Around The World: DGN students and staff share their travel experiences


Jose Oleaga

HOPPING THE WALL: Physical education teacher Jose Oleaga visits The Great Wall of China with a new friend.

Ava LaBianco, News Editor

Everyone has dreams. For some it is going to college, others it is wealth. For these three particular staff members, their dream is to travel the world. Here are three stories from Beth Lee, Gunde Burritt, and Jose Oleaga about their experiences living out their fantasies. 

French teacher Beth Lee took time to travel the world before settling down to teach in the U.S. in 2019. Visiting 13 countries in 30 years, Lee went to France as a college student, volunteered in the Peace Corps in Morocco and then taught English in Korea.

“One of the best things about traveling is being able to try new types of food.  I like to find the “hole-in-the-wall” places where the local people like to eat,” Lee said.

Lee lived in South Korea for two years in the 1990s and found it inexpensive to travel all over Southeast Asia.

“In Thailand and Vietnam I went into restaurants where no one spoke English and to order, I pointed to food that other people were eating. The mangoes and pineapple in Thailand and Vietnam are amazing. I’ve never had mangos in the US that were even close to being as good as the ones in Southeast Asia,” Lee said. 

Lee doesn’t have a favorite country, she has found each one interesting in its own way.However, she has a stronger connection with Marcoo and South Korea because she wasn’t there as a tourist, but actually lived there. As a French teacher, France will always have a special place in her heart since it was the first country she ever visited.

“Once I spent the night at a little hostel in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. There was no electricity and we were able to see so many stars at night. It was unbelievable. Another time on one of our France trips we went into a hot air balloon and that was amazing,” Lee said.

Most of Lee’s travels were in college and her mid twenties. She traveled with family, employees, and friends. Lee has slowed her travel down once she started working and building a family. Lee hopes to travel to Italy, Germany, and Switzerland soon.

“I definitely need to plan a new trip soon, because it helps me to always have something to look forward to and I really want to travel more,” Lee said.

Lee travels because it helps her grow. She loves learning and experiencing other cultures and it helps her connect with her students from other countries. Lee and her husband agreed that they would rather have experiences than expensive material. 

With decades of experience, Lee has a surplus of travel tips to share with students.

“Real traveling involves exploring and having authentication experiences. Traveling is staying in hostels and huts and being able to go out and experience new things is what makes traveling so amazing,” Lee said. “Traveling as a woman is hard, especially in Morocco. I learned to be safe and be smart. Watch out for your surroundings and dress conservatively when needed.”

Next story that is going to be shared is from German teacher Gunde Burritt. She has traveled to almost all of Western Europe, including her home Germany, as well as Mexico and Canada. Burritt’s favorite thing about traveling is being able to interact with the locals and explore around different places.

“There are so many places that are my favorite. But one of my favorite places is Portugal because the people there are extremely friendly and the weather is beautiful, the beaches down in the South are amazing.,” Burritt said.

Buritt travels not by going to the tourist attractions, but instead exploring the town’s underground activities. Every summer Burritt goes to Europe to visit her family and then adds one or two other countries. She lets her daughter pick a country to go to then her and her husband decide on the other one. 

“I want to show this stuff to my daughter because I want her to be a global citizen and be open minded. I want her to experience different languages, food, and cultures. I travel for my family and since my daughter is fluent in German, it is important to me that she keeps it up,” Burrit said. 

Burritt started traveling to different countries when she was around 13. She has always had a love for traveling and when she was younger she would take buses and trains to the nearest country to explore with organized groups. She did this whenever she had the free time. 

“I still travel to this day. An upcoming trip of mine is Norway, I’ve never been before and I can’t wait to experience another new country with my family,” Burritt said.

Last story is from P.E. teacher, Jose Oleaga. Oleaga has traveled to over 40 different countries. Although he has never been to South America, he is hoping to travel there soon with the Spanish classes. 

“I always thought that the time between studying and getting a family was limited. I thought having kids would limit my time and money to travel. So when I went to college I wanted to see the world before I settled down,” Oleaga said.

Oleaga was able to travel because of schooling, volunteer work with a United Nation program, his sports teams, and just for fun by himself. He started when he was 17 and slowed down his travels when he was 25 when he met his wife in America. 

