Around the World with Warren Jaferian
Get Warren Jaferian talking about his favorite topic—travel—and you’ll find he has a story for everything. Kidnapping? Check. (Twice, actually.) A childhood outside of the U.S.? Check. Joining the Peace Corps? Check. An international career that culminated with him becoming the Dean of International Education at Endicott? Check, check, check.
But gone are the days of working in West Africa, where Jaferian lived during a two-year Peace Corps stint before accepting a job as a legislative aide for Senator John Kerry in D.C.—a far cry from Mali, where, after graduating college, Jaferian built schools during a countrywide famine.
“I learned a lot about going without,” Jaferian reflected. But sometimes, in the quiet of his Halle Library office, he’s still transported back to Africa. Under the large-scale mud cloth from the Ivory Coast that hangs overhead, he sometimes counts the illuminated lights and remembers the scarce luxuries of working electricity and running water in Africa.
“The biggest takeaway for me is for students to realize everything that we have here,” he said, picking up his iPhone. “You know, not everyone's walking around with a $1,000 phone—this thing has more technology than the Apollo 11.”
As Dean of International Education, Jaferian wants to expand the scope of where Gulls study abroad. While students flock to destinations like Florence each year, Jaferian seeks to push them out of their comfort zones and into experiences that expand worldviews and offer profound chances for personal growth.
Jaferian was destined for an international life. Growing up, he lived in Geneva, Switzerland, attending school alongside the progeny of U.N. diplomats while his father worked for a global corporation. Jaferian attended college in the U.S., and while pursuing a master’s degree at Tufts University, took a job bartending at a TGI Friday’s where he met a Sodexo recruiter who championed him for an operations role—first, in Saudi Arabia, shortly after the Gulf War; then, in the West African nations of Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad, and Gabon.
“This is why I always tell students, ‘Just be open-minded. You don't know where your life’s going to go. You don’t know whom you’re going to meet,’” he said.
After six years in West Africa and two kidnappings later, Jaferian returned to the Boston area, working as Sodexo’s Group Vice President for the worldwide education market—which is how he became familiar with Endicott. (Sodexo still services the College to this day.)
“I consider this my dream job because I love seeing the transformation of our students,” he said. “Students who have never been overseas, then study abroad … it’s like they’ve been shot out of a cannon. They’re now these blooming beauties and they become global nomads.”
We recently chatted with Jaferian about his life in travels. Interview has been edited for length and clarity. Applications for fall 2023 study abroad are now open through April 14.
Where was the first place you ever traveled?
Geneva, Switzerland. My family moved there when I was 6 for my father’s work. I went to an international school and had friends from around the world. It forever changed my life.
If you could go anywhere tomorrow, where would you go and why?
I’d go to South Korea with my son, who was born there. I’d love to show him his birth country, for him to learn firsthand about the culture and its people, and explore this fascinating country together.
Skiing the Swiss Alps in Verbier, Switzerland, ending with cheese fondue at Le Caveau après ski. Repeat for one week!
Best street food experience?
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where the food is fresh, unique, and flavorful. I went on a street food tour with a friend who’s a local celebrity chef. It was incredible.
Worst street food experience?
Monkey stew in Port Gentil, Gabon. I had a hard time balancing being the invited guest with my cultural aversion to eating a primate. I pretended to eat it but hid it under other things on my plate.
Tell me about a time you were assisted by a stranger abroad and it made your trip?
I’ve been extended so many kindnesses and courtesies over the years, so it’s hard to single out any one incident. It’s the generosity of others with far fewer means offering you a meal, a place to sleep, and treating you as their honored guest. It’s our shared humanity together. Acts of kindness.
Name a touristy place that’s worth visiting.
Name a touristy place that’s not worth visiting.
Best travel souvenir?
It’s not so much a souvenir, but a historic artifact that I cherish and show my students—a Venetian glass necklace I bought in the Grand Market in Bamako, Mali.
Favorite city for food?
Lima, Peru, or Tokyo, Japan.
Who’s your favorite travel companion?
Brenda Campbell, Senior Director of Employer Relations at Endicott. We have a great sense of mutual respect and understanding having traveled internationally to build our global internship opportunities.
How do you feel about the rise of travel shows, like Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy? Do you watch them?
I’m addicted to them! I think they’re wonderful and love learning about culture, foods, and new places.
Where would you go first if you could have your own travel show?
I’d go to West Africa. It’s not one of the first places people think of, but it should be. I’m a huge fan of Rick Steves and Michael Palin and Palin’s travel series for off-the-beaten-path adventures.
What would you call it?
What’s the most dangerous or adventurous thing you’ve done while traveling?
Going on every upside-down roller coaster and insane ride at Universal Studios Osaka, Japan, this summer at 60, at the urging of my students. I aim to please. It was great!
What’s your favorite travel accessory or gadget?
Bose noise-canceling headphones, without a doubt.
What was your most colorful snafu while traveling abroad?
As an over-confident traveler, I made a rookie mistake. I decided to wear jeans on a flight to Asia. My luggage missed the connection at JFK and I had a formal business retreat at a mountain resort in South Korea hours from the airport. I had pants and a shirt made by the hotel tailor until my luggage arrived four days later. Never again.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Hands down, Cork, Ireland. I would move there tomorrow. The friendliest people. Beautiful country. Great food and culture, and is the only English-speaking country in the European Union.
Where have you always wanted to go, but haven’t yet?
Finally, what has travel taught you?
That we are more alike than we are different. Conflicts arise from a lack of communication—an inability or willingness to see through the differences. We need to have an open mind with open listening and a desire to understand. I approach each new occasion as a sociologist. What are people doing? How are they acting? Be curious. Follow suit.
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