Her Story: Theresa Montenarello

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I’m so excited to introduce to you my amazing friend and world traveler, Theresa. When we met during sophomore year at Geneseo, we were pretty much the same person. I also creepily stalked her after a rush event. We became besties after that and were always together. Even though she’s a world away, I’m so grateful for our friendship that taught me the best soul mates out there are your girlfriends.


Age: 22
Hometown: Selden, New York
Current City: Chumphon, Thailand
Occupation: Peace Corps Volunteer

What is the best discovery you’ve made about yourself while in Thailand?
I have always been categorized by two words: daughter and baby sister. Following these roles, it was easy for me to be extremely dependent, naïve and indecisive. I always needed a second opinion. Whether it was my mom approving all of my clothing purchases or my friends encouraging me to do Peace Corps, I never had confidence in myself. Being 9,000 miles from home with a twelve-hour time difference, there have been countless times I would need to rely on myself. Independence is an empowering feeling. I am enjoying exploring on my own, confident in my abilities and decisions. Nonetheless, I do enjoy returning home and cuddling with my mom on the couch.

When you get back to the States, what will be the first thing you do?
I would love more than anything to return to my favorite childhood place: Strawberry Park in Preston, Connecticut. When I was younger, my family would go camping in our pop-up for nine days with a few other family friends. The place was a little kid’s playground and a parent’s paradise. Organized bocce, washer toss, egg toss, pool volleyball, bingo and dances kept the children entertained while the parents enjoyed the adult-only activities. Now that I am old enough to play “adult-only pool volleyball,” I would love to go back with my family and friends. What better way to catch up than roasting some marshmallows over a campfire?

Name something or someone that always makes you laugh.
Whenever I am with my family, I can count on my cheeks hurting. The group dynamic completely works. Tony, Nicky, Joey and I playfully insult each other while my mother sits chuckling to herself and my dad eggs everyone on. While in Thailand, I may miss salami, rat-less ceilings and cold weather, but without a doubt, I miss those nights in my kitchen when everyone took time to be together.

If you could spend the rest of your life in just one place, where would it be?
There are way too many places I would like to see in my lifetime. I do hope that I will fall in love with one of those places and call it my home. If I had to choose one, as of now I would love to live in Tuscany, Italy in a comfortable home like the picture below.

What is your personal motto?
I love to smile. It makes me feel better, the mood lighter and could change the day of the person you are passing. Sometimes I worry quite a bit and think way too much. Smiling reminds me to enjoy the moment; whether it be delicious pizza, great company or an interesting sight. Then I am free to think, “La vita è bella.” Life is beautiful.

Describe the craziest thing that’s happened to you during any of your travels.
This question had me stumped for quite some time. I have had some unimaginable experiences while traveling—Amsterdam in Ghana, monk ordinations, scuba diving, Songkran festival, ancient ruins, hiking mountains, riverside suites, Vietnamese wedding, hill tribe villages, breathtaking views. But when I really think about it, my craziest experience was not so extravagant. In August 2012, I was able to hold a conversation in Thai for over forty-five minutes with a complete stranger. Trust me, that conversation went above and beyond why I speak Thai, can I eat spicy food and how many siblings do I have. After the conversation, I was in complete shell shock. Being able to communicate in another language is a beautiful thing. I have been given the opportunity to understand Thailand and its people on a deeper level than I ever could have imagined.

If you had to put your life into five words, what would they be?
Blessed—I am a healthy, happy girl surrounded by love. There is nothing more I could ever want.
Education—I spent 15 years of my life in school and will probably add more time in the future. Nonetheless, my experiences, travels and people I have met along the way have taught me a great deal.
Family—My parents, brothers and sisters will always be my number one priority.
Baby—I have always been the baby—baby girl, baby sister. Although I like my independence, it is nice to return to “baby” every once in a while.
Volunteer—I know this will be my passion for the rest of my life. I love that volunteering is driven by eagerness, devotion and affection. It will never be work that I have to do but work that I want to do.

Looking back now, what would you tell the 16-year-old Theresa?
At 16, like most teenagers, I thought everything was the end of the world. I planned too much, stressed much more and disliked myself even more. The homebody in glasses and headgear would never believe where I am now, six years later.  If I had the chance, I would tell the 16-year-old Theresa, “Everything is going to be alright.” And, everything is more than alright. I grew into my own, found my passion and supportive friends and realized how truly lucky I am.

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?
My roommates and I decorate and prepare for a house party complete with bean dip. We entertain, enjoy ourselves, sing obnoxiously to “Riding Solo,” then head out to dance to terrible pop songs OR my roommates and I sit on the couch in our pajamas under fuzzy blankets with Ben & Jerry’s in hand while watching 500 Days of Summer. Pretty similar, right?

To read more about her adventures, check out her blog!


Author: Rachael

Book lover + editor, feminist, California soul + New York state of mind.

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