by Mo Cohen, PCS Graduate, 2016
There’s one thing that can quickly be cleared up about Emma Attard: her last name.
Pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable with the same vowel sound as in “cat” and Maltese in origin, it means “of the roses.” There is even a city of Attard on Malta itself, which Emma has, indeed, visited. She’s not bothered by different pronunciations of her surname, though, and admits “I know it gets pronounced all kinds of ways!”
And, for what it’s worth, she’d just as well you call her Emma.
This is telling of Emma on the whole. Born and raised in England, a country famed for its gloomy climes and dry humor, one might expect her disposition to be somewhat dour. It is, however, just the opposite: sunny. One of the most upbeat and optimistic individuals you’re ever likely to meet, Emma has a near-constant smile on her face, and manages to find the good in every situation. That even includes the school cruise she went on at 15, which she admits has permanently turned her off Ritter chocolate bars, but “was a good experience to get to do at that age.”
Most of Emma’s traveling has been somewhat more straightforwardly pleasant. After obtaining both a BA in Ancient World Studies and an MA in Ancient History from University College London, she took a gap year which saw her pass through South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Central America, and take several months traveling the US via Amtrak. Her birthplace has helped encourage her and her family to do extensive traveling throughout Europe, although not to the Nordic countries, where she admits she’d very much still like to go and see icebergs. She readily will admit she prefers cities and the many-colored tapestry of life they present. London is, perhaps unsurprisingly, her favorite international metropolis, while she has come to love Chicago and Boston. She also says her greatest revelation while traveling was an urban one: Mexico City. “Everyone told me, ‘It’s filthy, and dirty, and with the altitude you won’t feel well,’ and I got there, and it was just vibrant, and wonderful, and lovely.”
Although slow-paced visits to the countryside are less common for Emma, when her family does get away to a secluded cottage or warm beach it allows her to partake in her favorite activity, reading. Both reading and writing are central in Emma’s life—she says she’s “a shy writer who’d one day like to publish a novel”—and she says that the most telling question she’d ask somebody upon first meeting them is “What are you reading right now?” She even has her own successful book review blog. When asked what book she’d recommend, her sharp exhale and raised eyebrows indicate the difficulty of the task before her, and she asks, “Can I think about that for the rest of the day and email you?” (the answer, by the way, is poet Wendy Cope’s Serious Concerns).
Emma admits with a grin that despite all the wisdom she’s accumulated through her reading, she’s still deadly superstitious. Perhaps, she jokes, it’s not such a coincidence that she strongly believes in the wedding-day saying “rain for riches” and that her own wedding was held in Wales.
Where jokes are concerned, by the way, Emma admits she’s terrible at remembering them and so tries to keep them simple. Here is her favorite, which you are encouraged to ask her the punchline to: “Why did the head cross the road?”
She has used her love of and talent for the written and spoken word over nearly two decades working for PR and communications firms as well as in volunteer roles such as Santa Cruz Writes, a committee for the British Museum to try and attract more young visitors, and as a hotline operator in the UK for those having, as she puts it, “a dark night of the soul.”
More recently, she has worked at local schools helping with literacy programs such as Walk-to-Read. It was in this last set of roles where she developed the interest that brought her to PCS. Emma says it best herself: “I enjoy being around the energy of a school. It’s just an entirely different environment, no day is ever really the same when you’re working in a school community…it was just such an exciting opportunity. It’s a great place to be.”