“San Diego is such a diverse city and so heavily Mexican- influenced, yet I was rarely exposed to that,” Neustein said. “I grew up in pretty much an enclosed community. … It was like I was in a bubble: I saw the diversity around me, but I couldn’t interact with it.”
By high school, Neustein was determined to break through. She insisted on attending public school and enrolled at Mount Carmel High School—a place she calls her “first global experience.” More were to come at Lynn University, her first choice for college.
“I wanted to be in completely new territory, where I didn’t know anybody, but the professors knew me by name and not a number. I also wanted to go to a university with an international student body and that embraced international education. Plus, South Florida is an amazing place to be.”
At Lynn, Neustein found the perfect environment for her major, international relations. “Professors Anna Krift and Marchéta Wright really brought the material to life,” she said. “Instead of reading from a textbook about how the United Nations functions, we conducted a Model United Nations. And instead of reading about how the pulp mill on the Rio de la Plata caused problems between Argentina and Uruguay, we learned about it firsthand from our Argentine peer in the class.”
Neustein also gained a global perspective in a summer study tour led by South Africa native Shaun Exsteen in his homeland. For a second study abroad experience, she chose Buenos Aires, Argentina. The experience—and Dr. Krift—inspired her to apply for a Fulbright scholarship in Colombia. She wasn’t selected at first, but she continued to eye opportunities in the region.
After graduating magna cum laude from Lynn, Neustein worked with Argentine and U.S. nonprofits in Buenos Aires and Córdoba, and became fluent in Spanish and proficient in Brazilian Portuguese. For the past three years, Neustein has worked at the Anti-Defamation League in New York City as an analyst for Hispanic and Latino Affairs. Still, the Fulbright beckoned. Again with Krift’s support, Neustein applied and succeeded. In February 2017, Neustein will begin a nine-month study of the impact of anti-discrimination laws in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the nation’s first city to require Holocaust education in public schools.
For Lynn students who have similar ambitions, Neustein has simple advice. “Think and go globally. Go somewhere where you don’t know the language and culture. When you leave your comfort zone and a few months later you assimilate into society, it’s an amazing feeling. You grow tremendously as a person and as a global citizen. I did.”