Currently a sophomore in high school, Mikayla is an honor student, a competitive swimmer and an active member of her youth church group. Her first international travel experience came in middle school when she went to Costa Rica with her Spanish teacher. Years after her first time abroad, her Group Leader, guest blogger Kay K., sat down with Mikayla to learn how her experiences traveling have helped to shape her growth and development from middle to high school. Below is her story.
It’s no surprise that traveling opens student’s eyes to new perspectives and experiences, oftentimes awakening a path to self-discovery. After sitting down with high school student Mikayla, it became clear to me that her experience was no exception. As she beautifully summed it up, “traveling internationally with people I was largely unfamiliar with pushed me to be open-minded and outgoing.”
When reflecting on her first travel experience to Costa Rica, the local school visit still stands out as one of her most memorable experiences. “Being able to interact with elementary schoolers in Costa Rica was very touching. Just seeing how they appreciate the things we had brought them made me realize that we shouldn’t ever take anything in life for granted and continue to look for ways to better the world we live in. Even something as simple as a friendship can be very, very valuable!”
Since her first trip in middle school, Mikayla has truly become a world traveler – finding her place as an active member of her school’s Global Learners and Leaders group, a program inspired and built around EF’s Global Leadership Summits. Last year, she traveled to The Hague with her school group to participate in EF’s Summit focused on Human Rights. There, she joined students from around the world to participate in a design thinking challenge. “Together, we designed the ‘New Life Kit’, a package designed to give refugees the clothing they need to confidently and professionally go into a job interview. Inside would also include essential hygiene items such as toothpaste and deodorant. The goal of the ‘New Life Kit” is to inspire confidence in the refugees and encourage them to pursue life-changing opportunities,” she describes.
At The Hague, Mikayla and her team’s hard work certainly paid off as they walked away with the third place prize. “The Keynote speakers, Dr. Arun Gandhi and Ndaba Mandela, challenged us to be advocates for human rights and to push ourselves to stay educated and up to date on the various circumstances that exist around the world today,” she said.
Having new experiences away from home has helped Mikayla come out of her shell as well. “Traveling has encouraged me to immerse myself in other cultures and to form new friendships with other people I wouldn’t normally have gravitated towards. It’s given me perspective and appreciation for my hometown and fostered a love for learning,” she said.
Looking back on her of experiences Mikayla has a bit of advice to offer young people who are considering travel. “Take advantage of every opportunity and go for it! Be willing to keep an open mind and get involved with new experiences. The friendships you make on international trips are incredibly meaningful and you’ll be able to share those experiences for the rest of your life.”
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