“My favorite place I visited was Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is because of the animals. It felt like the Lion King. I saw a lion chasing a zebra and then eating it. I saw elephants and giraffes all in the wild,” Oleaga said. 

Most of Oleaga’s travels were alone. He says at first he would get lonely but he met so many people through hostels and other countries that he would make friends. He focused on the experiences and learning more about himself in different situations than being away from his family.

“I have a lot of cool stories but the funniest one was in Burundi. I was there for three months and at the end of my volunteer session I had two weeks before I had to go home. I decided to rent a car and go to a national park. While I was driving there, I spotted a goat. Now I haven’t eaten meat in months, my diet was mostly rice and beans. So, I got out of my car and stole a goat. I got in the car and drove to the nearest town. I asked the townspeople if they would kill the goat for me so I could eat it, however it takes a while to cook a goat and I didn’t have the time to wait. So I let the village keep the goat and I went off to my safari,” Oleaga said.  

Oleaga puts a lot of trust into traveling. He will do anything to create a good time and amazing experience. This story says it all.

“I went to Bejini and before I went home I had time to spare before my flight. I wanted to visit the forbidden city and see the Wall of China. I didn’t speak Mandarin so when I asked taxi drivers to take me to the wall they were charging me lots of money. Until a random guy said he would take him to the wall for very cheap. I was a little skeptical because he took me to his car that was in the middle of an empty parking lot with no one around. I got in the car and he was driving crazy. I couldn’t communicate with him so it was a quiet ride. Once we got to the wall it was closed, but I wasn’t going to let this stop me. I told the man to drive me to the forest near the wall. I told him I was going to climb the tree and jump the wall. The man wouldn’t let me go alone so we both climbed the tree and got on the wall. It was empty and so beautiful. And the man was so happy laughing with me, it is an experience I will never forget,” Oleaga said. 

Oleaga can’t quite have these experiences now with his children and wife, however he said he is planning on taking them to all of the countries he hasn’t been to before such as South America. This summer, he is going to Morocco and Spain to visit his family.

“To have a fun experience you have to do crazy things. Oh, just be safe,” Oleaga said. 

The next two stories are from DGN students who currently travel the world. 

The first student is junior Annie Pleune. She has traveled to England, Scotland, France, Italy, Mexico, Jamaica, Canada, Germany, Barbados, and the Bahamas. 

“I love to travel to see new places and experience new cultures. I also travel with my sister who I am very close with so it makes it more enjoyable,” Pleune said.

Her favorite place to travel to was England because she got to see different parts of the country and learn about its history. 

“I am a history buff and I loved the unique and old agriculture and I think I visited over 25 museums while being there,” Pleune said.

Over the course of her life she travels out of the USA about three times a year. The most typical places she travels to are in Europe, specifically London and France. Pleune hopes to travel even more in the upcoming years.

“I want to study abroad and I want to be able to go to every country in the world. I am really hoping that my job in the future will allow me to travel. Any chances I get to travel, even if it’s in America, I take it,” Pleune said. 

Pleune bases everything in her life off things she learned while traveling. New recipes, clothes, and cultural activities make Pleune feel like she is traveling even when she is at home.

“Most people get homesick while traveling. Oddly enough, I feel at home when I travel. It almost feels like I’m homesick staying at my house in Downers Grove,” Pleune said.

Next story is from sophomore Kendall Arnold. She has traveled to France, England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and most of Asia.

“I traveled a lot with my dad when he went on work trips. It was so cool to grow up seeing other countries, I feel like it gave me a better understanding of the different cultures and be more open

minded about things,” Arnold said.

Arnold traveled about 7 times a year but recently had to slow down due to Covid-19.

“Although Covid made us stop traveling, every year we still visit New Zealand. My mom was born there and lived there most of her life until she met my dad in America. New Zealand is my favorite place I traveled to since it’s almost like my second home,” Arnold said.

Arnold is not a picky eater. Since she started traveling at such a young age, she was introduced to advanced kinds of foods. Lewis favorite was the snails, but she has eaten snake and alligator plus a bunch of different combinations of foods. 

“When I went to Australia I woke up to a tarantula crawling on my bed. I screamed so loud that the manager of the hotel came to check on us. Although I experienced amazing memories and habitats while traveling, I gained my hate for spiders,” Arnold said.

Arnold plans on g

oing to Spain this summer and hopes she can travel a bit more before she is employed full time and has a family.