After getting to know the international athletes on my hall at Lee University I ached to travel. I wanted to get out into the world and experience different ways of life and incredible destinations. The South had become old to me and I felt that it was about time to step outside of it. Fortunately enough, my parents took me on one last vacation with just the three of us the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college. We traveled to Boston, Massachusetts, and Acadia National Park in Maine. Acadia National Park was absolutely stunning, but our two days in Boston had the biggest impact on me. The city was so incredibly different than anywhere that I had ever been. The thing that stuck out to me most however was the convergence of cultures. People from all over the world were touring Boston that summer. Every couple of steps I heard a different language being spoken. I so badly wanted to interact with each person and hear their story, but my parents had an agenda planned out, so we had to push on. Also, I remember gaping at so many beautiful international girls. That probably drove my mother crazy because I pointed them out quite often. All in all, the trip inspired me to travel even more. I mean, if my laptop screensaver is still a picture of Boston two years later it must have been an amazing experience, right?
Below: My Boston laptop screensaver
I started my sophomore year of college at my current school: The College of Coastal Georgia. The week before classes started I attended the international orientation; I figured that since the internationals at Lee University were so cool that the international students at Coastal would be too. That turned out to be a wonderful decision. At this orientation I met who would become my two best friends at the college that year: Louis and Karina. Louis was attending Coastal from Haiti while Karina was from Brazil and attending the college as an exchange student. After the orientation we were sent to our dorms to officially move in. I had connected with Louis so quickly that when I found out that one of my roommates to be had transferred I messaged him immediately. He felt the same way about me too because he happily accepted the invitation to become roommates. I was exposed to many cultural differences through my friendships with Louis and Karina. They taught me about their home languages, foods from their countries, how to properly dance, how relationships worked in their cultures, about varied music, and so much more. The more that they taught me about their home cultures the more I wanted to check them out for myself. The three of us were inseparable and emitted an abundance of confidence wherever we went. We certainly stuck out on campus amidst the hordes of Southerners. Who would have thought that an American, a Brazilian, and a Haitian would become such close friends? These amazing friends helped me to discover so much about myself and I am incredibly thankful to have met them. They also inspired me even more to get out into the world and explore. After becoming so close with them my sophomore year of college I found that I not only desired to travel, but I also desired to become an international student myself.
Below: Karina, Louis and I has we head off to be tourists for the day.
Upon discovering that I wanted the experience of studying as an international student, I figured that I should start by traveling domestically. I found that I shouldn’t just travel to another place in my country, but that I should also work and live there for a little while on my own as well. I felt like it was necessary to learn how to live on my own for a few months to see if I could really handle change. So, I got a job as a camp counselor at Mountain Camp the summer between my sophomore and junior year. Mountain Camp is a traditional co-ed camp for kids nestled in the Eldorado National Forest in Northern California. The camp is a truly unique place where kids have the freedom grow, make new friends, and pursue new interests in a safe and beautiful setting. I had a wonderful experience working at the camp, but it was also very trying for me for a few reasons: I was living on the other side of the country without my family and friends, I had to quickly learn how to look after myself in a foreign environment, and the job itself was surprisingly straining. By the end of the summer though I was extremely satisfied with the experience. Through the camp counselor experience I learned a lot about myself, I made a positive impact on the kids and was positively impacted by them, saved up some decent money, and made friends with counselors from all over the world. I also got a lot of great advice from fellow counselors about how to travel properly, living in another culture, and preparing for the study abroad process. My experience at Mountain Camp gave me a fantastic foundation to pull from in preparation for future travel.
Below: Me with my co counselor and best friend Stephen at Mountain Camp
This last year of college, my junior year, has been about setting myself up for a student exchange experience. I’ve taken the advice from all the international friends that I have made and the International Education Department at the College of Coastal Georgia and capitalized on it. I worked a good bit this last year and saved up proper funds to help cover the student exchange experience and the extra fees associated with it. Through the process of setting myself up to go abroad I’ve had to find out the best location for me to study in, the right organization to work with, how to get a passport, how to apply for a student visa, and how to find the best plane tickets to purchase. After having finished my junior year strong I am very close to manifesting my dreams into a reality. I’ve been accepted into a student exchange program for a semester in the Czech Republic, I have jobs in New York City and California set up for this summer to aid with preparations, and I have amazing people in my life to draw help from when I need. I’ve discovered that I love to travel and that I long to become an international student. It is happening. I’m Doing What I Love and I’m damn proud of it.
Embrace the freedom of Doing What You Love to do! Each of us have passions that we desire to pursue and it’s our responsibility to go after them wholeheartedly. Once you put your heart into doing what you love anything is possible, and by choosing to ACT NOW on your passions you are giving yourself the best chance to attain your exactly what you desire. So, get out of your comfort zone. Comfort is so deceiving because it tricks us into thinking that we are satisfied where we are at in life. It attempts to assure us that doing what we like is satisfying enough, but mere satisfaction with our lives gets old. Comfort really just holds us back from attaining true joy. It instills into us the fear that if we try to go for more we will ultimately regret it. That is completely false. If we remain only comfortable and satisfied, we will be selling ourselves short. It is worth the sacrifice to leave comfort behind and go for what you love. The dream of doing what you love can become a reality, you just need to take a leap of faith and put the work in!