold river that was beneath the earth, under a cave. A group of us brought candles and put them all over the walls; it lit the place eerily, and was really a lot of fun. Also, my father and I have done some great trips together: once we rode our bicycles from London to Marrakech. Of course we took ferries across the English Channel and from Spain to Morocco, but, otherwise it was peddaling all the way. It was great, and we were fit by the end I can promise you. Another time we walked from the east coast to the west coast of England, 220 miles.
What kind of student were you?
I was a bad student. I did not pay attention, I made poor use of my time in school, I was a trouble maker, and I have regret it ever since. I quit high school when I was fifteen and spent a long time before realizing that a formal education was worth pursuing. When I finally decided to go back to school and be serious about learning, I was a much better student, though it took a few years for me to learn how to study and how to cultivate the habits of a disciplined learner. Eventually I finished university and then finished graduate school, but it was with a lot harder work than had I just been a good student in the first place, done my best, and paid attention to what I should have. So take my advise and make the most of your education while it is free and while you do not have to work for a living!
What is your advice to young people today?
My advice is: follow your dreams, do what makes you happy. Don't make money your motivation. Do what you want because you love it, not for alterior motives. Do not waste your time, watch less television, read more, explore the world, question your teachers and your parents but do it respectfully and with a purpose. Do not live your life by other peoples values.