This September, Verto students embark on an incredible first-year experience with our Global Impact Semester where they will spend the next 15 weeks exploring, creating, and learning about the world with our amazing Field Instructors and Program Leaders.

Who are these phenomenal world travelers and mentors our students will be spending the next few months with? Our team members have pretty awesome adventures and achievements under their belts. Here are just a few of their stories.

Meet the Field Instructor who...

Lived in a Van for 4 Months!

Galen MeriglianoWhile Galen Merigliano has lived in diverse situations all over the world, van-life was definitely a unique adventure, even for him! Galen was excited to try out living in a van during his time leading an outdoor education program in New Zealand. Van-life is only one of the many thrills Galen has pursued, though; he has become accustomed to adventure as he has been traveling and living abroad since the beginning of 2017. In fact, he’s currently enjoying a 30-day bicycle trip from Seattle to Big Sur!

In addition to working in New Zealand, Galen has led other environmental education programs in the Bahamas, Fiji, Southeast Asia, Australia, and Costa Rica. He’s also worn other, equally fascinating, hats as a park ranger, marine educator, and research assistant. One of his best memories? Conducting marine biology research during his 18 months in the Bahamas.

Galen’s drive to lead programs all over the world stems from his passion for Environmental Science. While he was always curious about the environment, he admits that the larger appeal of pursuing Environmental Science as a major was that a large majority of classes were taught in the field. He describes, “I am driven by experiential and environmental education, and hands-on learning allowed me to feel a stronger connection to what I was learning about.”

Galen is thrilled to continue working with Verto Education because he is passionate about making experiential learning available to everyone. As a Program Leader, Galen can’t wait to meet the incoming students!

Has Been to Every Continent Except Antarctica!

Beth EanelliBeth Eaneli has been fortunate enough to have traveled to almost 40 countries on nearly every continent! She didn’t leave the U.S. until her late teens, though, when she went to Greece, which she says, “catalyzed a wanderlust that has been in full force ever since.”

Her favorite country? India. “I love how unique each part of the country is, how warm and open everyone is, how vibrant the culture is and I adore the food,” she explained.

Beth loves visiting countries that have bustling street food culture and she ranks the Indian thali on the top of her list. She noted, “You don’t really know what will be served to you until it’s on your plate and whoever has cooked the meal will continue to fill your plate until you’re absolutely stuffed. It’s always delicious, always different, and such a filling homestyle meal.”

Beth’s love of food is rooted in the kitchens of her mom and grandmothers, who taught her to cook when she was young. She shared, “My Mom always says my superpower is being able to open a cabinet, fridge or drawer, and be able to cook a meal from anything you have on hand. I even figured out a way to make eggplant parm in rural West Africa.”
Although India is her favorite country, she will always have a “special place in [her] heart” for The Gambia, where she lived for over two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The Gambia was also where she researched the narrative of birth in rural communities and the quality of care in labor wards in off-grid health facilities without light.

In addition to her research, Beth’s best stories came out of her time in West Africa, where she explored remote communities and “the beautiful bush.” Her adventures included day trips to Senegal, 100 km bike rides to weekly markets, and the daily thrills of navigating the landscape of life in a new community.

While Beth has definitely put her master’s in global health to use in the field, she realized that the classroom allows her to share her “passion for asking students to think critically and curiously about the places and cultures they explore.” Beth explains that her meaningful experiences abroad inspired her to become an educator and helped shape her into the teacher she is today. She cites her study abroad in Greece and Turkey as the moment she saw “how studies could be intertwined with experiences on the ground and fell in love with experiential education.”

As someone who has always thought about how to make experiential education more accessible, Beth was drawn to Verto’s mission of bringing the non-traditional classroom to more students.
Beth can’t wait to get to know her students both academically and personally as an instructor for Global Health. She says, “Growing together is always my favorite part about this work.”

Saw His Holiness the Dali Lama in Person!

Dr.Batya WeinbaumDr. Batya Weinbaum rounded out an epic trip to India with an experience millions of people DREAM of having: going to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the Himalayan city of Dharamshala! This wasn’t her only brush with spirituality in India, though– she also enjoyed going to a Goddess festival at the mouth of the Ganges River during her trip.

