collage of staff headshots

This month, Verto participants embark on a life-changing first year experience where they will spend the next semester exploring, creating, and learning about the world with our amazing Instructors and Care Teams.

Who are these phenomenal world travelers and mentors our students will be spending the next few months with?

Get to know the Fall 2022 Verto staff through a Q&A!

COSTA RICA        CZECH REPUBLIC          ENGLAND         ITALY        SPAIN

🇨🇷 Costa Rica

Fabricio Arguedas

Clubs & Community Engagement Coordinator

Fabricio Arguedas headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

There is no perspective without distance.

Traveling, studying, living, or working abroad give us the opportunity to gain new perspectives. Different solutions come when we get to see every situation from different angles.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

To see Verto students engaging with the local communities through art, sports, culture, and community service.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I have been based mainly in Asia over the last 9 years. First I moved to Beijing in China, looking for an adventure, I wanted to see something different! After 1.5 years in China, I moved to Hong Kong, Laos, Vietnam and other countries in the area where I got the opportunity explore on my own and work with different organizations.

I also got to spend some time in Canada while working with an adventure school in British Columbia, as well as well as in Spain.

What was your most adventurous moment?

Gotta be the time I got lost in the forest after 4 hours of hiking in the mountains in China and had to spend a night on my own with no gear, food, or water. I was looking for a non touristy / in-ruins part of the Great Wall to spend the night. I found it the next day though!

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

You will tell me!

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

Hey students! Come with an open mind, but also be mindful about the positive impact we want to create in the communities we are traveling to, create connections, have a good time, share and learn from every person you will meet on the way.

This is going to be a life changing experience, try to make the most of it, and listen to the Verto staff, we are all here to advise and support! Buen viaje!

Maria F. Batista

Social Problems Course Instructor

Maria F. Batista headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

I have been committed to supporting global competence development in higher education for quite some time. At the same time, social justice, inclusion, and equality for all people are core values that I strive to carry through my life and work.

I feel Verto’s mission supports the same values and I see my work here as an opportunity to support and learn from many young people who are seeking change in the world.

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I have about 15 years of work experience in international development, focusing on human rights, gender mainstreaming and global education. In addition I have been working in academia for almost 7 years, specifically as a professor and lecturer in International Relations Theory and International Development.

Verto provides a wonderful and unique blend of experiential learning and global competence development, I feel right at home!

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

Diversity and perspective.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I have studied abroad both in the United States and in Austria. Professionally I have been very lucky and have worked in and visited most countries in Latin America and a few in Europe. I would say cultural diversity is a very important part of my life and work.

What was your most adventurous moment?

Most definitely giving birth to my son, followed by a 5 day hike in the rain forest in Costa Rica.

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

I once stole Danny Suko from Sandy.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

These really are the “good old days.”  Seize it, enjoy it and and let yourselves be immersed in the new culture and surroundings!

Johel Chaves-Campos

Academic Manager

Johel Chaves-Campos headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

I am convinced we can be way more effective at positively impacting the life of students by working closely with them during their first year of college, instead of later.

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I have been an instructor of study abroad programs for US students in Costa Rica for more than 10 years. I taught tropical diversity, ecology and environmental science.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

Working with faculty to deliver a life-changing positive experience.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

Yes, I lived in the US as a PhD student and postdoctoral researcher for 8 years. I have also traveled to multiple countries as a tourist.

What was your most adventurous moment?

Traveling to the Ecuadorian Amazon, very deep in the forest, to see wildlife.

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

I like to dance salsa music.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

Come willing to appreciate and change your attitude towards tropical biodiversity, even bugs!

Alexander Anchía Vindas

Spanish Course Instructor

Alexander Anchía Vindas headshot

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

 I would like to create an unforgettable experience for my students. 

What was your most adventurous moment?

When I was in Moscow, it was challenging to communicate without speaking Russian!

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

I’m excited to share traveling adventures and fascinating books and readings! 

