The Education of Exploring

I’ve been suspended over the rolling hills of Poland by nothing but paper-thin, see-through mesh netting. I’ve squeezed my way through Buddha’s nostril to bring luck and good fortune to my family. I’ve compared ice cream from eight different countries, and found that my favorite is hidden down a narrow side-street in Vienna. However, the most thrilling aspect of my adventures has been coming home and sharing my experiences as a student ambassador with my community, and being the singular force that binds culturally-opposing countries. Traveling abroad has connected me to the depths of my humanity, and in doing so holds much responsibility for taking my leadership skills and persona to the next level. There was a sizable language barrier between my host family and me upon my first visit to Japan, but every night we could be found conversing, without words, until our errors would cause us to laugh until tears streamed down our cheeks. It has been minute, don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it moments like this that have constituted my growth. Without the humbling experience of living in someone else’s home an ocean away or being exposed to the kindest of hearts from across the globe I never would have been graced with the courage to speak in front of the mayor of Olomouc, navigate a group of girls through Madrid or introduce a Japanese student to the most striking parts of my community. Leadership on a global scale has taught me that it is okay to be uncomfortable, because the most monumental changes are born through discomfort. It has taught me that we all may live in opposing cracks and crevices of this Earth, but it is easier to find similarities rather than differences when delving into the basic makeup of our beings. It has taught me how to lead. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to not only culture myself, but to introduce others to my discoveries. I was speaking to the school board two years ago about the importance of international travel in establishing young leaders when suddenly I was overcome by the strongest notion that I wanted to use the lessons I had gained abroad to prosperously and compassionately lead for the rest of my life. What led me to this realization was a conglomeration of experiences. When your heart aches on the plane ride back to familiar territory so much that the pain that comes with cabin pressure ceases to be relevant, that’s when you know an internal change has occurred. To have ventured into an intimate puppetry house and been plunged into the purest center of your humanity; to enter a 17th century mosque and be simply consumed by the steadfast worship that you see; to galavant down a Spanish street and suddenly become aware of how powerful architecture and design contorts human behavior for the better. Those are the adrenaline-filled adventures that have left me speechless and with a desire to leave a lasting, progressive impact on our global community. It is quite plausible that I will not find another passion that provides me with such a nuanced perspective, which is why I aspire to continue my exposure as a study abroad student in college. Correspondingly, I will lead successfully in nonprofit business administration because of the growth my heart has undergone through the complex, vibrant outlook I have gained from cultural immersion. I can’t help but think that if our global leaders ventured out of the sanctuary of their own countries more often, quarrels would end and wars would cease altogether. I adamantly believe that the means to a united world is education and the ability to open our hearts and minds. If I can continue to inspire those around me through teaching them the importance of cultural appreciation and the benefits that come with learning about how other countries thrive, not only will I be preparing myself to inspire my own company one day, I will be contributing to the betterment of this world. For my future in leadership, I can’t think of a better pairing.

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