Batya shares these stories as only two examples of the tons of exhilarating moments she’s had while traveling. From renting a storefront in Mexico to start an art installation, to dealing with snakes and wasp colonies in her cabin, or camping on Big Beach on Maui… one thing is for certain, Batya is no stranger to thrill-seeking!

Batya’s research and teaching have taken her all over the world. She has done fieldwork for scholarly writings in Mexico, Argentina, and Hawaii and traveled as a journalist and photographer throughout Central and South America. Not to mention her experiences teaching at a peace studies institute in Portugal and working on kibbutzim (agriculture-based residential communities) and artist colonies in Israel.

Batya is passionate about writing as a means of facilitating reflection and exploration in both herself and her students. She can’t wait to help students bring their ideas to life as a Rhetoric and Composition Instructor.

A huge bonus for her students this fall? When it comes to virtual learning, she’s the expert! Batya has taught many courses via distance learning and has extensively researched and been published on the subject.

One thing she can’t wait to share with her students? Pictures of Wally, her Chihuahua.

Went Skydiving in Fiji!

Katie LubinaWhile skydiving in Fiji was certainly a major highlight of Kate Lubina’s life thus far, she finds tons of joy in the little moments too.

What brings Kate the most joy? Working with students and sharing her passion for public health.

Kate realized her passion for community health during a semester abroad in Nicaragua, where she conducted field research on pesticide poisonings in rural areas. Her study abroad experience, which she describes as “instrumental in defining [her] education and career,” ultimately led her to pursue a master’s in global medicine from the University of Southern California.

After graduating with her master’s, Kate began working in experiential education and quickly realized how rewarding it was to work with college-age students. Kate can’t wait to put her wide variety of experiences learning about international public health to use as a Global Health Course Instructor for Verto this fall.

She feels that this is an incredibly ripe time to jump into discussions about global health, sharing, “We are in a historic moment to study global health amidst COVID-19 and there is so much work to be done. I am looking forward to learning what students are most interested in concerning global health issues and diving into lots of interesting and complex topics together.”

Grew Up in Sri Lanka!

Hashintha JayasingheHashintha Jayasinghe lived in Sri Lanka for 26 years before moving to the U.S. to pursue a master’s in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Arkansas through a Fulbright Fellowship.

Having grown up in Sri Lanka, where a civil war ended only in 2009, Hashi has some unique stories to share, like the time she blissfully reunited with her best friend after being separated for 24 years. Her friend had migrated to Singapore during civil unrest in Sri Lanka, and they hadn’t seen each other since! Hashi describes that trip to Singapore as “memorable” and “an absolute treat.”

Hashi’s experiences living, learning, and teaching in both Sri Lanka and the U.S. have given her a unique perspective on international education.

She shares, “I am a strong advocate for international education because it has made me grow into the best version of myself. I am enthusiastic about transformation in the higher education field and believe that the change must happen now. My views are aligned with Verto’s mission of wanting to re-imagine higher education institutions by enhancing diversity and inclusion and exposure to the world outside of the United States.”

Hashi has seen the benefit of global education exchange in both her personal life and in her work as a teacher. Before teaching courses at the University of Arkansas and the University of Wyoming, Hashi taught English as a second language in rural Sri Lanka and Speech & Drama instruction at an elite school in Colombo.

Hashi’s wealth of teaching experience in diverse settings has prepared her to take on the role of Instructor for Verto’s Critical Thinking course this fall. Hashi mentioned that she knows how complicated and tense this year has been and hopes that her classroom will be “a welcome respite from it all.” She looks forward to engaging deeply with students and urges them to “keep an open mind,” elaborating, “It is not easy to navigate the world outside during a pandemic but there is hope and change will happen. I can’t wait to learn my students’ names and faces virtually this semester!”

Jumped on a Spontaneous Plane to Japan!

Dr. David CollierDr. David Collier truly embodied his belief in “always welcoming new experiences” when he booked a last-minute flight to Japan, totally out of the blue! He describes how as a 20-year-old struggling through a bad breakup, his friend suggested they go somewhere to “get away from it all.”