Laura Moreira León

Introduction to Psychology Course Instructor

Laura Moreira headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

I deeply believe that experiential learning and international experiences can enrich processes of personal development, change lives, and impact communities.

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I have many years of working and developing learning and sports experiences, also I have studied and participated in various international academic programs with the International Olympic Academy in Greece.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

During the years 2003/2004, I studied and lived for a few months in Madrid Spain, while I was studying for a sports and physical activity psychology master’s degree, also I lived in Olympia, Greece, really close to the archeological site where the Olympic Games began in antiquity, I studied a Master program in Olympic Studies, Olympic Education and Organization of Olympic Events, with the International Olympic Academy, we where 28 students from Asia, America, Europe, and Africa continents.

Both experiences changed my life and opened me to global and complex perspectives and new opportunities.

I have also traveled abroad accompanying and working with athletes and coaches in competitions and events of the Olympic movement.

What was your most adventurous moment?

I enjoy practicing mountain sports as trail run and mountain bike. Recently I made a mountain bike descent of 90km, just going downhill, it took us 9 hours to finish it, because many adventures and obstacles happened, when we finished the journey we were very happy and excited about all the views, sensations and learnings.

Pratyush Sharma

International Relations and Contemporary Social Problems Course Instructor

Pratyush Sharma headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

Higher education in a foreign location for an immersive learning is what caught my attention.

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I have been a part of Verto like programs from both sides i.e being a participant/fellow and being in a faculty/administrator’s role.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

To bring the interesting, complex, and important ideas of International Relations to the young and inquisitive minds.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I have lived in Bonn, Germany, Costa Rica, and Calgary, Canada in capacity of research fellow.

What was your most adventurous moment?

The most happy moment for me was to visit Machu Picchu, and having my dad by my side made the moment extra special.

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

People have told me that I come across as a serious guy but I am fun once they get to know me.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

Always be open to new ideas and experiencing situations that takes one out of their comfort zone, the idea is to expand one’s comfort zones. Traveling the world and observing different cultures, customs, traditions, etc helps one to realize the world is massive with acute diversities and contradictions.

Andrew Carbaugh

Academic Success Coordinator

Andrew Carbaugh headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

A passion for International Education and changing the perspective and lives of students!

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

Helping to run exchange programs for foreign students studying in the US, and teaching English abroad in South Korea.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

Getting to know the student participants and my fellow teammates!

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I lived in Finland with my family as a kid, taught English in South Korea for two years, and have traveled around quite a bit otherwise.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

Try your hardest to stay in the moment and embrace your time abroad, and I can’t wait to meet all of you!

🇨🇿 Czech Republic

Jill Cefalo

Prague Program Director

Jill Cefalo headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

I deeply value and appreciate Verto’s commitment to providing opportunities for students of all backgrounds to study abroad. Studying abroad is a life changing experience that everyone deserves to experience. It transforms you for the better.

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I have a Master’s degree in International Higher Education and Intercultural Relations from Lesley University. I was also the Program Director in Prague for Northeastern University’s program for first year students called NUin Prague.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

I’m most looking forward to meeting the students and learning about them and from them. I also love seeing the growth, confidence, and maturity that develops in students from their first day on-site to their departure date.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I’m a dual US/EU citizen and I’ve traveled a lot. It’s my favorite hobby! I lived in Italy for 5 years for work and Morocco for 6 months as part of my Master’s program. I’ve been living in Prague for 4 years.

What was your most adventurous moment?

Probably camping/sleeping in a ger (yurt) in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

Maybe not so surprising, but I have a pet rabbit that I absolutely adore. His name is Petr (Peter in Czech) and I adopted him 2 years ago. He is a spoiled prince and even has his own stroller so he can join my friends and I for walks or coffee. Also… I don’t speak Czech!

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

Once you arrive on-site, try and continue any routines you usually do at home. You can utilize the staff for help with this. They can help you find gyms/sports activities, parks, art classes, community centers, dance studios, etc.

