I'm Allison and I'm 19 years old. Something that drives me is hope for the better and knowing that I can make small differences around me that will help others in the long run.

I decided to travel with Up with People because I've never found a program that was more perfect for me. I was looking into a gap year program that would allow me to do service work while traveling, and Up with People did that and so much more. When I first heard about it, I instantly fell in love with the idea of traveling with people from all over the world, and being able to make an impact on a new city every week while staying in a loving host family. It's been such a great adventure.

There are countless things I wish I could do to help improve the world, but a few things that have stuck closely to my heart is the foster care system and the homeless. I hope nothing more than to be able to support myself enough to be able to give everything and more to these kids who've been through a lot more than the imaginable. As for the homeless, I've promised myself that if I ever win the lottery that I will start a housing facility that will allow homeless in the area to have a place to start up on their feet if they're willing to put in the effort.

In my opinion, I think global citizenship comes with putting faces to places all over the world and having those personal connections, internationally; thanks to Up with People I've been able to feel more like a Global Citizen more than ever.

I've learned to become a lot more adaptable to new environments considering the fact that every [Up with People] participant has to stay in a new stranger’s home every week. What I've loved about it, though, is being able to have those relations with people in the communities as well as being able to impact them as much as they impact me in one week.

As cliché and vague as it is to say, I've definitely gained different perspectives. Coming into the program, I thought I already had such a wide perception on a lot of things, but soon learned that I had so much more to experience and become aware of. For example, I had never met a refugee before and only knew things from the media, but luckily I had the chance of traveling a refugee from Iraq who became one of my best friends who definitely holds a special place in my heart.

There have been far too many I've loved, but one coming to mind is in our final week in Germany, we did a lot of volunteering with people who have disabilities. I had the opportunity of going to the facility twice and was able to have a dance party and share lots of hugs and smiles along with one of the members of the disabled home playing guitar singing Auf Uns which is a German song we learned for that week. There were so many special moments shared between everyone there that there were a few of us in tears leaving.

I think I've been most surprised as to how it's expanded my mind and showed me more about myself. I came into the program having a sense of who I was and what I loved, but soon learned that there are endless things to discover still.

I know I'm forever changed because of my experience with Up with People. It's transformed me into a person who's more ecologically and culturally aware. It's also given me more of a sense of how to adapt quickly, but also stay true to who I am.

I'd like to ask them what's stopping them from taking such an incredible opportunity! This is one of the best things I could've possibly invested in. It's given me countless memorable adventures and given me the ability to meet people from parts of the world I wouldn't have imagined of traveling to. The people you could meet will without a doubt influence you in some way, and teach you things that wouldn't come across you mind on any ordinary day. I've lived and loved every moment of my experience so far and am beyond blessed to be able to be back. I would highly recommend doing this program because of all the endless opportunities there are. ​