“Literally a couple of days later,” he says, “We found a ridiculously cheap last minute flight and were on a 13-hour flight to Tokyo, a place where neither of us spoke the language, didn’t have accommodation, and had zero local connections to help us should we get stuck. Thankfully it ended up being a great trip. Sometimes you just have to grasp opportunities when they’re presented to you.”

Originally from the UK, David has always been one to take advantage of exciting opportunities. As a college sophomore, he enrolled in a summer program in the U.S., which he credits for having taught him to be independent and live outside of his comfort zone. He reflects, “So much of my life and career has since been influenced by this experience, so much so that I can not imagine my life had I not participated in the program. I strongly believe in the transformative nature of cross-cultural education.”

A few years after graduation, David returned to the United States for graduate school and never looked back. After getting a Ph.D. in Political Science from Boston University, David did research and policy work in Washington, D.C.

While David learned a lot contributing to the research and policy world of D.C., his passion for the classroom drew him back to teaching. He reflects, “Almost five years ago I decided to get back into teaching and it has been an incredibly enjoyable and most rewarding experience. Witnessing the emotional and professional growth of students between their first day of an experiential program and the last is always hugely satisfying.”

David, who will teach Politics this fall, loves getting to know his students personally and often keeps in touch with students after the semester ends. He adds, “I am most looking forward to meeting the students, learning about their experiences, and hopefully seeing them apply some of the things we learn in class to their own lives. My goal is to help build informed citizens and I can’t wait to start the new semester.”

Got Stuck in an Ice Storm on His First Day in the U.S.!

Dr. Danny MarreroDr. Danny Marrero didn’t exactly receive a warm welcome when he first arrived in the U.S. in 2009. After his bags were lost en route and he had to take an English placement test immediately upon his arrival, he didn’t think his journey could get much worse… But when he woke up the next day to get groceries, he realized the streets of Fayetteville, Arkansas was covered with a thick layer of ice and he was stuck inside!

“That is when I remembered that people at the university had warned me about a storm coming,” he recalls. “At that time, that warning did not mean anything to me because, in Colombia, where I’m from, there are no seasons and certainly no ice storms. I could not even conceptualize the seriousness of an ice storm. Well, it turned out that it was one of the worst storms ever to hit Northwest Arkansas!”

Three days later, Danny was still without electricity or groceries! Luckily enough, a generous couple invited him and 30 other international students to stay at their house.
Danny laughs, “That was quite a welcome party to the US!”

Life in the U.S. improved hugely after that day. Not only did he find many more kind people, but he also discovered what he calls, “the extraordinary U.S. culinary tradition.” He elaborates, “I love to cook! And, I love to eat, as well. From real southern BBQ to gumbo and jambalaya, to meatloaf and Frito pie with chili– discovering the richness of the culinary tradition of the southern part of the U.S. has been absolutely fun to me.”

Food isn’t the only American treasure that found its way into Danny’s heart; he now enjoys life with his American wife and two U.S. born daughters.

Danny is grateful for his Fulbright Fellowship, which allowed him to live in the U.S. and extend his postgraduate studies at the University of Arkansas. Danny, who has always been fascinated by the issues that arise at the intersection between Law and Philosophy, earned an LLM in addition to a Ph.D. in Philosophy.

Danny’s profound research in critical thinking and argumentation has gotten him invited to share his ideas and teaching strategies with members of some of the most active academic communities in his field. He’s also been called upon as a specialized trainer for judges, prosecutors, and attorneys.

With over twenty years of teaching experience at diverse institutions in both North and South America, Danny feels lucky to have gained the “invaluable experience of sharing worldviews with students of different nationalities, religious beliefs, genders, and expectations.” He is so excited to get to know his new students as Verto’s instructor for the virtual Critical Thinking course.

While some are intimidated by the shift to virtual learning, Danny sees it as an exciting opportunity to explore this new period in the history of education. He shares, “I am honored to be embarking on this journey with Verto. I feel like I could not possibly be in a better company to build a community of critical thinkers that are witnesses of this transformation of our times.”

Was a Competitive Figure Skater!

