An abrupt silence fell over the previously boisterous bus. I had never seen anything resembling such an area in my entire life. I could not have imagined anything similar. Compared to the slum area we had just entered, the worst neighborhoods in the United States seemed upscale.
All of us were quickly ushered off the buses into the fenced in property where the school was located. Somberness swept through our group as we entered the dark building and struggled to digest the reality of most of the children we were visiting: the reality that a young girl's virtue might be forcefully compromised on her everyday walk to school, or a young boy's route home might include a coerced drug-related detour. The dose of reality was stronger than I had ever swallowed.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Some might describe what I experienced on my service trip to Costa Rica last fall as simply “culture shock.” In fact, before absorbing my own dose of culture shock, I myself would describe such emotional havoc as merely artificial. I had left for Costa Rica believing service trips to be superficial and selfish, with those "serving" being interested more in gaining a personally enriching experience or a resume boost rather than actually improving the lives of others.
I returned with an entirely different outlook. I came back having experienced what I now believe it truly means to serve. While in Costa Rica, I visited and donated to multiple schools, helped build a community church in only two days, and gave more Costa Rican children piggy back rides than I would have thought possible. The entire experience undoubtedly made a transforming mark on my being and worldview.
Seeing the impact I was able to help make in Costa Rica, I began to realize that a need for such impact exists in an overwhelming number of our own communities. After returning to the states and dedicating more thought to the subject, I happened upon a wise quote by Winston Churchill. Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” I immediately felt the profound truth of this quote strike at the heart of what I had been contemplating and realizing. I want to spent the next four years learning not how to "get," but rather how to be a more effective server. I realized that one’s existence is greatest when justified by bettering the existence of another.
As a high school senior, I was fully aware that plenty of universities now offered me an education in “getting” alone. That is one of the main reasons why I chose to attend North Carolina State University next year – it stands from many such temporary minded universities. I found NCSu as a place to broaden and further ignite my desire to serve. By further challenging me through additional service and travel abroad oppurtunities, NCSU enables me to fully employ the abilities I possess to serve others. My recent trip to Costa Rica presented me with the defining choice now before me: to spend the next four years living for myself, learning to get, or to spend them preparing for the greater goal of becoming an effective community server and leader. I chose the latter.