Volunteering Across Borders: Student Cristina Di Leva

Cristina Di Leva is a degree seeking student from Lavello, Basilicata, in southern Italy. A Communications major with a concentration in Journalism, she also has a minor in Political Science. In Fall 2017, she will start her senior year as Editor-in-Chief of JCU’s newspaper The Matthew. Cristina recently participated in a humanitarian trip to Jordan organized by STAND.

Cristina Di Leva

Cristina Di Leva in Amman

Why was the trip organized? What did you do there? What stood out?
Omar Abdel Latif, president of the STAND Club, organized the trip to Jordan. The aim was for JCU students to volunteer with orphan children currently living in Amman. Throughout the semester, the club raised money to buy new clothes to donate to the children in Jordan. Before my semester abroad in New York, I volunteered with La Ronda della Solidarietà twice a week, so as soon as I heard about this volunteering trip I decided to participate.

We met the children in a mall with an amusement park; each of us was assigned ten kids to take on rides. In my group of children there was a three-year-old girl who got sad because she was too little to get on the rides. Since she didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic, I tried to play with her and let her have some fun. She quickly became happier and “asked” me to hold her in my arms. I ended up holding her for hours, until the end of the activities, as she didn’t want me to leave her. It was one of the most emotional moments I experienced during the trip.

In the next few days we traveled across Jordan. We visited some of its greatest beauties, including Mount Nebo, mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land, and the valley of Wadi Rum, also called as “The Valley of the Moon.” We also visited the Dead Sea, Aqaba, a city close to the borders with Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, , and the ancient city of Petra. During the trip, I also reported on our activities for a travel piece that I just finished writing, and for a final project that will showcase some highlights of the trip. One of the best days in Jordan was the day we spent in Wadi Rum, where we rode the desert with Land Rovers during sunset, ate and drank typical Bedouin food and tea, watched the stars at night, and rode camels during sunrise.

What attracted you to JCU? What are your plans after graduation?
I started traveling with my parents when I was two years old; before turning ten, I had already seen some parts of the United States, Africa, and Europe. I grew up with the idea of traveling to see new countries, meet new people and adapt to other cultures. At the same time, I became very passionate about writing and photography. My father helped me to learn the basics of photography since he had been a photographer too when he was younger. After high school, I was sure I wanted to be a journalist and get my degree abroad, since Italy doesn’t really offer an undergraduate major in journalism. Then I heard about John Cabot University, which offered me the opportunity to study journalism in English through a major in Communications, not so far away from home.

My plan after JCU is to complete an M.A. in photojournalism and documentary photography in London.

What is your career goal?
In the long term, I hope to work as a freelance journalist/photojournalist for several magazines and newspapers around the world. However, I also hope to work as a war reporter in the Middle East.

Any advice for a new student starting out at JCU?
I would recommend getting involved in JCU events and clubs as soon as possible. That’s the best way to meet new people and have great experiences. I would also suggest being proactive and using all the available resources of the university to explore different career paths.