Kelley ReardonCompetitive figure skating doesn’t quite fit the typical image of an environmental science fanatic… Until you meet Kelley Reardon, of course! Kelley, who was a competitive figure skater up until senior year of high school, competed first in singles and later joined a synchronized skating team. She explained, “One of the best feelings in the world is skating on ice—it’s the closest you can get to flying!”

Kelley’s other major passion, environmental science, blossomed while she attended day camp as a kid. She recalled, “We spent hours swimming in the ocean and tide-pooling on the rocky coast. It was always the most exciting when we found starfish, sea urchins, or young lobsters in their natural habitat, just a few minutes away from my own home in Scarborough, Maine.”

Her love for nature led her to graduate from Stonehill College with a bachelor’s in environmental science, and later, receiving a master’s degree in environmental policy at Duke. Her conservation research focused on mitigating human-wildlife conflict around protected areas for endangered species like the giant panda and Bengal tiger, where she collected data in the field in rural areas of China and India.

Three of her four semesters (about 16 months) were spent studying at Duke’s campus in China called Duke Kunshan University, where almost all of her classmates were Chinese nationals. The chance to have authentic Chinese experiences helped her build a “deep appreciation for cultural immersion.”

Prior to pursuing her masters, Kelley served in AmeriCorps for three terms. She worked with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to monitor water health and facilitate environmental education activities in the community.

Her third term as part of the AmeriCorps field team was spent building stone staircases and hiking paths on the Appalachian trail! She remembered, “My team camped out for nine days at a time with no showers over the course of 3 months!”
This is Kelley’s third semester with Verto and she is already getting creative about how she wants to “build personal connections with students and foster a positive, supportive virtual community” as a Program Leader this fall.

She explains, “I love to teach yoga and meditation and I’m excited to share my passion for mindfulness with students. I’d also love to help students safely organize outdoor activities to build a deeper relationship with nature and enjoy some time away from Zoom.”

Kelley is eager to see what this semester will bring. She gushes, “If I was a student right now, I would totally want to be on one of Verto’s semesters. Unusual times call for innovative action, and the team at Verto are pros at academic innovation!”

Went Paragliding in Rio de Janeiro!

Leslie MatheuWhen asked about her most adventurous moment, Leslie Matheu was quick to answer: paragliding in Rio de Janeiro! She gushes, “It was so much fun; I got to jump off the tallest mountain in the city, and fly above the ocean! And I even got to control the para-glides and fly by myself for a little bit!”

While there’s no adrenaline rush quite like paragliding, another experience came in a close second: walking from France to Spain, because she missed her train and had no other options!

Leslie credits these testing experiences with shaping her into the person she is today. Getting out of her comfort zone has helped Leslie “understand the human experience,” which is also why she chose to study abroad twice in undergrad, and pursue her master’s abroad. She explains, “These experiences give you time to discover yourself, to understand people around you, and to really appreciate how unique and wonderful each person, place, and thing is.”

With a master’s degree in Global Health from the University of Barcelona, Leslie has worked and volunteered with NGOs related to decreasing health disparities in the United States, Brazil, and Spain. She is eager to share her field experiences and passion for Global Health with her students as a Global Health Instructor this fall.

Leslie is excited to couple her background in Problem Based Learning with Verto’s experiential pedagogy. She elaborates, “I have loved learning and teaching in problem-based learning environments, where the focus is on active learning and on allowing students to be in control of their own learning.”

Leslie says she is looking forward to connecting with the Verto community and shares, “I am so excited to learn from my students and colleagues. Can I take the critical thinking class!?”

Munched on Grasshoppers in Mexico!

Stephanie McCrearyAs a self-proclaimed food lover, Stephanie McCreary was ready to put that title to the test during her trip to Mexico. She explains, “I spent time in Oaxaca, a state widely known for its wonderful cuisine. It was here that I took a step into the culinary unknown and munched on grasshoppers dusted with dried chili and lime juice!”

So how did they taste?! She says we’ll have to try it for ourselves!

Stephanie’s passion for jumping into new experiences doesn’t stop at food. It was a year-long exchange program in high school that she says “whetted her appetite for travel.”

Since then, she has traveled to 36 countries in total, with Thailand, Turkey, India, Morocco, and Mexico being her favorites.

