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Over 100 students will leave home this September to start their freshman year of college abroad! Verto Education’s Fall 2019 cohort has less than two months before they step onto a plane, and into an immersive semester abroad. As the Marketing Intern for Verto Education, and a student on the Asia cohort this fall, I had the chance to interview a handful of my peers.

Over the past few weeks I had the opportunity to interview and genuinely get to know all of these students, from all over the country. Each student has taught me a lot. They put into perspective for me how much the world has to offer. These students are incredibly unique, but they also all share one thing: a desire to take on the world.

Without further ado, here is the Verto Eduction Class of 2019!

Kelissah Berger

South Pacific Cohort

Where are you from?

I‘m from Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Arizona for a year. I’ve been to Italy, Nicaragua, almost everywhere in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and I hope to travel to Barcelona.

What inspires you?

Really anyone who thinks outside the box. Entrepreneurs tend to think creatively.Growing a business that no one else ever has is inspiring.

What’s your spirit animal?

Probably a lion because I’m a Leo and I kinda vibe with it. Even though I’m super short I tend to be bold on the inside. I’m small but mighty.

What is the craziest food you have ever eaten?

Bone marrow, shark, or escargot

What are your plans for after Verto semester?

My top choices of schools are the University of Tennessee, University of Virginia, and University of Oregon. I would love to major in psychology. I think the way people think is so interesting. If I wanted another occupation it would probably be art and music therapy. Being able to know how people think can help with that, and I love to work with kids, music, art. Doing something you love is important to me especially if you're going to be working your whole life.

How do you feel about this next stage in your life?

A little nervous, but it’s a great way to help me gain independence and figure out who I am as a person. Doing a semester abroad helps me determine my interests, while giving me more knowledge. If you don't take risks you don't live life to it's fullest potential.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Hey bub, life is peachy. Remember that.

"You're always going to be able to go to college. You can go to college even when you're 30. I'm not going to be able to do this experience any later in my life."
- Jamie Cull-Host

Jamie Cull-Host

South Pacific Cohort

Where are you from?

I am from New Mexico and an avid traveler. I’ve been to Ireland, Thailand, all over the U.S., all over Europe, and Costa Rica. But I wish to see Canada one day.

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

I love making origami and really enjoy doing outdoor activities such as hiking and rock climbing.

What’s your spirit animal?

A sloth mostly because of their care free attitude and because they’re cute.

What are your plans for after Verto semester?

After the verto fall semester my plans to go to college for sure, University of Vermont is currently my top choice. I’m interested in conservation and I want to major in psychology.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Since the 8th grade, almost every spring break, I’ve help built houses in Mexico. My greatest goal is to help people so in 10 years I hope to continue with helping people and in the Peace Corps after college.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Don’t go the boring route, you're always going to be able to go to college. You can go to college even when you're 30. I'm not going to be able to do this experience any later in my life. If experiences come and they may set you off the beaten path, don't be afraid to do them.

“If you’re traveling to a new place nothing is weird, it's just different.”
- Itasca Motter

Itasca Motter

South Pacific Cohort

Where are you from?

I’m from Long Beach, California and lived in Spain for a year when I was six. My mom is a huge traveler so I've been to a lot of places such as Oaxaca, Greece, Italy, most of Europe, Thailand, and Vietnam. I couldn't list them all, but I'm so grateful for that. Half of the reason I get to travel so much is my mom's business, the other half is her being able to travel and take us with her. I’m really excited for my dive trip that’s coming up in the Red Sea because I've never been anywhere in Africa before. I'll also be visiting Egypt. I still want to go to Antarctica one day!

What inspires you?

A variety of different things. Recently negative things have been happening in the world and with the world. That makes me want to be more involved, especially issues having to do with our planet, like climate change.

Do you consider yourself a risk taker or play it safe?

Definitely a risk taker. In my experience things that kind of scared me, or that I’ve been more hesitant to do, have turned out being some of the best things I’ve done.

What are your plans for after Verto semester?

I want to do something similar, it doesn't have to be with credits. I don't want to go directly into school after. I’m going to apply for fall semester of 2020 and plan to major in marine biology. I want to be doing hands on reasearch, and I'm especially interested in projects that are helping the planet. I don't want to stay at a desk all my life. After the Verto semester I want to do something else with traveling maybe an internship with my mom.

How do you feel about this next stage in your life?

