Whether she’s riding her Harley across the country, teaching English in some far corner of the world, or helping new international students learn their way around the Pittsburg State University campus, Cathy Lee Arcuino says life is full of opportunity for big adventures.
Arcuino, PSU’s associate director of International Programs and Services, said her love for travel began when she was 10 and growing up in California. Arcuino visited her parents’ native Philippines and saw the “familiar but different” circumstances of the families and children living there.
“They had the same traditions and customs as we had, but their living conditions were so different,” she said. “Even at a young age, my appreciation for what we have in the U.S. was heightened.”
Moved by that experience and hoping to see more of the world, she joined the Peace Corps after finishing her degree at Loyola Marymount in L.A. and moved to Kazakhstan to teach English.
The next nine years were a whirlwind of international experiences: Arcuino moved every couple of years, teaching English in Japan, Thailand, Poland and in Kyrgyzstan, where she worked for a non-governmental organization helping with exchange programs.
“Because of my parents, I realized the value of education early on,” she said. “It inspired me to work with international students and help them achieve their academic endeavors.”
With plans to pursue her Ph.D., she finally moved back to the United States four years ago, settling in Kansas where she began working with international students at PSU.
Looking for something to satiate her need for travel and excitement, she bought a Harley Davidson. Since then, she’s logged more than 70,000 miles on the road, riding the motorcycle to conferences as well as back and forth to Colorado State University where she will finish her Ph.D. this spring.
Her uniqueness, she said, sometimes surprises the people with whom she works and socializes. Other bikers are impressed to see her riding a Harley and mingling in the biker circuit - and international students are put at ease by her presence.
“I think it helps for them to see someone like them when they arrive,” she said. “There are so many students that have made such an impact on me. They remind me on a daily basis why I’m here. I can empathize with them, and I think it helps them adjust.”