For example, whenever I travel or live abroad for an extended period of time, I always try and find a yoga studio and a place for a manicure. These are two activities I always do when I’m home and it helps me feel settled more quickly and reduces my homesickness.

Lily Schmidt

Student Life and Academic Success Coordinator

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

I’m most looking forward to meeting and connecting with our Prague students! I’m excited to be a part of their journey and to help share the magic of this beautiful city.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

During University, I spent my sophomore Spring semester studying abroad in Florence. After graduating, I moved to Prague, Czech Republic and have been here for the last 3 years. I’ve travelled to many different countries during this time and am always seeking new travel adventures!

What was your most adventurous moment?

Moving to Prague to teach English with no previous teaching experience and without ever visiting the city. And I’d do it all again!

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England

Faissal Hameed

International Relations Course Instructor

Faissal Hameed headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

I love to be a part of the Verto study abroad experience and giving students the opportunity to experience all of the beautiful world cultures (and foods) London has to offer.

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I have taught International Relations and Comparative Government and Politics for Verto London programs. I have travelled extensively in Asia, from the Middle East to South Asia onward to South-East and East Asia. I have been working with American study abroad students in London for over a decade.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

Having those difficult but brave and world enlightening conversations to try and understand the multiple problems our world faces. Getting the next generation of student leaders to engage with the world and its different cultures and work together constructively to find solutions. Learning to see the world’s trouble spots and challenges from different perspectives and therefore engender greater understanding.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I have family and friends in the Middle East and South Asia and have travelled extensively in both parts of the world. My field research for my PhD took me to Pakistan and the regions neighboring Afghanistan. I have travelled for conferences and in my capacity as an instructor to Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia. For a London based course titled ‘Understanding Civilizations: Islam and the West’ I have taken American students to Istanbul, Turkey to experience the amazing architecture, art, history, culture and food.

What was your most adventurous moment?

Traveling to Kalam by jeep, and occasionally on foot, in the upper section of the Swat valley along the banks of the Swat River overlooking the magnificent Hindu Kush and Karakoram mountain ranges in northern Pakistan; truly spectacular and out of this world!

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

How much I learn from my students at the end of each semester and how much I grow as an instructor when meeting and talking to students in London. You learn best through talking (and listening) and asking difficult and brave questions in the classroom.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

Be prepared to learn something new about yourself while abroad and in the process see your country, and its place in the world, from a different perspective and most importantly be prepared to get wet in the rain while exploring London on foot in our field visits!

Noam Yadin-Evron

Art History Course Instructor

Noam Yadin-Evron headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

I am a passionate educator, and love to teach history and art history, particularly to groups who might be new to these subjects. I strongly believe in the transformative power of education for people of all ages and from all backgrounds. Teaching has always been the aspect of my work I enjoy the most, both in my academic and professional careers. I am particularly drawn to institutions that seek to empower both students and educators to think outside the box, and add creativity and individuality to the subject matter, which is what I admire about Verto’s approach.

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I have experience teaching a wide variety of audiences, and in a variety of formats. I am currently a lecturer in the London Drawing Group, where I run a lecture series on women in the Medieval. The lectures take place via Zoom and have an audience of hundreds of people from around the world. These lectures are designed to be approachable and of value to all who attend them, no matter how much or how little they know of the topic in advance. I also taught in the University of Hertfoshire, in the philosophy department, and in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in the department of art history. I love interacting with students, creating a dynamic environment to explore topics and raise questions together.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

I look forward to meeting the students and seeing how the course takes shape together with them. Having the opportunity to teach not just in the classroom, but also on location, interacting with some of the artworks and cultures that we’ll discuss is also something I am extremely excited about.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I was born and raised in Jerusalem, and moved to London in 2019. Iv’e also spent 6 months in New York when I was 19, where I took a summer course in art history. This has lead me to make the decision to pursue an academic degree in art history.

