“Almost a week later, and I’m still jet-lagged. I guess it’s just my body telling me to never ever leave Europe mode. Not that I want to. I spent 10 days being my crazy self, boarding too many flights, exploring picturesque cities, eating too much chocolate, running on four hours of sleep each night, playing pretzel on top of the Swiss alps, visiting Willi-Graf-Gymnasium in Berlin, painting blocks to recreate the Berlin Wall for the 20th anniversary, being photographed and videotaped 24/7, eating doners (yum), being way too American and tourist-like, yodeling, lying down on the streets of Berlin spelling “Berlin,” doing the same in Prague, making new friends, writing too many journal entries, laughing, crying, and doing so much more. Gosh, I miss it…so, so much. Life was so surreal those 10 days…”
I wrote that in my journal a few days after I came home (which then seemed like the most boring and trivial place on earth) from my EF Global Citizen Scholarship tour of Berlin, Munich, Prague, Lucerne, and Dachau. Even eight months later, typing on my friend Bridget’s Facebook wall, I found myself again reminiscing about some of the same exact moments. Yes, we’re still friends, and collectively, along with Aswar, Matt, Sajda, Sharvani, Lindsay, Dizz, Shawaunna, and Kylie, we probably still remember all our adventures in Europe like it was yesterday.
This past summer, I was honored to represent the youth of the United States on a scholarship tour of Berlin, Munich, Prague, Dachau, Lucerne, and Washington, D.C., as one of the 10 national winners of the EF Global Citizen Scholarship. Yes, as a Chinese-American, I grew up with Mandarin and the dialect of Shanghai being my first languages, and in high school, I was taking the most challenging classes, learning about the world, and studying French. At the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, I also tackled international issues, serving on the Student Advisory Council and as Model Senate Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee and Model UN Chair, but this trip made everything real.
Prior to the trip, each of us researched one of the destinations, and as the expert on Dachau, through our visit to the concentration camp, I was able to help us realize the importance of continued genocide awareness, whether it be the Holocaust, Bosnian genocide or today in Darfur. In Berlin, I could feel the history. We had the opportunity to paint blocks to re-create the Berlin Wall for the 20th anniversary as I also got the chance to express my passion for art. We saw the remnants of the walls and listened to a panel share their experiences living on both sides of the wall. We even visited Willi-Graf-Gymnasium to interact with German high school students, where we discussed German-U.S. stereotypes and even laughed about shared knowledge of American pop culture. Every day on tour, I embodied a true, curious and open-minded global citizen, learning from the insights of my peers, the anecdotes of our tour guide, Alex, and the actual monuments, museums and statues that lay in front of me.
Even though at the end of the 10 days we parted ways, for me, the trip fossilized some of my life goals and globalized my worldview. I want to pursue international business and international relations in college and beyond while traveling, learning and applying what I learn to better our world. Today, I realize that I cannot just turn around and find Bridget browsing through a map of Prague, Dizz, Sharvani, and Sajda taking jumping pictures, Shawaunna and Lindsay giggling and souvenir-shopping, Kylie singing her heart out, or Matt snapping photos of all the ethnic foods we were eating, but, nevertheless, wherever we all end up, I know that all 10 of us will always carry memories of that fateful summer with us as we embark on our individual journeys as true global citizens.
Lucy Chen is a senior at the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur in Villanova, Pennsylvania. She is an active member of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, student council and the varsity Mathletes team. She is also the president of the Hi-Q team and National Honor Society, the co-managing editor of Teen Zone, co-captain of Reading Olympics, and treasurer of the Forensics Club, in which she competes regularly at the state level. In her free time, she loves to oil paint, perform on the piano and clarinet, and play on her school’s varsity tennis team.