When I first signed up for this program, I expected to learn about the new culture and from teaching the kids, possibly making a few acquaintances along the way. What actually happened was nowhere near what I had imagined; I had such amazing, deep conversations with so many of my fellow participants and was able to really open my eyes to some of the issues I had never previously considered. I had similar enlightening exchanges with many of the locals, including both program staff members as well as complete strangers! The students I was lucky enough to mentor also exceeded— by exceeded, I mean actually shooting through the roof— what I'd predicted. I'm sure I've said this many times by now, but it's so utterly true: they're all so incredibly motivated and resilient. I have learned so much from them and their attitudes toward everything that comes their way, and I really do have a lot to learn from them.
I have definitely learned to be more self-sufficient through not just the course of the actual program, but also in preparation for it and afterwards. Applications were definitely a challenge for me, and fundraising was an even bigger struggle. Later, my independent flight— along with a connection consisting of a 7-hour-long layover, then an arrival in a completely foreign place— tested my awareness and intellect, and my sanity, too! In-country, remembering to take the daily malarone pills, staying in a dorm room, adapting to the environment and food, managing and exchanging money, bargaining, all were challenges that required me to leave my comfort zone and become significantly more independent. I would be lying if I said I enjoyed every moment of this trip (even when I was puking my guts out!), in that cliche way people try to convince you they have fun every time and all the time regardless of whether they really did or not, but every second, good or bad, was necessary for the complete experience and in helping me understand my own opinions as well as learn the things I have realized to be true in every aspect of life.
Insightful. I would say that's the word I would use to sum up this trip, overall. It gave me so much perspective about the environment, the culture, the people, and a lot to think out about now that I've returned. This trip broke down many of the stereotypes I didn't even know I harbored, replacing them with truths, and woke me up enough to truly see and appreciate how beautiful it is to experience such a unique place.
'Global Navigator Voices' is a collection of blog articles and pictures by our very own high school study abroad participants. Follow their adventures before, during, and after their experiences abroad!