What My First Trip Abroad Taught Me

During my final year of high school, I was given the opportunity to travel abroad. My school offered many different trips that students could participate in, and I chose to go to Jamaica. The trip was centered around Marine Biology, and although I was not a student in STEM, I was interested in the service aspects of the trip as well as the adventurous ones. Each day included visiting homeless shelters to interact with individuals in need. We also collected donations and organized materials between snorkeling, hiking, trying new things, and learning about different organisms. Along the way, I learned a few lessons...

  1. 1. You should seize the opportunity.

    Looking back, it seems very strange to be able to say that I went to Jamaica in high school, and it feels strange because it seems like something that I should never be able to say. I tend to gravitate towards my comfort zone, and I especially did so as a teenager. The fact that I decided to go abroad is surprising, but I am so glad that I went. I can remember many vivid details from the amazing experience, and I wouldn’t have any of those memories if I had stayed in my comfort zone. During the course of the trip, I strove to utilize every opportunity I had to try new things. After all, I most likely wasn’t going to be given these opportunities again. Any time I was handed a foreign piece of fruit, I tried it. I drank from coconuts and tasted exotic foods. I tried climbing up a manmade waterfall and snorkeled inside of a bat cave. I don’t regret any of it.

  2. 2. However, it's okay to say no. 

    While I did try my best to agree to any opportunity, I do want to note that it’s okay to say no sometimes. A specific memory always sticks out to me. After hours of travel, when I finally arrived in Jamaica with my classmates, we were given a bit of time to settle in before activities began. Of course, we were all exhausted, but that night, many decided to play games as a part of our first night in Jamaica. This is one of the times when I said no in order to catch up on sleep. Although I might have missed an opportunity to socialize, I definitely do not regret getting some Z’s. The next week would require late nights and tons of physical activity, and I’m glad I took the time that I could to get additional sleep in order to enjoy the rest of my trip. It’s important to know yourself and your needs in order to answer the difficult question of whether to say yes or no in a situation. 

  3. 3. It's a small but wide world.

    We’re told “it’s a small world” over and over again. It is, in some respects. We are all human, and we all have human needs and desires. We have all been placed on a planet, and none of us really know why, but we each have our own notions and perceptions. There will always be things to learn, and your eyes are open to this knowledge when you see the truth for yourself. There are countless places to explore. While in Jamaica, I realized how little I had seen and how much I knew. I’d never seen squid before, and I didn’t know that a specific species of them tend to swim in a V-shape. I’d never seen people use wood as a sidewalk to keep off of mud. I’d never been exposed to poor conditions. There are many aspects to this world to be explored, and you have the opportunity to take advantage of this to the best of your ability.  

It's important to test yourself and push past your limits in order to grow. However, it's also okay to step back, analyze your needs, and take a break too. Keep this in mind during your adventures in order to have the best experience and take advantage of what the world has to offer.