I'm really excited about it! All traveling, will be eye opening all together good experience. I've been looking forward to it since I signed up but also ready to get away. I definitely want to be learning more of the cultures and just adding another understanding to my mind. I'm also excited for the courses and field work we'll be doing.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

If you’re traveling to a new place nothing is weird, it's just different.

"The world inspires me so much that there’s so much out there."
- Jade Wesson

Kai Kanzer

Southeast Asia Cohort

Where are you from?

I’m from Glenwood Springs, a small mountain town in Colorado. We have two riversa and I can go skiing in the winter.

What inspires you?

One thing that stands out is good writing. I'm inspired by a well wrtitten, book, article, magazine, and even radio. Reading exceptionally written articles or reports is inspiring to me because that's kind of work I want to do.

What’s your spirit animal?

Maybe an ant. Ants are like a community, they’re all one and I think I'm a good team player. Like in sports, I can come together with other people.

Do you consider yourself a risk taker or play it safe?

Risk taker. I get more thrill and it's more fun for me. Doing Verto in general is a risk. I'm the only kid in my school that is doing something like this. I’m kinda just going out there and trying new things unlike other students that are just going to school.

What is the craziest food you have ever eaten?

A Guinea Pig. I went to Peru two summers ago and that's one of the famous dishes out there. Before I left people told me I had to try. It wasn't bad, it was just gross. It was in tact before it came out, and they fried it. I closed my eyes and it tasted fine, although a little chewy.

If you could travel anywhere in the world , where would it be? Why?

I’ve been to Peru, Columbia, South Korea, Australia, and all over Europe. The only continent I haven't been to is Africa. I’d go to Kenya or Nairobi, where I can see the animals. Also going to Egypt and seeing the pyramids would be fascinating. I have to cross that off the bucket list soon.

Why did you chose Southeast Asia as your semester abroad?

Thailand really stuck out to me. I don't know when else I'll get an opportunity like this. Before Verto, I never thought I'd go to China, and now that I've been doing some research and looking into it, I'm really interested. Verto really caught my attention. I could do what I love, traveling, and get into one of my top schools. It was a perfect fit for me. I'm super excited abou this semester. I want to know more of what's going on in the world, especially in China, which is one of the biggest power houses in the world. I want to see how they do business and how their politics work.

What are your plans for after Verto semester?

Go to the University of Oregon. It was either that or Cornell College. I chose Oregon because I’m from a small town and Cornell is small. I think that it might be time to branch out more and college is a good time to do that. I’m thinking about majoring in journalism, film, or photography. Not entirely sure but around there.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I'm definitely excited. As much as I like it here, I think that I’m ready and I'll see where life takes me.

"I'm super excited I want to know more of what's going on in the world, especially in China, which is one of the biggest power houses in the world."
- Kai Kanzer

Jade Wesson

Latin America Cohort

Where are you from?

I’m from Cleveland, Ohio but I’ve traveled to mostly all of Spain, Canada, and Mexico.Though I hope one day to travel to Israel, because I have family there and because it’s really beautiful. I feel that it’s underrated.

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

I love photography. I got into photography about two years or so ago. I also enjoy playing sports, such as swimming, volleyball, soccer, ice skating, and more. I recently go into theater as well.

What inspires you?

The world inspires me so much that there’s so much out there. Unfortunately, not everyone will get to explore all of it, but everyone goal should be to see as much as possible!

What’s your spirit animal?

My favorite animal is a manatee, so I guess I can also considers as my spirit animal. Manatees are like the marshmallows of the ocean and are all around chill.

If you were to describe yourself as a color, what would it be and why?

I consider myself to be lilac. When people first meet I come off as, I don’t want to say it, but “dark”. I guess because I’m more of an analyzer and I like to observe my surroundings and the people around me to get a better understanding. But, when I open up I’m much lighter and happier like lilac.

Do you consider yourself a risk taker or play it safe?

When I’m really determined to do something I find myself not really thinking it through, and I just go straight for it. Sometimes I think that's the best way to live life. If you sit back and you think everything through you might talk yourself out of it.

What are your plans for after Verto semester?

After the Verto semester, I plan on going to college but I'm not entirely sure where just yet. I'll be the first generation student in my family to graduate high school and go to college. I see myself finishing school and being happy, and wanting to do something good for others. I love people and getting to know them and I’m just super excited for the fall. I want to major in child psychology and/or social work because I believe that kids need to be heard too. I’m a strong believer that If you can take the time to listen to them you can make a difference.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I hope that I can bring my experience back here, that it's not just going to stop when I'm not abroad anymore, and that I'm able to take everything that I learned there.

