Cynda Schneider has traveled to 60 countries. She is 22 years old.
A former Richmond Hill High School student, Schneider teaches English to students in foreign countries. For the past six months, she has been teaching primary school students in Beijing.
Last week, Schneider returned home to Richmond Hill and spoke with ninth-graders in Don Roberts’ honors world geography class at RHHS about her experiences.
“At every opportunity that I got, I traveled,” she said. Schneider explained that she spent her summers in high school traveling abroad. The summer after her sophomore year, she studied in Japan. The following summer, she lived in northern Thailand for two months. She has been to Ghana, the Philippines and even North Korea.
The students listened attentively as Schneider spoke about many different aspects of foreign cultures. She discussed the educational systems in Asian countries and how Chinese and Japanese cultures put an emphasis on education and well-roundedness in children. She covered interesting culinary customs like the Chinese affinity for dog meat, which she has tried and said is comparable to “a really good steak.” Lastly, she stressed being aware of the laws and customs in a given country, and the importance of being able to follow and respect them.
Getting involved in study-abroad programs is easy, according to Schneider. She urged the students to find information online.
“It’s really worth it, especially if you’re not going to be doing anything over the summer anyway,” Schneider said. “Instead of going to Tybee, you might as well go to a beach in Thailand.”
Schneider grew up in Wisconsin. There, she said, culture was homogenous.
“Everyone there was middle-class, white, Catholic … so my parents decided they wanted to show me a little bit of the world,” she explained. “We sold everything – our house, our cars, most of our possessions – and moved onto a sailboat for two years.”
Her family began their journey off the coast of Florida, moving around the Caribbean and finally ending up at a dock in Richmond Hill when she was 14 years old.
Schneider believes there are many benefits to traveling.
“It definitely blurs the cultural lines and makes you more tolerant,” she explained.
Roberts was enthusiastic about his former student’s visit.
“It helps the students get a different perspective,” he said. “There’s just a bigger world out there.”
Some students felt that Schneider’s discussion changed their view on world travel.
“It made me less afraid of wanting to go to a different country,” said Diana Malave. “If she can do it, I can, too.”
“I’m no one special,” Schneider said. “Everyone can do this … if parents won’t let their kids study abroad before they’re 18, they can do it in college or independently. And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be unsafe for a single female to travel by herself.”