Well I am a super active person and always have been! I love being outdoors and I thrive when I am with people and have a busy lifestyle. Family, my faith, close friendships and quality time mean a lot to me. Ever since I was a little girl I have had a very competitive nature so I push myself all the time to do all I can and see what I can do! I am very determined so if someone says I can’t do something or if they think I am a certain way that I am not I like to prove them wrong because I truly believe you can do anything if you put your mind to it and are willing to put in the work necessary to succeed. So for me I am driven by both myself and others, by expectations, encouragement, goals that I personally set for myself, and especially by things that seem unachievable!
I chose Up with People for the three main basis points of the organization. Travel, perform, impact! I couldn't believe that I found an organization that combines three things I truly love and care about! When I first decided I wanted to take a gap year …I couldn't find one that really caught my eye and felt like me until I heard of Up with People! Reading about it, hearing from people who traveled, and seeing a performance, I had never been more sure of joining a group then I did with this. I realized within the first couple days of [my] tour that there is so much more to the organization then just travel, perform, impact…Every workshop, community action day, conversation, every new person you meet, every host family and more. Up with People blows my mind in some way every day and I feel so blessed and grateful that I found this organization a year ago and decided to join. As cliché as it sounds it truly changed my life and I will be forever thankful for all it has given me.
I think the most important discovery I have experienced is my new passion and desire to study global studies and world issues! After traveling and going to other parts of the US along with countries in Europe and experiencing life somewhere else I gained a whole new view and perspective on the world that I didn’t have before. I never really had a huge interest in world affairs and politics or government, but now I have a whole new appreciation and a desire to know and understand all that goes on. I realized early on in the tour how important it is and how arrogant I was for not trying to learn and understand what happens not only in my own state and country but all around the world. With this new discovery, I can’t wait to see where it takes me in this tour and after when I go onto school!
To me, a Global Citizen is someone who is not just globally aware of what is happening in the world but is able to have a personal connection to it and is someone who cares about it and is interested in learning more and working towards making a difference. I wouldn't have ever considered myself a Global Citizen until traveling with Up with People, but now after traveling for six months and coming back again for another time I feel I am more of a Global Citizen - but I am not finished of where I can go with it. I have friends from all over the world now and having those personal connections makes what is happening on in the world so much more real and it hits my heart directly because I have a person to connect those instances with.
Staying with host families is an aspect of Up with People that is so unique and so special! Living with a new family every week in a new city, state, or country is an experience that many people never get to have and is an experience that teaches so many things! For me some of the biggest things I have learned to be much better at are: adaptability, flexibility, patience, and communication. All of these are key when living with host families because they are all different, their life styles and expectations whether it is food, routine, traditions or language and you have to learn how to best blend and fit with their way of life! You build friendships and relationships that are unlike many others because you form a second home there with them and their family!
Being in a cast with people from approximately 20 different countries is a learning experience in itself! Hearing their stories of what their life is like, the foods they eat, their traditions, learning about their school systems and government is so intriguing because it is many times very different than what we are used to in our own countries. For me getting to hear personal stories and explanations leaves much more of an impact on me then just reading about it; so by having such diverse cast members, my mind has been opened to so many places and cultures and has sparked an interest and desire to learn more.
I have had some very rewarding community actions projects but the one that stuck with me the most was the refugee project in Bocholt Germany. We spent the morning to mid-afternoon with people of many different ages and from many different places doing art activities, playing games, teaching dances! But what was so touching to me was this little girl probably around nine or ten years old that latched onto me and wouldn't let go till the moment I had to leave. I didn’t see or interact with her at any point in the day until our dance class and after she came over to me and I picked up her and she threw her arms around my neck and just held on so tight. When I would kiss her cheek she would quickly turn and kiss mine. It tore my heart saying goodbye to her that day but was so thankful I got to see her one last time at our last performance where she gave me a bracelet that I now wear all the time and keep with me everywhere I go! There I felt the meaning of true love, true happiness, and what life is all about again. It is about making those connections, connections that go further than words can. It’s about reaching your hand out and giving what you can and getting more than you give and I for sure did!
I think what surprised me the most is how I have grown up and changed and my view of the world and my own interests have changed! Like I said I would never in a million years think I would be even remotely interested in global studies and politics and government and everything that goes on, but after traveling and learning and experience the world it has become a true passion of mine. What I realized with Up with People is that the show is the smallest portion when you look at the big picture! It is every classroom workshop, every person you talk to, every volunteer opportunity, every host family, every perspective student, every alumnus you encounter, and more. Every day is a learning experience and an opportunity that nothing else could give me and it is almost something you can’t put into words because it is so unique.
I truly feel that Up with People will continue to have a great impact on my life after the tour ends as it has already. I have gained more confidence in so many things ranging from interviews, public speaking, and communicating with many people to being thrown into any circumstance like living with a family who doesn't speak my language at all and performing and teaching dances to many people! Up with People has definitely instilled in me the qualities and importance of good speaking skills, adaptability and being independent and has put the desire to travel more and experience new places. With all these new attributes I have accumulated I can’t wait to see what my future after Up with People holds.
I would say DO IT!!!!! It is an experience that is like nothing else! I could never say that I was in Belgium performing in front of 3,000 people if I wasn't a part of Up with People. I don’t think I could ever say I moved every week, living with a new host family, traveling from state to state and country to country going from the west coast of the United States to the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. I could never say that I have a book of “second families” and best friends that I have made from across the world if I didn’t travel in Up with People. It is a life changing experience and it is worth every penny, every less hour of sleep, every tiring day, every drop of sweat because what you gain, what you see and what you experience is so incredible that it outweighs any thought that might be holding one back.