"I’ve always wanted to go to Australia and now I am. I’m really looking forward to the community that comes with it."
- Michael Saccio

Nayeli Hernandez

Southeast Asia Cohort

Where are you from?

I’m from San Francisco Bay Area, California.

What are your favorite hobbies?

I love writing and painting. I’m currently learning the guitar and I enjoy hiking, swimming, and dancing. I’m also sort of a sports person and by that I mean I’d prefer to watch Netflix and be lazy, but I also have the tendency to push myself to do more so I’ve done many sports such as softball, volleyball, soccer, tried basketball, and boxing.

What inspires you?

Music. It’s crazy to think that there are billions of people making music. Whether they’re known or not. I can’t do anything without music. Like some say “Where words fail, music speaks.” It’s not just about listening to music but about really understanding the songs and feeling what an artist is trying to say through their music. It’s inspiring to know that one way or another, these people will be heard, through music.

Do you consider yourself a risk taker or play it safe?

Definitely a risk taker. I am such a yes person, I love going for it and once it’s set in my mind I don’t let what anyone says get in the way of that choice. Life is about new experiences and living it to the fullest so how can someone do that with playing it safe all the time? Of course there’s a certain boundary when it comes to taking risks but all in all, you’ll just regret the ones you didn’t take because those are the moments you won’t get back.

How do you feel about this next stage in your life?

Nervous but anxious in a good way though. Ever since I was young, the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has been asked so many times and it’s like I was expected to know. As I got older I thought I knew but when it came down to that last week of senior year when it seemed like everyone had their life figured out, I was the one who didn’t anymore. The pressure of being a first generation student to graduate high school and go to a four year university weighed heavy. Considering I have siblings, I had to be that example. But something changed.

I didn’t have the same dream people expected me to have, I wanted different. I wasn’t ready to fully commit to Seattle (where I would’ve gone). I wanted more than that. Which is why Verto was perfect. It offered a fulfilling, possibly, once in a lifetime opportunity. It dared me to step out and say yes. There’s no telling what this next stage in my life has in store for me and I don’t know what to expect. And I don’t know what I’ll do later on, but I know that it’s something that will impact me.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Take the opportunities that are presented to you.

"I didn’t have the same dream people expected me to have, I wanted different."
- Nayeli Hernandez

Michael Saccio

South Pacific Cohort

Where are you from?

I was born in Los Angeles and moved to North Carolina where I grew up for the most part. I’m currently now in Portland, Oregon.

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

I enjoy biking, cooking, writing, and playing basketball.

What inspires you?

I’m motivated to better myself more of out of necessity and I try to stay organized as best as I can, but um I consider myself a play it safe type of guy.

What is the craziest food you have ever eaten?

The craziest food I’ve ever eaten, without knowing, was a pasta dish with pigs brain. I have family in Italy and they would make the make this pasta dish and when I was younger. I would always eat it... until I found out what it was.

How do you feel about this next stage in your life?

I’m so excited to travel to Australia because it is an English speaking country, but with a completely different culture. It will be different but comfortable. I’ve traveled in Europe, mostly Italy because of family, Japan, and some states in the U.S. I’ve always wanted to go to Australia and now I am. I’m really looking forward to the community that comes with it.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I'm excited about experiencing cultures really different from my own. Not just going to a big city in Europe and listening to people who speak in a different language, but being exposed and close to people that live a life very different than my own. It will really help me get out of my comfort zone.

"I am a very open minded person and I’m really excited to try new things and see a different part of the world and I’m excited to see how that impacts me."
- Angela Madden

Angela Madden

South Pacific Cohort

Where are you from?

South Windsor, Connecticut! Although I’ve traveled all over the world, from Spain to New Zealand, Aruba, England, France, Denmark, and Bahamas. I would love to travel to Bali.

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

Decorating and aspiring guitarist!

What inspires you?

The endless possibilities and having the world to explore just inspires me.

What’s your spirit animal?

A tiger because it’s strong and bold.

If you were to describe yourself as a color, what would it be and why?

I would describe myself as the color blue which I see as calm, maybe more vibrant, and exciting.

What is the craziest food you have ever eaten?

Sea urchin is one of the craziest foods I’ve eaten, but I want to try living squid. I've always wondered how it would taste like with it wiggling around.

What are your plans for after Verto semester?

After the fall semester with Verto, my plans are to attend the University of Macquarie in Australia and major in marketing and communications.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I am a very open minded person and I’m really excited to try new things and see a different part of the world and I’m excited to see how that impacts me.