Life changing moments can happen to anyone at any given time during their lifetime. From a tragic accident to crossing the finish line of a marathon. Depending in which direction you look at these times, they can be either a positive or negative change. For me, that pivotal point in my life was when I was selected as a student representative for my Upward Bound program during The National Student Leadership Congress at American University in Washington, D.C.
Fear took over immediately after I accepted the invite for the trip to the nation’s capital. What was I thinking living in dorms with people that I had never seen in my life let alone across the entire country? I had never been that far from my family or friends and I knew it would be tough to pull away from my comfort zone.
After a five hour flight with a stop in Minnesota, we arrived at American University and quickly got to business. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. Would I stick with everyone I knew from my program, or socialize with random strangers from Texas, Nebraska, and even Puerto Rico? This experience was EYE OPENING. I learned more in a week than I did in an entire semester at school. The indescribable diversity I witnesses has helped me view my surroundings and the world as a whole in a completely different way. I never quite realized that people from separate corners of the country thought differently. “Where are you from?” my roommate from Brownsville, Texas asked excitedly wanting to know everything about me. “Los Angeles,” I replied. She stood in shock and quickly asked me how many movie stars I had seen in my lifetime and how many I actually knew. I was convinced it was sarcasm, she was dead serious. Did she actually believe that simply because I was from LA that I automatically rubbed elbows with Angelina Jolie or Miley Cyrus?
Throughout the week, my mind was introduced to brand new ideas that I will never forget. During one of our workshops, we were asked to split up into groups that fell into the category we stereotyped ourselves into. There were athletes, Christians, even Texans. After the exercise, we presented everyone with our groups’ individual comments on what we never wanted others to say about us. I never realized that others have views on the world completely different than me. My mind seemed to fill as time went on with unimaginable speed. One student from the “Short” group, stated that she did not want to be seen like a little girl, she wanted everyone to be able to see her true potential, that size does not matter, what does matter is your strive for a better life and world. I was surprised to see the diversity that filled the room, through separate groups that believed different ideas, yet at the same time the undeniable unity that I felt. It almost seemed contradictory to nature, and at that moment a light bulb lit up inside me; not everyone has to have the same views and beliefs to get along as friends. I learned that there is more to life outside my neighborhood perimeter. I made friends across the entire country. Whoever limits anyone from living in one place their entire life is setting them up for extreme mind disclosure. This trip has persuaded me to apply to out of state colleges and given me evidence to believe that I will be okay. Experiences like this can only help me grow as a person to a greater extent.
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