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Around the world in a lifetime

World traveler draws from experience to teach peers at Riderwood

Created date

November 26th, 2013
World traveler draws from experience to teach peers at Riderwood

When Trudi Niewiaroski says, It s a small world, she s not just repeating the popular idiom. She is speaking from vast personal experience and deep knowledge of different cultures. Trudi was first exposed to foreign cultures on an intimate level during the beginning of her marriage. Her late husband Donald was an economist and, because of his work, the family had the opportunity to live in Afghanistan, Ecuador, and Argentina. I have four children, and my youngest was born in Ecuador, Trudi says. My kids absolutely loved it. Whenever we sat them down at the table to tell them we were moving somewhere else, they would run off and start packing their suitcases. When Trudi and her family were living in the United States, she worked as a history teacher at Richard Montgomery High School, in Rockville, Md. She taught world history and Chinese history to 11th and 12th grade students.

Unique education

Trudi s career opened up ample opportunities for her to travel abroad. She chaperoned students on a number of educational trips to Europe, Russia, and Japan. She says those trips helped bring to life the lessons she taught in the classroom. In Europe, we toured Auschwitz and other concentration camps, she says. She also took advantage of opportunities to visit foreign countries for professional research during her summers off from teaching. Many of her travels were on fellowships and scholarships, so she would produce papers based on the cultural insights she gleaned on the trips. She took her first trip to India in the 1980s, where she says she had an eye-opening realization about cultural difference and similarity. She says she was having lunch with a group of educated and professionally successful Indian women. Doctors, lawyers, and teachers were among the group of women, and Trudi says she expressed her surprise when she learned that one of the women was about to be married to a man she did not know. I think I learned a lesson I will never forget, Trudi says. The women gathered around and said, Your parents know you better than anyone else. But in America, you fall in love and then you get married, but what is your divorce rate? I really learned that day that you have to respect other cultures. Trudi decided to make women s issues the focus of her research travels. For instance, 14 years ago, she spent a few weeks in Germany contrasting its culture with that of America to assess which of the two countries was most likely to be the first to have a female president. She ruefully observes that Germany won that particular race and that the U.S. has yet to catch up. She conducted a similar study in Korea.

Seeing the world by sea

Trudi also enjoys traveling for leisure. She finds cruises to be one of the most relaxing ways to see the world. The hotel moves you stay on ship and then go on land and see different places, so that is lovely, she says. A few years ago, Trudi and her husband took a cruise around the world. She says the 80-day cruise included 20 or 30 stops. First, the ship sailed around Latin America to Antarctica, then across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa, and finally on to China and Japan. Even when she is traveling for pleasure, Trudi is drawn to learn about a country s culture, history, and people. To that end, she says one of the most memorable stops on her cruise around the world was to Namibia in Southern Africa, where she learned about the history of the country s colonization and diamond mines.

Built-in travel buddies

About four years ago, Trudi and her husband sold their house in Potomac, Md., and moved to. target="_blank">Riderwood, an Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, Md. At Riderwood, Trudi has found a new set of travel companions. A resident-run travel committee plans periodic vacations for residents. In October, Trudi and 28 of her neighbors took a Canadian cruise. We stopped in Halifax and also Bar Harbor, Maine, Trudi says. We were lucky; the weather was gorgeous and warm. Living at Riderwood has also provided Trudi with a unique opportunity to combine her passions for travel and teaching. She teaches world and Chinese history classes to her fellow residents. I think I am just a teacher at heart, she says. Trudi has plenty of professional experience to draw on when teaching the courses, and she makes lectures even more interesting by sharing photos from her own travels. When I look at my slides and pictures, I realize what an interesting life I have, she says. Having lived overseas, traveled extensively to all corners of the world, and studied foreign cultures, Trudi has gained a unique perspective on humanity. When she reflects on her experiences, she says she is struck by how small the world actually is, in some senses. I think about how similar we all are and how loving most people are when you get to know them, Trudi says.