Jakub Mildner

Calculus Course Instructor

Jakub Mildner headshot

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I’ve worked as a teacher at the university supporting the teaching process for different modules. I aim to be easy to approach and supportive inside and outside the university.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

Seeing new faces and making them enjoy Maths (^.^)

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I’m originally from Poland thus I live abroad even at this moment. I came here to study in a British University.

What was your most adventurous moment?

Climbing a peak on a glacier in Alps a few years ago!

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

I do breakdancing.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

Enjoy your time here, but please study sometimes as well!

Graham Box

Social Problems Course Instructor

Graham Box headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

I am excited by Verto’s development of an exciting and innovative approach to learning, as well as their recognition that effective education is about so much more than mastering academic texts.

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching courses on health care and business ethics to American undergraduates for the past six years or so. That experience has shaped my approach which is now very different from the ‘early days’.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

I am excited to meet the students but also to involve them in the development of this class which I will be teaching for the first time.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I have studied in Bruges, Belgium and, at the start of my career, I worked as a business consultant in both Brussels, Belgium and Lisbon, Portugal.

What was your most adventurous moment?

It is still to come. I am climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (the highest point in Africa) next August.

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

I was an international korfballer.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

See if you can find time to visit other parts of the United Kingdom which are stunning in their beauty.

Sarah Hutchinson

Academic Success Coordinator

Sarah Hutchinson headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

I studied abroad prior to attending university and it completely changed my life trajectory from wanting to be an actress to a passion for widening participation within international education.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

I’m stoked to be sharing my favorite city (London) with the incoming cohort of students!

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I “caught the travel bug” when I was 13 years old and was selected to join a small school group on an exchange to China. My senior year of high school I needed some change of scenery so I spent my fall semester in Lille, France with AFS as an exchange student and lived with a host family. My junior year of university I moved over to London on a program to LSBU and loved it so much that I knew I’d eventually come back to pursue my masters…. and here I am! I have some solid Euro travels tips and tricks!

What was your most adventurous moment?

My most adventurous moment (or one which felt like I was taking a massive leap outside my comfort zone) was when I moved to France at 17 years old and lived in a host family for 6 months. Though I had basic French knowledge I was truly thrown in the deep end when I was attending a French public school. I had to make new friends, adjust to learning in a second language and I even had to sit for le Bac!

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

When I was figuring out what I wanted to do post-undergrad I considered pursuing a masters degree in Dietetics! I find nutritional health fascinating!

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

Stay present! It can be so easy to think about what’s going on at home or what will happen when the semester is over but the time goes by so fast and before you know it you’ll be on a plane back home wishing that you didn’t have to leave!

Laura Ludtke

Course Instructor

Laura Ludtke headshot

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I moved to the UK for my doctoral studies at the University of Oxford and fell in love with my research subject: London. Before that, I lived in Italy for a few months during my MA in Classics while volunteering on an archeological dig. In high school, I went on an exchange with our sister school in France.

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

I’ve twice been on national TV (in Canada and in the UK) as part of a quiz team, first when I was 17, then at 28.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

Give yourself time to adjust to living in a new city while also starting your first term of university.

Gemma Miller

Theatre and British Literature Course Instructor

Gemma Miller headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

I greatly admire Verto’s mission to make study abroad accessible to a wide range of students. I believe that access to an excellent education should be a right for everyone, regardless of background. I would never have achieved my academic qualifications without generous scholarships along the way. I am also a firm believer in experiential learning. So many subjects can be brought to life through interaction, engagement and participation. I was lucky enough to have an inspirational Shakespeare teacher at school and the love of Shakespeare – and theatre in a wider sense – has stayed with me ever since. I really hope I can pass on some of that enthusiasm to Verto students.

