David Bonomo, College of Liberal Arts

David Bonomo portrait
David Bonomo

Not everyone finishes college in four years. David Bonomo has some good reasons why it took him nearly 11.

The international studies major from Loveland, Colorado, enrolled at CSU in 2006 shortly after his father passed away. At the suggestion of one of his favorite history instructors, he decided to cultivate his interest in the Middle East and Islamic culture by studying at Birzeit University in Palestine.

That fall 2008 semester proved to be an adventure. Bonomo visited parts of the West Bank and witnessed elements of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict firsthand, from both sides. Bonomo also launched an effort to photograph every inch of the 780-kilometer wall separating the two sides, in hopes of creating a 2.1-mile montage to exhibit in the U.S.

When he returned to CSU, his studies were difficult and he dropped out to work odd jobs, including as a butcher. Bonomo was not getting deep, restful sleep, either, and thanks to referrals from the CSU Health Network, he was diagnosed with narcolepsy. After helping address the neurological sleep disorder using diet and exercise, he was off on another adventure in spring 2014, this time hitting a high point: serving as a tutor and mentor to a billionaire’s son in Paris.

More adventures

During that gig, the family once flew him to Geneva on short notice just to help the student with a paper, and they paid for him to stay in the city’s most expensive hotel. He ate at restaurants where there were no prices, no menus — you just told them what you wanted.

“They actually made really good huevos rancheros,” Bonomo laughs.

Then he was off to Yongzhou, China, to teach English to 900 kids a week. He said the experience was surreal and full of dichotomies, “like National Geographic magazine meets Vogue magazine.”

Bonomo learned Arabic at the Middlebury Language School at Mills College in Oakland, California, before returning to CSU. And despite the roller coaster that was his college career, after graduation he still has his sights set on working in business development, education or water development in Africa or the Middle East, where it all began.

“Basically, I look at all the world’s problems and focus on the hot and sandy ones,” he says with a smile.