By CAMILLE SEARS
Cancer. A word no parent wants to hear, and a word that can change a family’s life when a child is diagnosed. Education Abroad Administrator Jennifer White used her experience with cancer to combine her love of travel with her seize the moment outlook on life.
With a master’s degree in creative writing and English from Eastern, White began working at her alma mater in the Office of the Registrar in 2006. Wanting to get into international education and obtaining a love for global travel made her jump on the opportunity to work for the Education Abroad Office in 2013.
While in college, White traveled to Mexico for a short-term program when earning her bachelor’s degree in geology at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. She had also traveled to Canada for a few work conferences and family trips.
After seeing North America, she and her husband John White, a geology professor at Eastern, were eventually wanting to travel outside of the western hemisphere when their son, William, born in 1997, was older.
However, when William was 9 years old he was diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma, a soft tissue cancer that typically occurs in young adults.
“When we faced losing him and didn’t know if he was going to make it through cancer, we realized someday may not come,” White said. To celebrate the end of his chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she and her family spent Christmas in Rome in 2007.
From then on, they started traveling internationally every year, or as often as they could afford, now that William was a cancer survivor.
“I’d far rather spend money traveling abroad than buying a new TV or new couch,” White said. “To me, taking advantage of every moment of life is more important than the possessions you could buy.”
As the education abroad administrator, White shares her life mantra with the many students who go to her wanting to study abroad. Part of her job is helping them step-by-step with the study abroad process, including choosing where to go, selecting classes to take and arranging academic credit transfers when they return from their trips. Although, White said her favorite part of the job is having follow up conversations with students to learn about their experiences.
Miranda Massey, 20, a junior occupational science and Spanish major from Louisville, worked with White to plan her study abroad trip over this past summer.
“Even when I was in Costa Rica, she was still in contact with me all the way through up until I came back,” Massey said. “I’m very thankful for her.”
White was also helpful with current study abroad intern, Andrew Moorhead, 21, a senior public relations and anthropology major from Falmouth, Ky.
“Jennifer’s help went beyond my semester in Belgium,” Moorhead said. “When I came back to Eastern this fall, I was able to intern in the Education Abroad Office. And now that I work with her I can appreciate all her hard work.”
Outside of helping students with their trips abroad, White said she enjoys thinking about her next travel destination.
While she has already been to more than 10 countries, her bucket list of places to go includes everywhere off the beaten path. White and her husband joke about having an ongoing race of who can get to every continent first.
“Basically, I want to go everywhere,” White said. “There is nowhere that I don’t want to go.”
Ultimately, she wants to retire in Sicily, Italy, what she said was her absolute favorite place on Earth. Having traveled there several times, White said she loves getting out of the city and going into the rural countryside of Italy. She said she enjoys how the people and surrounding areas are not as influenced by western and American culture.
White considers herself a dreamer, open-minded and flexible–all qualities that are important when going abroad. Her must haves when traveling include a plug adapter, an extra pair of underwear in the carry-on bag, in case the checked back gets lost, a toothbrush and of course her passport.
“If I have those items, I will just jump on a plane and go anywhere,” said White.