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I obtained a PhD in theatre studies (with a special focus on Shakespeare) from King’s College London and am widely published in academic journals. My first book-length work was published in 2020. I have taught at British universities, lectured at theatres and drama academies, led workshops for school students and currently work with 5 American study abroad programs. I am a theatre fanatic and try to see as much as I can physically fit into my schedule. I also write reviews for 2 theatre journals.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

I am excited about experiencing some wonderful live theatre with the students. I may be biased but I think that London has the most rich and varied theatre scene in the world. Being able to watch a performance in real time with hundreds of other people is a truly magical experience – one I appreciate even more since the Covid pandemic.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

My first degree was in Japanese language studies and I spent a year on a study abroad program at Hiroshima University. I then lived in Japan for 2 years teaching English.

What was your most adventurous moment?

Leaving my well-paid job in a financial institution and returning to academia to obtain a second degree (which led to a masters, PhD and teaching qualification). It was risky, some might say foolhardy, but I have never been happier.

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

I have no talent for performing. I can’t act, dance, sing, tell jokes or do impressions. I leave that to the experts.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

Be brave. Try new things. Take a risk. And never be scared to ask for help. We are on this journey together.

🇮🇹 Italy

Lucia Giardino

Art History Course Instructor

Lucia Giardino headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

Education for the next generations is what thrills me the most.

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I have been teaching in international colleges and universities for more than 20 years: sharing experiences and knowledges with students gives me energies and joy. In my latest teaching positions, experiential learning was put before any other pedagogical teaching method. You do not put aside your theoretical knowledge and academic preparation with it: on the contrary, you exalt your abilities, and prepares students for practical scenarios.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

Knowing students that tomorrow will be in charge of this world. Hopefully I will contribute, with my discipline as well as with other knowledges, and with my own behavior and approach, to their positive thinking and acting.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

During my university I spent a year studying abroad, in Amsterdam and six months studying in London. From 2002 to 2010 I would stay in New York for two months (Dec.-Jan) and June, for studio visit in the art world. In 2005 I taught at the UNC Chapel Hill.

What was your most adventurous moment?

Slaloming with 50 students between the huge and laud crowd of Sunday visitors of the Vatican Museums, and giving them an unforgettable positive experience.

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

I am still ready to fight for ideals, since I know I can turn them into facts.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

The time of studying abroad is one of the most amazing of your life. While abroad, you’ll learn, you’ll live, you’ll meet different people and cultures. Abroad you will become and adult, yet you will retain the acuteness and sensitiveness of that young individual who started the adventurous trip towards the future. While abroad, share your moments with others, and get involved with local communities. These connections will stay with you for long and together with them, you will build a world where your kids will be happy to live.

Elisa Varlaro

Student Life Coordinator

Elisa Varlaro headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

I’ve travelled a lot during my studies and I realize that discovering new cultures around the world can open minds making you a better person!

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

As a student, I’ve always helped other students to reach their goals and as an intercultural Mediator I helped foreign people to feel at home even if they were far away from their original country.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

I can’t wait to know all the students, talk to them about their goals and help them to reach them.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

Yes, when I was a student I lived in Spain for five months and I’ve been in England several times.

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

I love discovering new cultures, I always want to learn about the different traditions and cuisine.

Maia Wellington Gahtan

Course Instructor

Maia Wellington Gahtan headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

I believe that the first year of university is an ideal, indeed, pivotal moment to study abroad. The intense preparation of basic skills in high school is over while major life decisions about academic and career intentions are yet to happen. Let’s make sure they happen well!

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I have worked in the fields of visual culture, Renaissance studies, cultural heritage, and museum studies as a teacher, administrator, and curator.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

Meeting and sharing ideas with students.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I have lived in Florence for the last 20 years but I am a Berkeley, CA native.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

Expect the unexpected!

🇪🇸 Spain

José Joaquín Moreno

Academic Success Coordinator

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I have worked with students of all ages for several years. I love seeing how my students grow and mature and it’s a pleasure to be part of that. As an educator, I am constantly learning from my students too and I hope to use that knowledge I’ve acquired throughout the years with the ones who’re coming this term.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

I look forward to doing lots of activities with my colleagues and students! I hope we can create a nice and comfortable community for everyone.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

Both! I lived in London for some months and I’ve visited several countries in Europe and south-east of Asia. I’ve also been to three states in the US! California, Arizona and Nevada.

