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Silvia Maria Montero

  • Bilingual, bicultural Hispanic, daughter of Cuban and Spanish parents. Grew up spending summers in Alicante, Spain, and academic years in California, USA.

  • START Award Recipient (Student Award for Research Training) as a Psychology major at UCLA

  • Year abroad in Madrid, Spain, studying "Hispanic Studies" at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid

  • Graduate student at The School for International Training (SIT) in the "Master's Program for International and Intercultural Management", with a concentration in Sustainable Development and Training of Trainers

  • Participated as an intern with two local NGOs (nonprofit organizations) in Spain: la Cruz Roja Espaņola and La Iniciativa Betania

  • Volunteered at the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana, Cuba during a three months trip to the island to meet her family for the first time.

Silvia has always been intrigued with why people act the way they do, and believes that we are all undeniably influenced by our cultures and surroundings. Traveling can be an intensive immersion into exploring other lifestyles and values, and in the process, to discover more about oneself. When one's beliefs are contrasted with those different from our own, one realizes why they are held, and this strengthens one's sense of individuality, one's values, and personal code of ethics.

Her Cuban father and Spanish mother immigrated to the United States when she was a year old. From them she learned to appreciate that the only thing no one can take away from anyone else is their knowledge. Since a young age, she has always liked to study. As an adult, she pursues a simple lifestyle of not accumulating unnecessary material objects. Instead, she likes to load her mind with images about her own and other cultures, gained through travel, reading stories, listening to music, watching movies. As well, she especially likes to hear people reveal stories about their lives.

As an undergraduate she pursued the Psychology major at UCLA and became extremely interested in the fields of social psychology and mental health. Afterwards, she volunteered in community projects for psychiatric patients. She believes that the concept of what is normal and acceptable behavior are culture-bound, and there are many different ways for individuals to express themselves. She has also participated in nonprofit programs for youth, elderly, and people with AIDS. Being a Volunteer is an important part in her life for which she wants to always make time.

Part of Silvia's inspiration for dedicating herself to The Odyssey World Trek is that she wants to explore what humans share, beyond our cultural, social, religious, and political differences that separate us across borders. Many times when we fear others, it is because of a lack of knowledge about the others' background. She wants anyone who participates with the Trek Team to ask questions so that, together, we may look for answers and learn about our world.

Silvia hopes that those participating with the Trek Team will feel wonder at the differences and similarities people share around the world, be interested in understanding why another place is the way it is, explore other ways of living, and value the spirit of being a Volunteer to contribute to and shape our communities. One individual may provoke big changes. Drop a stone into water, and watch the beautiful ripples! One person can make many waves.

Professionally, she aspires to work in local sustainable development programs around the world by helping with the design of projects and trainings for volunteers, and evaluating the results to know how to make the communities successfully reach the goals they set for themselves.

Silvia likes to be outside and ride her bike, swim at the beach, play with her dog "Pipo", write letters to friends far away, spend time with her parents and sister, and listen to Nona's (her Spanish grandma) sayings and stories.

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