The Global Travel Scholarship program, a partnership between the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, The Experiment in International Living, and its parent organization World Learning, has sent more than 100 young high school students from southwestern Pennsylvania to participate in travel experiences around the world. The program is designed to provide local high school juniors, especially those from underserved districts, with the opportunity to travel abroad for a summer. Trips range from three to five weeks, and may include a community service project, language study, and outdoor adventure among others.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the program, with twelve high school juniors participating in immersion trips across five continents. Each student stayed with a host family during part of their trip, while also studying topics ranging from biodiversity to conflict resolution.
All of the scholars have returned from their trips, and will join us for a Welcome Home Session this week to share their experiences with friends, family, teachers, and mentors. We look forward to reuniting with the scholars and learning more about these exciting adventures. For those unable to attend the reception, we invite you to read the compilation of excerpts from each scholar’s essay, on their experience and how it has influenced their life. Part one is provided below, highlighting immersion trips in Asia, South and Central America. Stay tuned for part two of this series later this week featuring trips in Africa and Europe.
Armon Coleman – Japan
“Each day I looked forward to the new possibility to partake in the Japanese culture. I was able to observe amazing sights, beautiful sculptured gardens, incredible museums, sacred shrines and temples. As a student, I attended the Sapporo Manga/Anime Gakuin to learn techniques of Anime and Magna. As an honored guest, I visited the local schools to observe the curriculum and clubs of the Japanese students.”
Justin Hardin – South Korea
“The day we visited the DMZ, we first stopped at the memorial side of it. There was a field filled with sculptures and windmills that represent peace. We also walked through a tunnel that North Korea created in order to launch an attack on South Korea after the DMZ was built. After we saw a quick Korean War video and took many more pictures, we finally went to the Neutral zone overlook. Once I was there looking at the neutral zone and the edge of North Korea, I began to seriously comprehend the reality of the situation of North and South Korea, and for the first time I actually began finding answers to the questions we were all asked about peace.”
Taizhae Howell – China
“We went to visit the Great Wall of China. Upon arrival I didn’t know what to expect. All I could picture were the images inside of textbooks and in documentaries. We got to the tourist area and there was no wall in sight. I was so confused; little did I know we had some climbing to do. After about two hours of climbing over mountains we finally made it to the wall. I was overwhelmed by so many emotions; I had a paralyzed smile on my face. It is the most amazing thing I have seen with my own eyes; pictures do not do it justice.”
Chelsea Geruschat – Argentina
“In today’s society the motto is ‘time is money.’ So if we aren’t working or running around like crazy people, we aren’t doing anything productive according to some predetermined social standards. In Argentina, whether it was talking to local students in Buenos Aires, bonding with your host family in Salta, doing service work in Chicoana or riding horses from the Finca Santa Anita these standards didn’t matter anymore.”
Josh Patton – Peru
“I can recall the first time I took the “micro.” Basically, it is a utility van that has been gutted, with the insides replaced with seats that have been bolted to the floor (it seats around twelve comfortably.) A man hangs out of the door on the side, shouting the names of neighborhoods that it services. It costs one Perúvian Nuevo sol, the equivalent of about $0.30, and it will take you almost anywhere you want to go. My host sister waved it down, and it pulled up beside us. I took one glance inside, and my heart dropped into my stomach. There were about twenty people crammed inside, all mashed together like sardines. I am extremely claustrophobic. The man in the door shouted, “¡Sube!” which is the Spanish equivalent of “Hop on!” I had no other choice but to pack myself in with the rest of the people. I was not in any danger, just extremely uncomfortable and anxious. However, by the end of the trip, small spaces no longer bothered me. I had overcome my claustrophobia.”
Katelyn Ripple – Costa Rica
“My trip to Costa Rica taught me many things that have changed the way I want to live. From living on a sustainable agricultural farm, hiking through the rainforest, gaining another family, watching sea turtles give birth, zip lining, scuba diving, and just enjoying the Costa Rican shoreline, I could not begin to describe all of the wonderful things I experienced. Even though the rainforest and the homestay were my favorite parts of the trip, every day in Costa Rica contains a beautiful memory I want to share with the world.”