What was your most adventurous moment?

I guess backpacking in Thailand? It was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone who likes traveling, adventure and nature. I would love to go back some day.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

I want to share everything I know about my culture (Spanish) and at the same time I hope to learn a lot about theirs!

Miguel de Lucas

International Relations Course Instructor

Miguel de Lucas headshot

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

After living in Madrid, in London, in Dublin and in the Czech Republic, for the last 15 years I’ve been researching, reading and teaching about the planet we live in, the problems our societies face and how global affairs work. I’ve been a student, a researcher, a Ph.D. scholar and nowadays a professor. But essentially I’ve never stopped being a traveller. Verto is my last stop. But the journey continues. As long as it’s onwards, and onwards again, onwards, ever onwards.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

Someone wiser and smarter than me wrote once: a good teacher is not the person who tells you what to do, but the person who shows you where to look. Each academic year, I end up learning that far more important than what a course covers is what you discover. Education for me is not about the exams you take or the grades you get, or the hours you spend on your homework, but to know how to question, how to challenge, how to inquire, how to sharpen your mind, how to debate and articulate your thoughts and ideas better, how to switch the daily deluge of latest news and irrelevant information surrounding us into knowledge or, at least, into wonder.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I may say I’m a sporadic globetrotter. Born in Extremadura, near the border between Portugal and Spain, then moving to the Spanish capital, Madrid, and from there to the Czech Republic. It was in Prague, in my study abroad academic year, where I discovered I could make a living teaching Spanish. To sharpen my English I went to Ireland and then settled in London for a while. I have lived, studied and worked in four countries before ending up in Seville, by far the most breathtaking city on this planet.

What was your most adventurous moment?

It’s called Interrail. A train ticket that allows you to travel on almost all trains in Europe. Just one pass in your pocket and you can hop on and off any of the trains as many times as you want for a month. I was 23 years old. and I had just graduated. And then I found this incredibly cheap flight to Stockholm for less than 20 euros. Once in Sweden, without having a clue where to go or what to do, I saw that there was the possibility of living the Interrail experience for a month to travel around the Scandinavian peninsula. I traveled through Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. I spent several weeks sleeping on the train and in hostels, attended a Viking festival, watched the sunsets, the Northern Lights and the midnight sun, swam in waters above the Arctic Circle, and ended up having the most unforgettable trip of my life

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

I travel a lot, often without hotel reservations, usually with more books than clothes in my backpack, and I usually carry a chessboard. If one day you happen to come across me outside of the classroom, you’ll most likely find me playing chess.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

Two words: Sapere aude. This is the old latin phrase which used to be written in the past in in many European universities. It means: “Dare to know”. Sometimes translated as “Have courage to use your own reason”. Dare to know things, of course. But also dare to question. Dare to go beyond. Dare to discover yourself. Dare to get lost and dare to challenge your limits. Dare to explore. Dare to grow. Dare to Verto.

Emily Woerfe

Student Life Coordinator

Emily Woerfe headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

I’ve been in Spain for the past thirteen years thanks to a study abroad program not unlike Verto and I firmly believe that that experience changed the course of my life and who I am as a person.

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

As I mentioned I was also a study abroad student which I think is one of the most valuable experiences that I bring to the table. In addition to that, I’ve spent the last 13 years as an educator for all students of all ages and backgrounds, which I think has prepared me well for the role of an SLC.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

I am most looking forward to meeting my care team and planting a seed of excitement and curiosity about Spain, Spanish, and life abroad in general.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

Yes! I love to travel with my spare time (and spare money), and I’ve been living abroad in Spain since 2010. I have lived all over Andalucía, but also five years in Barcelona. I would welcome the opportunity to live outside of Spain at some point, too.

What was your most adventurous moment?

