I have only been home for a week since returning from my trip to the East Coast, but the trip is becoming less tangible everyday, and morphing itself into an eye-opening, inspirational memory that I will look back on for motivation when I need it. Although the trip is over in a literal sense, I know that figuratively it is just gathering momentum - I gained so much from this experience both academically and socially that I will be able to carry over into my everyday life. I now have courage to both be myself and improve myself. I brought back with me from the East Coast a more developed perspective on life, and a more open mind to the world.
My first week on the East Coast was incredibly valuable for me in terms of college. I learned so much from touring campus and conversing with both current students and alums; a few messages that I heard from multiple people will stick with me. One of these is that college is what you make of it. The Ivy League Connection has opened my eyes to the plethora of wonderful colleges that are out there for me; now is the time for me to take advantage of these opportunities and, once I decide where to go, make the best of my time there. I met many different students from multiple colleges on this trip, but one quality that they all carried was intellectual curiosity and a love of life. Intellectual curiosity. That is a phrase that I heard from someone at Dartmouth, and I think it's a really important quality to have going into college. I feel that I have developed this quality since taking Women and Leadership at Brown. I have a desire to continuously learn and grow that I didn't have before the trip. Meeting wonderful students from various colleges was proof to me that having a intellectually curious, open-minded perspective makes all the difference in the experience one has in college.
Another message that I picked up from a lot of people I talked to is that it's ok to go into college not knowing what direction you want to take your life in. Many people who I met told me that they switched their major several times before settling on one. This was important for me to hear, because I have so many interests right now that I am not sure where I want to take them all in the future. I've realized that college is an ideal time to figure all this out, and try new things as well to figure out my passions. One reason that I really like the idea of liberal arts colleges is that they encourage students to try out classes in lots of different types of subjects, even areas that the students won't necessarily major in.
From taking Women and Leadership at Brown University, I learned tons about myself as a leader and a person. Some of what I learned was unexpected, and contradicted how I have always viewed myself. I also became a lot more comfortable with who I am. This, I believe, is the first step to being able to change the community in which I live - I must first be comfortable with myself, and confident in what I believe.
Through my classmates, I was able to see and understand the perspectives of other people, and to realize that not everyone views the world even close to the same way that I do. I learned to understand and respect views that may have been different from own. I also realized, however, that although everyone in the class came from unique backgrounds and had unique perspectives, we all had similarities as well. Included in these is the fact that we are all motivated to create positive change in the world in some form or another.
Learning about leadership styles, practicing public speaking skills, and developing an Action Plan made me excited to return home and actually take action - to put everything that I learned into practice. I am motivated to make a positive difference in my community.
In my Action Plan, I hope to become a part of already-existing trail-building organizations in my community, and help these organizations with their projects by bringing in volunteers from my high school to volunteer during trail work days. This Action Plan has a few goals. By helping build and maintain trails, I hope to create a place for people to work out and simultaneously enjoy the natural beauty of Northern California. I want to maintain the trails in such a way that they do not harm already-existing natural ecosystems, therefore respecting nature. By bringing in volunteers from my high school to help build trails, I hope to show more people that they have the opportunity to exercise and experience nature close to their own homes. In this way, I will make them more aware of the natural environment. Ideally, this exposure will help them learn to respect the environment more as well.
Through this trip, I gained skills, knowledge, and perspectives that I will apply to all aspects of my life. I also discovered a motivation inside of me to continue to learn and grow as a person. I would like to thank everyone involved with the ILC who made this trip possible for me.