Note to readers: Barry Schraders DeKalb
County Life column will appear every other Tuesday.
Despite a communist dictatorship, anti-American propaganda,
repression of dissidents and human rights violations, Becca Weil
managed to find a softer side of Cuba on her recent
study mission there.
The 2012 Genoa-Kingston High School graduate, now a sophomore
at Illinois College in Jacksonville, was part of an 18-member
educational research group visiting parts of the island nation
earlier this year.
Three of her colleges faculty from the biology, Spanish
and psychology departments led the
Becca Weil holds up a sand crab found on Uvero Beach
in Cuba on her recent study trip to the island nation. (Provided
students on a tour focusing on biodiversity, health care and
the educational system in Cuba. Becca specifically focused on
two areas of study orchids in the rain forest and health
care for people with cleft palates.
Her interest is based on her plans to pursue speech pathology
in graduate school. Upon returning she was required to write
a research report on her findings.
Reflecting on her travel experience, she noted the friendliness
of the people they met, including the shopkeepers, educators
and medical personnel. She also got to taste local cuisine, mostly
featuring pork, chicken, shrimp and the basic staples of beans
and rice. She said in addition to the state-run stores and restaurants,
they were able to try smaller eateries run by private families
in their homes.
She returned with a few wood carvings and artwork as souvenirs,
plus 3,212 photos taken with her digital camera. I could only
choose one photo of her to use for this column, but she has many
beautiful landscapes and rare orchids in her photo collection
from the trip.
Becca is like many young people today, who dont want
to wait until middle age or later to see the world. In 2006,
she and her family visited Portugal, Spain, Morocco, France and
England, then in 2008 she returned on a study trip to Spain and
France, adding Monaco and Germany. Just last year, she traveled
to England and Scotland. Her next international adventure will
be this fall, when she spends a semester at the university in
Bangor, Wales, as a part of Illinois Colleges overseas
My interview with Becca reminded me of my own experience
50 years ago when I was privileged to spend a summer touring
Europe with a student group, something that really broadens ones
horizon and gives you a better perspective of what life is like
in other cultures and countries. I made the mistake, however,
of wearing myself out covering nine countries, ending up in a
hospital in Detmold, West Germany, with mononucleosis.
Luckily for me, I was able to recuperate at a U.S. Army
base near Stuttgart with the family of Richard Guse, brother
of my Genoa-Kingston classmate David Guse, who helped me recover
so I could enjoy a few more weeks overseas before flying back
So I heartily recommend that young people who can afford
it take the opportunity during college to travel as much as possible.
Once you get into the working world it becomes much more difficult
to find the time, even if you have the money.