/Guide to Whole New Worlds
Cathleen Richards’ trip to Italy changed her life.

Guide to Whole New Worlds

Oswego alumna’s study abroad experiences determined her career

By Maria Pericozzi

Cathleen Richards enrolled in an Italian language course at SUNY Oswego when she needed an elective, not knowing that it would change her life.

Her professor, Joseph Alessia, announced he was leading a month-long summer study abroad program to Rome, Italy.

Richards had never been on a plane before but took the chance and signed up to go in 2007. She said the experience was transformative.

“I remember going up Capitoline Hill, and for the first time I noticed tour guides,” Richards said. “I noticed these people leading other groups around and really telling them and showing them the story behind what they were seeing. I went over to Professor Alessia asking, ‘What is this? I want to do this.’”

Eleven years later, Richards is a travel curator, which is a modern-day travel agent. Travel agents used to be there to help book flights and hotels, but now there is an opportunity to look at travel as a more holistic experience, Richards said.

“It really stuck with me,” Richards said. “I wanted to do it, but as part of that I wanted to help people, especially Americans, better understand and experience Italy.”

Richards majored in broadcasting and mass communication with a minor in arts management at SUNY Oswego and graduated in 2009. She received her master’s degree from George Washington University in international education.

She found herself in the travel industry, leading trips for people to other countries.

Setting up itineraries

“Now, I have taken all of those experiences of helping people to travel physically and personally as their guide, and am helping them to create their own trips,” Richards said.

She has been to countries all over the world, including throughout Europe, the Middle East and Australia.

“It’s definitely a bug I’ve caught,” Richards said. “All of this I trace back to that study abroad experience. Professor Alessia knows I credit him with piquing that interest and curiosity.”

Richards encourages people to think about traveling to the Middle East.

“A place like Jordan is a place where you get to see the day-to-day life of people who live in a very different culture, but is very warm, welcoming and safe,” Richards said.

When students graduate, people think their opportunities to travel disappear because of grad school, jobs, and living in the real world, Richards said. She recommends valuing travel and not feeling it has to be given up when you graduate, because there are always ways to do it.

SUNY Oswego offers programs sending students all over the world, for semester-long trips, summer trips, and quarter courses. Students can also complete internships or do their student teaching in other countries.

The Office of International Education and Programs at SUNY Oswego sends more than 400 students abroad each year to more than 30 countries. Nearly 20 percent of graduating students participate in education abroad, making Oswego one of the leading campuses for study abroad in the SUNY system.

“Even if you don’t think studying abroad will have an impact on you, do it anyway,” Richards said. “Oswego has so many opportunities and options to fit within a schedule. We’re lucky, because most universities don’t have quarter courses or summer sessions, and don’t have them at an affordable price like Oswego does.”

Richards was also named as one of Travel Agent’s 30Under30.

“The pipe dream came true after all,” Richards said. “Now I was the tour guide that other people were seeing as they walked around Rome.”

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