Annette van de Kamp-Wright
Once you have discovered the excitement of travel, it can be awfully hard to stay put. Cleo Rogers, daughter of Mimi and Scott, knows all about it. As a high school student, she spent a year in Mexico; she was busy learning Spanish and making new friends while many of us lived vicariously through her Facebook posts. Full disclosure: I knew her when she was a Friedel Jewish Academy student, way back when. In high school, she babysat my kids a few times. But, if all goes well, little kids grow into young adults, and these days Cleo is an accomplished, well-spoken college senior. I’m not sure where the time went.
When the University of Nebraska in Kearney offered her an opportunity to once again dig up her passport and travel to Milan, Italy, she didn’t hesitate:
“The university enabled me to go on a brand new exchange program with 15 other UNK students. We spent three weeks in the city of Milan, and completed three courses in that time. In total, I was in Italy from late May until the first week of July, and it was amazing.”
The coursework consisted of an Introduction to Italian, Cultural Economics, and the very-Milan-appropriate “Fashion and Design.” What’s not to love?
Unlike during her high school exchange, she did not have a host family:
“It was very different, a lot more independent. I’m a few years older than I was in Mexico and that makes a difference,” she said. “It means outside of the classes, which are of course required, you have a lot more freedom to explore.”
“Some of the other students stuck together, but I went off alone as often as possible because I needed to explore by myself. I came earlier just so I could aimlessly wander around town and take it all in.”
Cleo’s brother Isaac, who was on his own trip, stopped by; together they saw Naples and Rome. Favorite spots were the Duomo in Milan, Vatican City and the Scala Theater. In the process, she picked up enough Italian that she has a working comprehension of the language, which is pretty good for a five-week stay.
“It is so important to go abroad,” she says, “it expands your world view and gives you a different perspective. When you travel, you’re out of your comfort zone, suddenly you are the one who has trouble making him – or herself understood. I firmly believe travel helps us gain a cultural tolerance for others and see ourselves in a different light as well. Each culture has a balance of good and bad, and we need to make an effort to understand other cultures on their terms. It reminds us that we have so much to learn, and we don’t always know everything.”
Cleo is back for her final year in Kearney’s International Studies Department, where she studies Political Science with a minor in Spanish. What comes next she doesn’t exactly know yet, but she’s looking at furthering her education. Maybe she will enroll in a Master’s program somewhere on the East Coast? Whatever she decides, we wish her safe travels.