How this program changed my life.
I figured that this post would be appropriate for those who are reading and about to go on this journey of a lifetime. (I am insanely jealous of all of you doing the AFS China program, and if you're doing it through NSLI-Y hooray as well! I hope you know, I'd do anything to go back. If I'm lucky enough to be an orientation leader again, I will live vicariously through all of you, just saying.)
I am a student at Babson College now, a business school in Wellelsey, Massachusetts, USA. I'm a candidate for a B.S. in Business Administration and am hoping to concentrate in Global Business Management and a second (currently undefined) concentration. I have to say that NSLI-Y has opened up many doors for me to get me to Babson.
First off, volunteering for AFS as soon as I got back was definitely a decision that I will never regret. Spending my junior and senior year volunteering for the Southern New England Team and as a member of Returnee Initiative has further opened my mind to different cultures and experiences, and has allowed my experience in Beijing to live on. Locally, I feel that I have taken a leadership role for the local pre-departure orientations, and have had great involvement with the Southern New England Team. With the Returnee Initiative, I was a participant for the US Sponsored Programs Training of Trainers program in January 2011, gateway orientation leader for the NSLI-Y China/India Summer 2012 program, and a participant for an outreach workshop in Washington D.C. in August 2012. In addition, I've temporarily been a Returnee Mentor, Returnee Ambassador, and Returnee Coordinator. I just have to say, AFS is a part of me, and it's one of my favorite organizations to be a part of. Through college, as I try to organize and piece my life back together, I know that AFS will have a piece in my life.
In addition, I participated in a two-week exchange in Cape Town, South Africa with Conard High School and Hall High School. I have to say, that was a magical experience as well. In two weeks, I learned so much about a different culture, and appreciated everything from my life at home, to the beauty of nature, and felt a sense of independence that made me realize that my life had a great value on its own. I honestly miss that experience as well, and the host family there that graciously took me in and allowed me to learn about South African culture through being a part of their lives. I know that my AFS and NSLI-Y experience had a role in my fortunate opportunity to go to South Africa during my senior year.
I feel as though I've had great success since my journey in China. From Girls State, finishing/surviving junior year, learning a lot about life and love, being stage manager of the student-run musical "13!", applying to and getting accepted to seven colleges, playing in various orchestras including the pit for Beauty and the Beast, enjoying life with my friends, graduating high school, and interning this past summer, I know that my life has been a lot different than most. I love every bit of it. The amount I grew up in 6 weeks helped make it possible, and being among fellow NSLI-Y Scholars was something I needed in 2010. It opened up all the doors in the world, and began my network of study abroad enthusiasts out to do great things.
So now, I feel as though opportunity is blooming. From these experiences abroad in China and South Africa, from volunteering my time with AFS and the Sponsored Programs, from the passion that sparked as I learned more about every culture, I know that traveling and discovering cultures is something that I have and always will love. It's led me to a Diversity Leader Scholarship at Babson and the Gates Millennium Scholar. Full-tuition at Babson, and full good-through-graduation scholarship to college, and grad school too if I pick certain majors. As I said, opportunity is blooming.
I know that NSLI-Y played a major role in all of this. I consider it to this day the turning point in my life. For those of you reading this blog, I hope you enjoy the starry-eyed fifteen year old I was when I had this unbelievable opportunity. If you're someone about to go on this journey, take it all in, and don't regret a second of anything you do. It's all an experience, and you're about to have yours.
I will forever remember as much of my experience as I can. For sure, I will keep it alive by forever paying it forward, and being the study abroad enthusiast.
Basically a three year photo summary of my life between NSLI-Y and now. I am just forever grateful.