Waukesha: A small town in the heart of Wisconsin; home state of American cheese. This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind as the destination for the first week of summer.
After receiving the nomination from my school guidance department that I was to attend the World Affairs Seminar, the possibilities of what my trip could entail were endless! I was handed an information packet with a letter from the local sponsoring Rotary Club fastened on top. While skimming it over, I questioned the logistics of my forthcoming travel. Heading up my own investigation I discovered “worldaffairsseminar.org” and soon realized exactly what I was getting myself into. I had just agreed to sacrifice my first week of summer vacation to an educational program whose daily academic schedule consisted of college level lectures, documentary films and group simulations. To my further dismay, the small quadrangle of Waukesha, Wisconsin, whose “city” outskirts were wheat fields, would be home to the Seminar. Although implicated that this would be the pinnacle of my summer experience, I could not disregard my own presumptions. I warily anticipated my forthcoming departure.
Stepping through the airport doors I spotted two identically decorated travelers; school backpack strapped on, camera slung around the neck, hardened notebook in hand. Both pairs of eyes instinctively drew up and from opposite corners of the departure gate they gravitated towards me. As each extended an eager palm, I forced a smile and weakly engaged in the greetings – since my seven o’clock wake up call left nothing on my mind but a hot vanilla latte. Muffled by the departure call we boarded the plane and I waved goodbye to what little hope was left.
The windy city Chicago welcomed us in the span of four hours while we waited for the delayed arrivals of other campers. The elementary pastime “name-game” was initiated in spite of boredom. As distant giggles rippled from the circle, they grew to a chorus of laughter. After broken silence, we shared stories of our home lands; Albertan cattle ranching, Norwegian football playing, Nigerian tribal dancing and British inn-keeping were among the best. What came next was our biggest surprise; our anxious bodies and week’s luggage were squeezed onto a school bus with final destination at T+2 hours. To think: this was only the beginning.
In spite of my initial reservation, what I thought would be a disastrous voyage turned out being unexpectedly amazing. My experience at the seminar this summer is one that I will never forget. After making it soundly to the Seminar grounds, I obtained first-hand perspectives on European politics, Middle-Eastern religious conflicts and African poverty. I learned how to tackle the global issue of world hunger, became more appreciative of different cultures, and found greater value in many of my own qualities; this changed the way I look at the world. I learned how to make the most of my experiences: without involving ourselves in what takes place around us sets us at a serious disadvantage. Even places like Waukesha have something to offer; it’s not always about where you go, sometimes it’s about the people you meet and thing you do that make the difference. Congregating with hundreds of worldwide representative youths, discussing how we each can lead to end the global crisis will forever be the “pinnacle of my summer experience.” The willful commitment of one can potentially make an improvement for the sake of all humanity.
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