I think my most adventurous moment was deciding to sign up for a teaching program in a tiny town I had never heard of, about an hour outside of Almería. This was a time before Instagram and travel blogs could tell you the ins and outs of every city in the world. My connections and access to technology at the time were both limited. And even though I was set on proving to my parents, (and myself) that I could do this adventure and thrive, I still remember arriving to the bus stop in Roquetas de Mar, with two and a half huge suitcases, no internet, and no phone. I broke down into tears and the only thing I could think to do was go to a police station. Thankfully, they got me sorted and everything looked up from there, (after all, here I am twelve years later), but I still think back on that moment as make or break for me. The moral of the story–never forget to ask for help when you need it!

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

Social media can make us believe that living abroad is the most romantic and perfectly picturesque life ever. Sometimes, it can feel like it absolutely is, but most times, it is just life in a different country, with the same ups and downs of life at home. Important to remember is that most of the people who are going to be working with you, leading you, and supporting you, know what it’s like to be a different country, far from everything familiar. Never be shy about sharing feelings of not feeling okay. We are here for you and can’t wait to be part of your journey here at Verto!

Natalia Cousté

Course Instructor

Natalia Cousté headshotWhat are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I have been teaching in Canada and in Spain for 15 years.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

Teaching and learning! 

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

I lived in Toronto-Canada for 20 years. I studied at the University of Toronto where I finish my PhD in Philosophy and Literature.

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

I would like to share with participants the excitement about traveling and experiential learning. 

Carlos Pineda

Public Speaking and Film Appreciation Course Instructor

Carlos Pineda headshotWhat is your personal connection to Verto’s mission?

I love that Verto’s mission relates not only to the student’s academic development, but also to their personal growth. I think this is something that is critical to keep in mind when considering a teaching/learning model.

What are some of your previous work or academic experiences that have prepared you for this role?

I have been working for many years as a teacher in the Study Abroad sector, in contact with the specific needs and characteristics of students who spend several weeks away from home in an environment that is new to them in every way. In this sense, I have gained some experience that I believe can be useful for me, for my team and, of course, for our students.

On the academic side, I have been interested in human communication in its broadest sense throughout my life and that led me to study Audiovisual Communication at university, because within this field I am very interested in the way people contact and express themselves through moving images. Another field of study that interests me is that of narrative thinking, which I have researched in my doctorate in students and teachers of English.

What are you most looking forward to this semester?

New students, new experiences, new learning. Like every semester, an opportunity for academic and personal growth for all of us.

Have you traveled or lived abroad before? 

Yes, I have traveled abroad many times! My family on my mother’s side worked in an airline company and for many years, throughout my childhood and teens, I traveled with them to different destinations, most of them in America. Later, when I started my career as a teacher, I spent several years teaching in Austria. Since then, I have continued to travel, mostly as a backpacker – I love the sense of freedom that comes with this way of traveling!

What was your most adventurous moment?

Having children 🙂 The first, almost twelve years ago; the second, almost two years ago. Seriously, I say it without irony: both are being a great adventure in many ways!

What’s the most surprising thing about you?

I know how to whistle very well! I really can. Half jokingly, I often tell my students that this is my great secret talent. There are people who wiggle their ears or people who are able to twist their tongue in incomprehensible ways. Well, I am a great whistler 😀

What is one thing you want to share with Verto participants traveling this Fall?

In that they are aware of their condition as travelers. For me, there is a difference between the tourist and the traveler. The former goes through the place he visits and returns home just as he left it; the latter is open to experiencing within himself certain resistances or obstacles inherent to any trip; experiences that lead him to reflect and, from this, to become aware of more or less important questions about himself. Our students are in an ideal situation for this process to take place in them in the most enriching way possible. Travelers, make the most of your journey! 🙂

Wishing a warm “Bon Voyage” to our Fall 2022 Verto participants and staff!

Are you a prospective participant who wants to travel the world with incredible teachers, too? We invite you to apply today!