With all of the hard work and dedication that surrounds the topic of ‘Junior Year’, I knew that I would not only have my work cut out for me during the school year, but I would also be more than looking forward to a relaxing break during summer vacation. With all of the hopes that I had for the summer, never did I expect to have as spectacular of a time as I did. Completely caught off guard yet equally overjoyed by the nomination and qualification for the Trip of a Lifetime program, I couldn’t wait for to begin my new and exciting adventure on the West Coast and with new friends. I had never had the privilege of being able to travel to any states other than those along the East Coast, so to be able to experience my first plane ride to a seemingly whole new world with new cultures and different people was a thrilling idea.
Although I was highly anticipating the great time I was bound to have over the summer, I couldn’t help but also feel a bit nervous about being away from my family for so long. Having a big family, I’m not usually too far away from a family member. Considering that the longest amount of time I have spent away from them is four days, the thought of spending a whole twenty five days on the other side of the country was a bit nerve wracking. This fear was put at ease though, by the kind and welcoming counselors and new friends that I was able to make while on the trip. I do admit that with my shy nature, making new friends with complete strangers seemed a bit far fetched, sharing tents and hotels, enjoying fun activities, and living in general with these strangers really brought me close to other people. I found that the bonds that I made with the others was something much more important than first conceived because they were bonds that would last way after our trip was over. This was worth more than anything that money could buy and I’m thankful that I am able to remain in contact with my new friends even now.
Making new friends was only part of the amazing experience that Trip of a Lifetime had to offer. It was even better and more reassuring that I was able to be alongside my new friends while making these new memories. I had so much fun traveling to Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. I enjoyed all of the activities that the Tour and Service had to offer but I have to say a few more memorable ones were traveling to San Francisco and seeing all of the interesting and fun activities that it had to offer and working in the Unity Shoppe in Santa Barbara as my community service. In San Francisco, I was really interested and excited to visit Alcatraz, ride in a cable car, walk down Lombard Street, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, and try a delicious sundae from the famous Ghirardelli Factory. Saying that I enjoyed this action packed day filled with fun, new experiences was a understatement. This will forever be a memorable time for me as I was able to marvel at all of the fascinating, beautiful sights and activities that San Francisco had. It’s easy to say that the time that I shared with my friends and counselors in San Fran was unforgettable and irreplaceable.
Working at the Unity Shoppe in Santa Barbara was another unforgettable experience that I will carry with me forever. Initially, I was unaware of the cherishable time that I would have and the valuable lessons I would learn at the Unity Shoppe but now I cannot express how glad I am that I was placed in this community service program. Not only did working in the Unity Shoppe teach me about the in’s and out’s of working in a major grocery store-comparable to that of a Walmart or Target- but I was also able to realize just how privileged I am and how I unknowingly took many things for granted in my day-to-day life. The experience of stocking shelves with the necessities for the underprivileged, getting to meet and talk to the customers, as well as helping the customers pick out what they wanted to shop for was a truly humbling experience. It taught me to be more appreciative of the things that I have and to see the value in things that although I may deem ‘useless’, someone else might find useful.
With all of the amazing experiences I had and wonderful people I bonded with during my trip, I learned many lessons that I know I will carry with me for a long time. I had approached the idea of the trip with hopes that I would branch out of my comfort zone and become more sociable with people I normally wouldn’t talk to as well as get to appreciate first hand the new cultures and people of the West Coast. From the beautiful scenery of Bryce and Zion Canyons to sleeping in self-pitched tents, I was more than able to gain some great friends outside of my normal crowd and experience a new and different world outside of New York. I was able to gain new social skills and a new appreciation for different cultures which I can apply to my life within my school community. Being part of various clubs and the elective officers of various honor societies, I can approach different events, activities, and people with a new understanding of different people, better interaction skills, and input including new ideas outside our usual way of thinking. Seeing the way that people live on the West Coast has allowed me to see that there is more than one way of going about things and I can surely say, these are valuable lessons which I can use throughout my life. The Trip of a Lifetime program has provided me with experiences, friends, lessons, and a new understanding of life outside of New York that I will cherish and appreciate, as well as share with many others for many years to come. I am beyond grateful for being provided with such an opportunity as this to have one of the best summers I have ever had with amazing people.