Experiential learning abroad played a significant part in Stephanie’s graduate and undergraduate experiences. As a graduate student, Stephanie studied the complexities of language in the Senegalese education system while studying in Senegal.

As an undergraduate, Stephanie participated in a semester-long Buddhist Studies program in India which she described as highly transformative. “My time there taught me compassion for human suffering, opened my mind to one of the great eastern religions, and taught me to find stillness within during chaotic times.”

The benefits from her studies abroad cemented her belief that “these kinds of life-changing experiences shouldn’t be an afterthought to a college education, but integral to one,” which she says is what most attracted her to Verto’s mission.

With a master’s in International Education from the School for International Training, Stefanie has worked as an ESL educator for learners all around the world. She can’t wait to bring her passion for cross-cultural education to her role as an Academic Success Coordinator this fall.

Studies Buddhism and Mindfulness!

Dr. Cory SukalayAfter years of studying Political Science, Dr. Cory Sukala started to see that no one political tradition could possibly contain all the answers. On his quest to “come as close to the truth as possible,” Cory began to draw from other traditions, including Buddhism, to inform his understanding of modern American political theory.

He explains, “Some problems that we view as intractable can become crystal clear if we simply take a step outside of our own ways of thinking to approach the issues from a new perspective.”

This insight led him to turn his focus to Buddhism and Mindfulness and their connection to American political life. While he sees the immense benefit in “taking each tradition seriously on its own terms,” he describes how he is still working to convince others of “the value to be found in looking outward and beyond from our traditional Western approaches to politics.”

Cory saw the importance of exposure to diverse perspectives firsthand when he was studying in Canada, “where even a small move north of the border can make a huge difference in the way people approach life and politics.” He shares, “We can’t ever really understand politics and its inherent conflicts without beginning from a place of recognizing the importance of individual culture and experience.”

Cory loves how Verto’s approach is grounded in “a belief in the inherent value of experience, and particularly new experiences.”

As a Truth and American Politics Instructor, Cory is eager to build a community with his students and explore politics during this pivotal time in American political history.

Is Passionate about Poetry!

Jon Jon MooreA deep love of language and writing led Jon Jon Moore to find one of their greatest passions: poetry! Jon Jon has discovered poetry as a powerful lens through which to express themself and also to explore themes of black feminism and black existentialism.

In addition to writing their own poetry, Jon Jon has spread their passion for poetry while coaching UC Berkeley’s slam poetry team, CalSLAM, and teaching a course in black women’s poetry to high school students in Mississippi.

Jon Jon shares that their artistic and intellectual interests have been influenced by their experiences traveling outside of the U.S. Their times studying abroad in Peru, the UK, and Hong Kong presented “new intellectual challenges” and helped shape their understanding of privilege and racial capitalism in the U.S.

As a black, queer, and first-generation college student from a low-income family from Detroit, Jon Jon is dedicated to “creating a classroom environment where students [can address forms of violence and oppression] and fight for clarity together.”

When Jon Jon isn’t working on poetry, you can find them watching horror movies or spending time with their family.

An awarded writer-researcher and strategist, Jon Jon is looking forward to exploring the power of narrative and storytelling as an instructor for the Rhetoric and Composition course this fall.

Went Scuba Diving in the Galapagos Islands!

Patrick NorthoverAlthough scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands started out as a ton of fun, Patrick Northover’s memory of the event isn’t totally rosy. “The water was really rough and I got so seasick in the boat, that I preferred to stay in the water with the hammerhead sharks!” he laughs.

While Patrick learned that boats might not be his best match, he continues to love to stay active– on land. He jokes, “I am not the youngest guy around but I still love skateboarding, snowboarding, and mountain biking.

He once even enjoyed a full month of road tripping and trekking in Patagonia! Although, mother nature wasn’t exactly working in his favor then either. “It was fall, so the weather was pretty extreme. It was not unusual to hike in rain, hail, and snow, all in the same day!”

When he’s not battling extreme-weather, Patrick enjoys his much less action-packed, but equally rewarding work as an educator.

