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International Travel For Students

Long Island’s claims to fame – beaches, amphitheater concerts and the Hamptons – are particularly relevant during the summer months, but that didn’t stop several Manhasset students from skipping town … even though they had just returned days or weeks before!

The allures of volunteer missions, internship opportunities and family visits led four college students to escape the local gridlock for international experiences that would forever change their perspectives on life. Although they are now re-acclimated to New York’s fast paced culture, these voyages remain on the forefronts of their minds.  This is the first article in a two part series.

A Stamp on Her Heart

Describing Kathleen Ackert as busy is an understatement. The incoming sophomore at Siena College is majoring in biology, minoring in health studies and Franciscan service and advocacy, and competing on the swimming and diving team. And upon returning home for the summer, she quickly re-packed her bags and flew to South Africa.

Ackert landed in Cape Town, but she left her mark in Johannesburg, where she dedicated 14 days to making friends.

“People always ask you what you’re going to do in South Africa, and [my trip leaders] really wanted to break away from that,” she said, citing the organizers from Siena’s Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy. “We were able to build relationships with people, we did service, [and] it was through talking to people.”

Ackert’s experience at a hospice for AIDS patients still lingers in her mind, but the children she encountered on visits to an orphanage increased her awareness of racial relations, and ultimately, left a stamp on her heart that will not fade.

“White people in South Africa are not always nice to black people because the end of apartheid is so young, so by talking to them, as a white person, we were able to break down barriers that had formed already,” she said.

“All they wanted to do what touch my white skin and my hair that was different from theirs.”

Ackert plans to pursue a career in the medical field, and is interested in both public health and dermatology. She will not choose a path for several more years, but her 14 days in South Africa determined that her that her career will impact the lives of children.

“The orphanage was definitely my favorite part … we were able to make such a difference because [the children] just didn’t have people to come play with them,” Ackert said. “There was one little girl who needed a walker to walk – both her feet were turned in – and she was deaf and partially blind … the moment when she smiled was so amazing, because just by playing with her and giving her attention, you made her so happy.”

Ackert is now directing her attention toward friends and family on Long Island, but her mind is already racing with volunteer options for next summer. She may return to South Africa, but has also discussed a Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy trip to a Guatemalan orphanage.

Ackert is eager to embark on her journey, but until then, will reflect upon the culture she embraced in South Africa – namely, its philosophy of Ubuntu, or “human kindness.”

“It’s about treating people the way you want to be treated. It means virtue, humanity,” Ackert explained. “The community should always seek to redeem man.”

Starting Abroad, Continuing at Home

Johns Hopkins University student Christopher LoBello began his UBS internship with a week in Switzerland, followed by three more at home in New York.

LoBello, along with more than 70 students participating in the financial service company’s Emerging Talent Program, honed their project, presentation and teamwork skills in the city of Ermatingen. This preparation proved vital once LoBello was put to work in New York, but the most memorable aspect of his overseas experience involved the realized commonalities among participants.

“There were people from at least 10 different countries coming together in one place with the same passion, the same career interests … and we all got along so well,” he said, citing interns from China, El Salvador, England, Germany and Spain – to name a few.

“I’d probably be friends with them if they all went to Manhasset or any other place nearby. It’s amazing how well we all got along … it wasn’t like people were in their various cliques based on where they were from.”

Upon returning to New York, LoBello directed the skills developed in Switzerland on a business development team based on Park Avenue. He researched referrals that UBS could use to leverage corporate relationships by day, and by night, unwound in his company-provided Times Square hotel room.

LoBello’s team presented their findings to several of UBS’ senior members upon the close of their internship, and in this way, he believes that he left a lasting mark on the company.

“We worked on very relevant projects that the whole team is working on right now,” he said.

LoBello will soon return to Johns Hopkins University, where he will begin his junior year as an economics major. He will miss boarding the rush of boarding subway or hailing a taxi during Manhattan’s rush hours, but is eager to enjoy the collegiate life while he still can.

“From what I’ve seen, I’ve got to take advantage of it before I start working,” he said, adding that a job offer from UBS upon graduate would be “great.”