Hey there! My name is Ismael Mohammed Marksteiner and I'm from Germany. I'm 19 years old and this is my second semester. If I had to choose two words to describe me, I would choose energetic and positive.

I'm driven by the idea of living a happy and fulfilling life. In order to actualize that idea, tuning myself towards improvement everyday has become one of my main priorities. Right now my mission in life is to encourage more positivity, love and compassion by embodying the change I want to see.

What made me choose the program is the variety of aspects the program has to it. Because I knew that I wanted to travel and develop myself personally as well as professionally before I start acting on my dreams and goals in life. Learning leadership skills, developing more social competence and inspiring people to do more, all that ultimately contributes to my mission in life. To inspire, to have a positive impact on the world and truly live life.

That I'm capable of so much more than I thought I would be. I realized that we ourselves are our greatest enemies, by understanding that you get out life what you put into it. And therefore, I'm living everyday with much more intention now and take every opportunity that I can get to tune myself towards improvement.

My mission in life is to live the best quality of life that I can and to me a huge part of that is improving and impacting other people's quality of life. So participating in service that cultivates a certain sense of aliveness and presence in people and myself again is a really fulfilling thing to me.

To me, it means to see beyond borders and having a sense of open mindedness and global awareness. Realizing that there are differences among us, but when it comes to the most important things in life we are all human.

By staying with host families all over the world, I learned about their community’s different needs and values. I now connect faces to places and am able to see things from an entirely different perspective.

Through interactions with people from other parts of the world I learned about things that I want to adopt in my community and things that I appreciate about where I come from.

In Bocholt (Germany) we worked with an organization that works with disabled people. Besides helping them out with their projects, we taught them a "World Dance Class", where we basically teach dances from all around the world. We ended up presenting the outcome to the whole company and had tons of fun. All that ended in a big jam session with everyone performing a German song that was currently in our show. I just realized how often we tend to go on autopilot and feel miserable about life, rather than focusing on the beauty of life. I think through that I became a much more grateful and happy person. I even started a gratitude journal.

One of the most surprising things to me was the fact that Up with People is a nonprofit organization, but still manages to do all these amazing things. It offers so many things in so many different areas, it travels all around the world and all that based on people willing to help and support us. Additionally, in the beginning I thought I had to prove myself and show everyone that I can fit in and that I'm cool. But all that wasn't necessary at all, because everyone was so open minded to other opinions. The key lesson I took from that is that l can be so much happier, fulfilled and self-aware through helping others.

I think I'll leave Up with People with a much more open minded mindset then before. Having contacts in so many different parts of the world will give me much more freedom and support throughout my life. My leadership and social skills improved so much that I feel like it will have an amazing influence on my later professional life. And most importantly my self-confidence through the performance aspect.

Up with People gives you many different opportunities along the way to gain a lot of experiences. You can truly decide yourself what your experience with the program will like. You get out of it, what you put into it.​