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Rebecca Beirne, CGI – “We’ve come a long way baby”

By Peter Rodriguez-

As I sit at my desk, working away for all things “global” at Darden, I continue to be amazed at how big, and at the same time small, the world has become. When I was a child, the United States was very much an island, the Internet didn’t yet exist, and cell phones were yet to be invented. Computers took up entire rooms, and learning a foreign language was seemingly reserved for the upper class.

We’ve come a long way, baby, and I am trying hard to ensure my 7-year-old’s world is much more expanded than mine was at her age. One of my Christmas gifts to her this year was a membership to “Little Passports,” an ingenious program for children that works like this. Every month, members receive a package in the mail that includes a letter, activities, and online access, allowing them to track the travel of “Sam and Sophia,” imaginary characters who get to travel all over the world. The first package that arrives includes, among other things, a world wall map, as well as a passport to fill out; each time Sam and Sophia travel to a country, a stamp goes into the passport.

I figured my daughter would spend three minutes with this particular present, as is the case with many others, but no—surprise of all surprises, Charlotte and I spent a good hour together, exploring the map, filling out the passport, going online to see where Sam and Sophia were and what they were up to. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see my daughter so engaged with this! I think one of the best gifts we can give our children is that of perspective: The world is an ever expansive source of cultural riches, people to meet, places to go, adventures to be had.

Working for the Center for Global Initiatives has been a wonderful complement to my life thus far. Every day there’s another opportunity to interact with someone whose culture is different from mine. I help students realize their dreams to study abroad for a semester, or go on a GBE to see how a factory operates in Brazil, for example. I have gotten to meet faculty from the Philippines and Argentina, as well as take MBA-E students from Sweden on a tour of Monticello.

I lived in the same town until I went off to college, but after that, there was no stopping my appetite for travel. After graduating from UVA, I went on a three-month tour through Europe and actually was in Berlin right before the wall came down. I went on to live in San Francisco, Baltimore, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles before returning to Charlottesville.  My traveling is on hiatus for the near future as I work full-time and raise my daughter as a single parent, but I’m resolved to share my love of travel with Charlotte and hope to take her on a journey outside the United States sooner rather than later.

I am a student of life and am happiest when discovering some new nugget of knowledge. Not to mix metaphors, but my brain is thirsty, and the world is my oyster. I’m extremely fortunate to have seen so much of the world, but I have a multitude of destinations left on my bucket list. Can’t wait to hit some of those with my daughter.

Rebecca Beirne

Center for Global Initiatives, Darden School of Business