Where did you study abroad?
I studied abroad five times – once as a high school student, twice as an undergraduate student, and twice as a graduate student. In high school, I traveled to England, France, Germany, and Italy with several classmates and my Western civilization history teacher. While I attended Iowa State University for my bachelor’s degree, I spent a semester studying history in Swansea, Wales, and then spent two months student teaching at an American school in Rome, Italy. I recently earned my master’s degree, which included two more short-term study abroad programs, one to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and one back to Rome, Italy.
What is your favorite memory from your time abroad?
One of my favorite memories from my time in Wales was exploring the Gower Peninsula, just a short bus ride from Swansea. This natural area is known for its beautiful coastlines, hiking trails, caves, and castle ruins. On several weekends throughout the semester, my friends and I would spend the entire day walking the trails, taking in the seaside views, and exploring the ruins of Pennard Castle. We even tried our hand at geocaching, which is an outdoor activity where you use GPS and clues to find little containers hidden by other geocachers. Each container, or “cache,” usually includes a log, where you can write your name after discovering it, and small trinkets, which you can exchange for ones that you brought. This was such a fun way to explore the area and collect tiny souvenirs!
What is your favorite place you’ve traveled?
I visited St. Petersburg, Russia on a family vacation a few years ago and was absolutely fascinated with the history and the architecture. We loved exploring local art in the Hermitage Museum, tasting local specialties like blini (thin pancakes) and pelmeni (traditional dumplings), and climbing to the top of St. Isaac’s Cathedral for an incredible view of the city.
What is your funniest travel memory?
I love to collect paintings from local artists when I travel, and, while studying abroad in Wales, I found an amazing oil painting of the Parthenon when I visited Athens on a weekend trip. I set the painting aside for a minute, while I looked through some other options, and was quickly disappointed when I noticed another shopper had picked it up. I explained to her that I had only set it down for a minute and was planning to purchase it, and we discussed it back and forth for a while. She eventually found another painting that she liked so she gave it back to me and I happily (and quickly) took it to the cashier.
After landing back in London, I had to take two trains and a bus to get back to Swansea, and during one of the connections, I set the painting (rolled up and in a black plastic bag) on the chair next to me. I didn’t realize until I reached my apartment in Swansea that I had left the painting sitting on the chair at the train station. I was devastated, especially after working so hard to convince the other shopper to give it back to me, so I called the train station and asked them to check the lost-and-found. They told me it wasn’t there and that the cleaning crew probably threw away, thinking it was someone’s trash that they had left behind. Looking back, I can only laugh, but someday, I hope to go back to Athens and find another painting. Hopefully this time, I won’t leave it behind!
If you could go on any USAC program, what would it be and why?
I would love to go to New Zealand. It seems like such a scenic and serene place, full of diverse cultures and breathtaking views. I’m also a big Hobbit fan, so I’d love to explore the movie set and other filming locations.
What do you like to do outside of work?
In addition to traveling and learning about world cultures, I also enjoy reading historical fiction novels, baking, and going on nature hikes. I have two young kids so most of my free time right now is spent cleaning up messes, trying to explain how the world works, and belting out songs from Disney movies.
What is a weird fact about you?
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’m afraid of butterflies. One of my childhood friends took me to a walk-through butterfly exhibit in middle school, and I did not enjoy it one bit! There seemed to be thousands and thousands of butterflies, all flying this way and that, even some landing on my shoulder, and I felt trapped without any means of escape. I have been afraid of them ever since.
What’s on your bucket list?
My parents took my sister and I on several trips when we were growing up, so I’d love to pay them back, in a sense, and take them on their dream trips. I would like to take my mom on another Disney cruise (this time with her grandchildren), and I also want to plan a Vincent Van Gogh trip throughout the Netherlands and France for my art-enthusiast dad.