At Home in the World: Alumna Kem Turner
Alumna Kem Turner graduated from JCU in 2005 with a B.A. in International Affairs. Born in Oklahoma and raised in Texas, Kem transferred to JCU in 2002 from the International School of Business of Pace University in New York. She has been living in Rome, Italy, for more than 15 years, and currently works as Portfolio Management Consultant at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Kem was a Guest Speaker at the September 2019 JCU President’s Gala. She recently wrote an eBook called “Italy Revealed – The Ultimate Insider Lifestyle Hacks for the Best Italian Experience,” about successfully integrating into a culture other than your own.
What made you decide to study at JCU?
John Cabot University had the international focus that fit my interests. I wanted to study abroad, and JCU made me immediately feel at home. The campus and location are beautiful. The introduction to the student life with all the possibilities to experience Rome was irresistible. Once I felt the JCU vibe I was captivated.
The second reason I chose JCU was that I could study so many subjects, which were incredibly interesting to me, such as International Economics, Global Politics and Renaissance Art. There is no better place to take an art class than in Rome. I was filled with the hopes and dreams of enriching my life beyond imagination while living and studying in Italy. It was a great opportunity to study with people from all over the world. It was here that I finally felt like the world was at my fingertips.
How’s life after graduation?
I started working at the Global Crop Diversity Trust in Rome on a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The world is losing much of its crop diversity, and the program tries to save as many varieties as possible. After five years, the Trust moved its offices to Bonn, Germany, and I decided to remain in Rome. Immediately afterwards, I started working at FAO, where I focused on projects funded by a donor called the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which was established in 1992 to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental challenges. The Finance Officer of the GEF Unit at FAO offered me specialized training on GEF’s climate change projects as well as training in budget management. I was also sent on field missions to Angola, Burkina Faso and Mali. I supported other projects in Mozambique, and a global project that included Kenya, Uruguay and Tajikistan. I am still working on GEF projects today, providing support to and reviewing budgets for the entire GEF portfolio in FAO which includes about 220 projects and has a total grant value of approximately $ 1.1 billion. Working at FAO made me reflect on the importance of everyone’s conscious involvement in taking care of this planet every single day.
Tell us a bit about your book Italy Revealed.
It provides insights for people who are either moving to Rome or just visiting. There are currently 70 million refugees in the world –and all the money from sales of my eBooks will go towards buying sleeping bags and other items for the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center here in Rome. The book contains tips on how to embrace the composite Italian culture and lifestyle while staying close to the expats community. I’ve also started working on a lifestyle blog called Grapefruits and Irony, which hopefully will be live early next year. I named it after my two favorite things, as life is bittersweet and filled with a lot of irony.
What advice would you give to students considering JCU?
Somehow living the dream of being in Italy could be overwhelming – the language, the people, the ancient architecture and ruins, even the food. If you want to make the most out of your JCU experience and your time in Italy, I would suggest writing down 10 goals you would like to accomplish while you are here and selecting your top five. I also strongly encourage meditation. Experiencing JCU is like nothing you could ever imagine. Jump in and try it out.