Pembroke Academy’s 2010 valedictorian left N.H. to travel the world 

  • Matt Eaton with his wife, Edurne, in Spain, where she is from.  Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 8/31/2019 3:01:22 PM

Since leaving Allenstown for college at Northeastern University in Boston in 2010, Matt Eaton hasn’t stayed in one place for long.

The Pembroke Academy valedictorian lived and worked for a time in Jordan during a summer study abroad program and the United Arab Emirates studying Arabic. He got married after graduating with a degree in chemistry and moved to Chicago with his wife.

Recently, he returned home from 3½ months living in Spain doing research for his doctorate. He is studying material science and engineering at Northwestern University.

Eaton said he had never traveled outside of the country when he was growing up in New Hampshire. The farthest he’d ever been from home was Florida. Now, traveling has become an important part of his identity and adult life.

“I love New Hampshire, but I wanted a more well-rounded life and education and that meant traveling around a bit,” he said.

Eaton said he chose Northeastern because he thought living in Boston would give him exposure to more diversity.

“It was definitely a really big change for me going from small-town New Hampshire to Boston,” he said. “I met a lot of different people from different backgrounds. Really from all over the country and all over the world. Living in the city, it’s a lot more diverse – it helped shape my world view.”

Through Northeastern’s Co-Op program, he was able to work at three internships, two at different start-ups at MIT, and one at a university in the United Arab Emirates.

Eaton said his decision to spend time in the Middle East had a lot to do with world events at the time.

“Especially growing up after everything that happened on September 11, the Iraq War, there was a lot of misinformation in society about Muslims and what they stood for. By going there, it was about me trying to figure out myself what it was really like by experiencing the culture,” he said.

“It was really an eye-opening experience because you hear one thing when you’re not in that part of the world and you go over there and experience something extremely different,” he added.

He said one of the most memorable experiences for him was being in Jordan for the start of Ramadan. He was able to celebrate Iftar, the breaking of fasting, at a friend’s home.

“They welcomed me into their house – I got to partake in that experience with them, like a member of the family,” he said.

Since leaving New Hampshire, Eaton has had the opportunity to travel to Mexico, Turkey, Israel and the West Bank, India, Ecuador and Ireland. Once he completes his doctorate next year, he and his wife hope to take a month-long trip through South America.

He said he may return to New England one day, or live for a time in Europe, where his wife’s family is from.

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