Patrick’s wealth of experience teaching and mentoring students of different ages has spanned across the world and U.S., including at a school in Chile, at international schools in Los Angeles, Boston, and San Francisco, and a Bay Area middle school. His experiences working abroad and with international audiences, he says, have made him “much more open-minded, empathetic and compassionate.”

Patrick also recently worked for a small nonprofit called SafeSpace, where he guided youth volunteers who wanted to participate in mental health education and outreach.

As someone who “love[s] helping others achieve personal and academic goals,” Patrick can’t wait to step into the role of an Academic Success Coordinator this fall. He expresses that he is grateful to have had eye-opening cross-cultural and experiential educational experiences himself and is “excited to help others have great experiences of their own.”

To his future students, he shares, “The beauty is that you will sometimes be far outside of your comfort zone. This requires courage, and the experience will bring personal and academic challenges. When things get difficult (or even before they do), I encourage you to turn to your community. Reach out to peers, professors, and Academic Success Coordinators. We all want to know you and to help you have a great experience!”

Patrick can’t wait to connect with Verto staff and students and “share the unique challenges and joys that come with experiential and cross-cultural learning.”

Had Her Tooth Pulled Out in a Bar!

Leslie JerneganThe story of how Leslie Jernegan lost a tooth for the first time might be a bit shocking to most of us, but she brushes it off as “no big deal” where she comes from!

She explains, “My first loose tooth was pulled out by one of my ‘neighbor moms’ (and lost on the floor) at my hometown bar!” Thinking this was totally normal at the time, she continues, “When I first moved away from Wisconsin, I was shocked to learn that the culture of other places wasn’t to spend Friday nights at ‘fish-fries,’ eating cheese curds, and searching for missing teeth under restaurant tables!”

While growing up in such a close-knit community involved a ton of fun, Leslie was still eager to branch out and “satiate [her] desire to move [her] way around the world.” She recalls how, because her family didn’t have the funds to travel, she took up her first job when she was fourteen to begin saving up to travel.

After “who-knows-how-many-hours” spent working at a Wisconsin farm and a local sandwich shop, Leslie was able to fund a high-school trip to Costa Rica, as well as a high-school exchange program to Japan. Since then, she’s traveled around the globe, including time working in the UK and Peru, as well as studying in Singapore and Malaysia. Not to mention, she was originally planning to spend 2020 in Argentina as a Fulbright grantee but was sent back to the U.S. early due to the pandemic.

Although she was bummed to be sent home, she knows she’ll return someday and is thrilled instead to spend this year with Verto!

Given her own challenges in accessing international travel and education, Leslie is passionate about Verto’s mission of making cross-cultural education accessible to all students. She remarks, “Verto’s mission to provide an affordable and innovative way for students to incorporate experiential education into their college experience feels remarkably inclusive and novel.”
Leslie shares how much Verto’s learning philosophy resonates with her, recalling how most of her memorable learning experiences were “those that were hands-on and, more often than not, in spaces that felt wildly unfamiliar from the traditional classroom.” She can’t wait to provide similarly impactful learning experiences for her own students as an instructor for Rhetoric and Composition.
Eager to leverage 2020’s challenges for the better, Leslie looks forward to practicing difficult conversations and guiding her students to use writing as a tool for deeper reflection, processing, and exploration of this year’s events.
She shares, “I hope students will leave the class with a deeper sense of empathy and empowerment to be active agents in shaping the world in which they live.

Volunteered with Koalas and Penguins in Australia!

Dr. Cassie DeFillipoDr. Cassie DeFillipo’s five years living in Australia were full of all types of highlights, but spending two years volunteering with penguins and koalas definitely tops the list!

Cassie loves dedicating her time to nature and wildlife conservation, when she’s not too busy working on education development, that is.

Her work in education has brought her all over the globe. While she was in Australia, Cassie also lived and worked as a Resident Tutor and Academic Advisor at Trinity College. She’s worked at an educational development organization in Ghana, interned at non-profits in India and South Sudan, and completed training on multicultural leadership and effective communication in Switzerland. Add to the list the time she lived in Thailand for a year, plus her study abroad experiences in South Korea, Italy, and Ghana.

