I always thought playing it safe was the right way to live. Being a dutiful daughter, adhering to my strict mother’s rules was very important to me, and that was how I structured my life. As a shy person I usually kept to myself at school where I worked in the corner and rested at home. The mere thought of trying outrageously new rebellious teenage behavior like dying my hair pink or ignoring my curfew left my stomach in knots, and I would always avoid that feeling at all costs. I preferred to stay hidden in the crowd of New Yorkers, protected. This began to change after my trip to the South of France. The experience left me enlightened; my mind was filled with new ideas of the world.
The opportunity to travel was first proposed to me by Minds Matter: an organization that provides mentoring and college-readiness activities to inner-city high school students, including college prep summer programs. Initially, I was skeptical about the idea of going across the world alone. Listening to the encouragement of my mentors, who helped me consider a new perspective eventually I changed my mind. I was tired of being afraid of new surroundings, and I thought stepping out of my element would force me to adapt. So I chose to go far away to the South of France because I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to dream big! I also wished to experience life in another country since I knew it would be completely different from my experiences in New York.
While in France, my goal abroad was to step of my comfort zone. Therefore, instead of limiting my interactions to my American companions, I made an effort to meet and befriend new people every day. I met several international students, and it was amazing to see how I was viewed from their eyes. Just being from New York City and going to school every day on the 1 train to West 66th Street, left them really impressed. Meanwhile, learning that they were from places like Milan and Cairo left me in awe. Through spending time with them I was learning about different parts of the world, and I gained a new outlook on life. We went on numerous adventures. We walked from school along the cliff to Monte Carlo, and navigated the French buses to perfumeries. We even ate crêpes, and spent a day in the mountains of the medieval town of Èze. Our time together was incredible and it was really hard to say goodbye, so we said “À bientôt” or “see you soon” instead.
Upon returning home, my travel experiences abroad introduced me to a “new” New York City. For example, now I treat tourists differently by showing kindness and hospitality. I can already see myself applying lessons I have learned in France to my senior year. For example, I seek to step out of the background at school and in cheerleading. I actively debated with a classmate concerning our opinions of United States’ intervention. I never would have done that before. I am also working to become co-captain in my cheerleading squad. Going to France has prepared me for college, I am now excited to meet new people and embrace different challenges.
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