FTF's annual teen travel writing scholarship reveals what teens are feeling about their vacations when they involve a return to their parents' home country.
Although genealogy may be your hobby and a trip to the motherland may sound wonderful to parents, a teen may not have the same attitude. Discovering where the roots of the family tree lie is an important experience for everyone. But will your teen appreciate the knowledge gained from these trips into the past?
In fact, some teens relish the opportunity to learn about the lives of their ancestors and appreciate the sense of belonging they get from a firsthand experience of the culture(s) from whence they came. Others, however, may not feel the same.
Read the five stories below to see what teens learned from discovering their past and, in some cases, how it has changed their future.
A visit to Salem, Massachusetts brought Lauren Bacans face to face with her heritages in Discovering the Roots of My Personality. She writes of her ancestor who was condemned to death as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials of the 1600s, “I am so lucky to have been able to visit Martha’s memorial on the anniversary of her hanging. I now feel a special connection with her. I have always found her interesting, especially because of how outspoken she was even though she would more surely be condemned to death.”
In Journey to Our Roots, Natalie Uy traveled halfway around the world expecting to be bored in China. Instead, she found excitement. She realized her grandparents are not just ordinary citizens, and writes, “Upon our arrival, a parade with firecrackers, dancers, and music greeted us. Apparently, my grandparents were famous; the mayor even personally welcomed us. People crowded around, and my father pointed out that every person was related, however distantly, to me.”
Alexandra Ralph learned an important lesson when she visited family in Paraguay. In her essay Perspective from Paraguay, she reflects on the poverty she saw abroad, “How can I forget what I saw in Paraguay when what I saw holds true for so many others in South America? I know I will never forget. I thank my grandparents for immigrating here fifty years ago so that I can live the way I do.”
Sahar Jahani found some surprising things in her father’s home town of Tehran. In her essay Iran Round Trip Day 4, she describes a poster that shocks her, “The one that caught my attention the most was a picture of a women soldier holding her infant son in one arm and a revolver in the other. The quote above the picture stated, ‘I love my children but I love martyrdom more.’ It seems like something quoted out of the book of Al-Qaeda and yet I know that Iran’s policies are far from that.”
In his essay My Passage to India, Ravi Nunna presents the perspective of teens who prefer home to travel. He writes, “My most recent visit lasted an excruciatingly long three months. My parents hoped that I would broaden my horizons and cultivate an appreciation of my own roots. I hoped that I wouldn’t miss too many Cubs games.”
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