All in all, Cassie has traveled and lived in 80 countries!

With all that global experience under her belt, Cassie shares that “the best way to learn is to experience.” Cross-cultural immersion, she feels, offers “incredible learning and critical thinking opportunities.”

She elaborates, “I have learned first-hand that sharing an experience with others builds one’s perspective more than reading about it ever could.”

Cassie, who has taught “College Survival” courses and courses in Anthropology and Gender, is excited to utilize all she’s learned as a university teacher and Academic Advisor in her work as a Verto Academic Success Coordinator this fall.

Volunteered at a Youth Hostel in Croatia!

Malia WakinekonaMalia Wakinekona had been eyeing volunteer requests on the help exchange platform WorkAway for years, before she decided to take the plunge!

She reports, “Last summer I took a leap of faith and decided to volunteer at a youth hostel in Hvar, Croatia. There were moments where I felt lonely; I wished that all my friends could teleport to the island so we could enjoy endless days swimming and soaking up the sun.”

Those feelings of homesickness led her to an important realization, though: “I learned that you can’t always wait for others to chase your dreams. Sometimes you just got to go for it!”

Malia has always been one to “go-for-it” when it comes to new opportunities abroad. In high school, Malia enjoyed her first trip away from home as a high school exchange student in Tokyo for one month. During her undergraduate studies at Stanford, Malia sought out education experiences in Croatia, South Africa, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.

Regarding her first trip to Croatia, Malia shares, “That summer goes down not only as one of my favorite summers of all time but also as one of the most enriching and thought-provoking academic moments of my college career.” Malia credits this to the meaningful conversations she had with Balkan faculty leaders about themes such as identity, war, and art as a form of activism.

Most recently, Malia worked with gap year students in NYC to help them navigate the post-high school transition.

Malia is passionate about exploring topics like intergroup communication, social justice, mental health, and identity formation with her students. She understands that the college transition can be challenging, especially this year among so many changes and unknowns, and is eager to help students navigate these challenges as a Verto Program Leader.

Reflecting on her own college transition she shares, “[When I started college], I definitely had one singular vision of what my next four years would look like. There were so many unexpected turns along the way that actually led me to groundbreaking moments like picking my psychology major or speaking in front of the incoming class of 2021 at New Student Orientation.”

She continues, “We all probably thought our September 2020 would have played out differently, but we’re all here together for the semester so let’s embrace the unknown together and make the most of it!”

Tried to Jump on a Moving Train in India!

Rebecca LiebeskindRebecca Liebeskind caused a bit of a commotion when she made a grand attempt to catch her already-moving train in India, by trying to run and jump on!

While it could have been a picture-perfect scene out of a movie, it didn’t quite work out as planned. She shares. “The train was too fast and I was too slow. But the commotion of me chasing after the train caused enough of a scene that word passed through the cabins and up to the conductor who ultimately stopped the train so I could board!”

Rebecca had many other, more mild, experiences catching Indian trains during her 6 years there, which she spent running gap year programs and traveling with high school students in the summers.

Rebecca’s enthusiasm for international education stems from her time in college on a summer study abroad program which took her to Spain, France, The Netherlands, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. On this trip, she discovered her “passion for both history and educational travel,” and loved the experience so much that she actually ended up working as a Teaching Assistant for the same program a few years later!

Outside of that summer, Rebecca has satiated her inner “travel bug” by volunteering in Belarus and pursuing language studies in both Russia and Israel. Since finishing her studies, Rebecca has sought out work that would allow her to continue traveling and living abroad and spread her passion for experiential education.

Rebecca was drawn to working with Verto because of her belief that through cross-cultural immersion, “students discover a nuanced and dynamic understanding of the world and find themselves in the process.” She shares that she loves Verto’s mission of making this growth more accessible to all students.

As an Academic Success Coordinator this fall, Rebecca is excited to “connect with students during this novel and challenging time.” She adds, “I look forward to working together to make the most of the opportunities at hand and build a strong foundation from which to explore and engage when the physical world opens again.”

Her advice for incoming students? “Try not to look for answers, but instead love the questions and the process of discovery.” She can’t wait to explore those questions together with her students this fall!