Each year, a panel of global education experts selects a handful of students from across the country, each of whom has demonstrated an outstanding sense of global citizenship in a series of assessments and interviews, to receive EF’s Global Citizen Scholarship. Last year, our Global Citizens attended EF’s first ever Global Student Leaders Summit in Costa Rica, addressing environmental sustainability. This year, recipients will have the opportunity to examine social responsibility in the new global economy at our 2014 Summit in China. Over the next few weeks, The Equator will be publishing a series of articles written by some of last year’s Global Citizen scholarship recipients.
20 students: all from different pockets of America and Canada. 10 days: all filled with unexpected adventures. 1 application each: that’s what it took.
It wasn’t real until I sat on the plane, the wheels leaving the ground of my city. My eyes were trained on the rays of sun shooting through the clouds, but my mind eagerly imagined the journey ahead of me. Each of us students set off that day with a single common destination: Miami, FL, where we would finally all meet and then continue on to Costa Rica together. We were the 2013 EF Tours Global Citizens. A collection of cultures, ideas, and lives, delving into an exploration of not only Costa Rica and issues of environmental sustainability, but ourselves and how we could gain a better sense of global citizenship.
While traveling through Costa Rica, we helped scientists study trees, grasped the vastness of nature’s beauty while zip lining, and spotted sloths, frogs, and howling monkeys. Our taste buds experienced different flavors, our eyes came accustomed to the tropical sun, and our ears let the sounds of the rainforest put us to sleep.
We felt sorrow when we learned of the country’s difficulties, and we felt proud when we were told of the country’s accomplishments, not because it was our country but because it was our world. Because we knew that if part of the globe could do it, more could follow. We learned that there was power in numbers. The more people, the more towns, and the more countries dedicated to changing the world, the better.
We began to understand each other’s cultures, and the cultures of the people we met. We shared our ideas, told of our lives. We laughed, we danced, and we sang. And we relished in our diversities: our different accents, different styles, and different expressions.
Borders, prejudices, and qualms of the unknown were blurred and washed away as our comfort zones grew. It was something that a textbook could never teach: something that only stemmed from leaving our comfortable lives and making the unknown known. We arrived at the Global Student Leaders Summit at the end of the trip as a family, 20 strong. We met people from all over the world. Dispersed throughout many groups, we traded our stories, collaborated, and envisioned a world we dreamed of. We were inspired, and our inspiration grew exponentially.
It was a time for innovation. It was a time to forget we were in high school and pretend that we ruled the world. It was a time to realize that we actually do rule the world, that our decisions make a difference, and that we must begin to be the world we have only dreamed of.
We had listened to speakers, discussed global issues with leaders, and formulated plans with other students to solve problems. Our minds chalk full of ideas and hearts full of memories, we packed our bags and savored our last few moments as a group. We slowly disbanded throughout the airport, all stepping onto the airplanes that would take us back home.
Each of us held an imaginary and unbreakable string as we traveled back home, all connected at a single point: Costa Rica. We were carved into each other’s memories: our cultures, our ideas, our lives. We had gained so much in our short 10-day adventure.
The hundreds of creative students at the Summit had left me with a sense of hope that we could truly change the world for the better. Similarly, I now had 19 close friends from all over North America that I could bounce ideas off. Friends that had experienced what I had experienced. Who had similar aspirations and dreams.
When I returned home I saw everything differently, but not because home had changed, because my eyes had changed. It had all started with an application: a few moments of courage, some hours of hard work, and a hope to become a better global citizen. I encourage you to apply for the 2014 Global Citizen Scholarship. The effort that you put in now on your application will be worth every second – the amount of knowledge and personal growth that you will gain on the 2014 Global Citizen trip to China and at the 2014 Global Student Leaders Summit is invaluable.