Thursday, March 28, 2013

17 Strangers, One Short Week, and a Lasting Impact

As I am STILL trying to fully recover from the trip I continually catch myself constantly daydreaming about Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) not just in class, but anywhere I am for that matter. I have completely procrastinated and dreaded this blog post because my experience in T&T was so enriching that it is a daunting task to sift through my memories of everything that happened. I look through friends’ pictures, add Trini friends on facebook, continue to interact with my new UofL friends, and I am overwhelmed all over again. 

            Initially, I was extremely excited about getting accepted to go on this trip and I had high expectations for what my experience was going to be like. I spent hours looking through pictures posted by UofL of past trips and I constantly referred back to the experiences of my friends who have gone on ISLP trips before. However, after my first class meeting I was beyond terrified. I knew I wasn’t going to know anyone going into this, but I imagined there would at least be one other person that was an education major whether undergrad or graduate?! I frantically started contacting faculty members and people that had been on the trip before trying to find some kind of comfort, reassurance, or a way OUT! I mean I didn’t even know what a symposium was! In spite of my meltdown, the amazing Dr. Cuyjet & sweet Shirley Hardy were able to calm me down and I pushed through my awkwardness. If it weren’t for the faculty I probably wouldn’t have gone on the trip. I was afraid I would have nothing to contribute and I would not fit in, but they helped me find my place in the group. 

            The many weeks of planning and stepping out of comfort zone leading up to the trip were well worth the short week of MORE planning, work, and stepping out of my comfort zone yet again! I am so thankful that I was able to attend and take on this journey with my fellow classmates. I made new, and what I believe to be lasting, friendships with people I will never forget. Even though I was the only one of my “kind” in the group, it didn’t feel like it at all! These girls accepted me and helped me STAY out of my comfort zone. That is something that I can never thank them enough for! Meeting fellow UofL students was one of my favorite aspects of the trip.

            Lastly, even after being home for 11 days now I still find myself bringing up the trip to others more than ever. I am missing the land and the people like crazy! As a future educator, I work with kids a lot. When I decided to help plan the lesson for the day at the secondary school I envisioned my teacher mode to kick in at full force. However, I have never worked with older kids before, so again, I was pushed out of my comfort zone, but oh was I rewarded. I had the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with high school kids who showed me that they could be just as fun to work with as the little ones! Although not to my surprise, my favorite day of all was when we got to work at It’s Up to MEnvironmental! I was able to do hands-on work (my FAVORITE!), meet new people from another country who are my age and exchange contact info, interact with young kids, and make a lasting impact on a community that is hurting. My only wish is that we could’ve had the symposium afterour experiences at the recycling center and school so that we could use both of those days as first-hand references in our presentations. Maybe then I would’ve spoken up a little more on my opinion of community involvement!

It’s hard for me to confine this experience into a blog post, but I am not exaggerating when I say this was all-around one of the best experiences of my life to date. If I can persuade someone from UofL to attend one of these trips (Trinidad & Tobago in particular) I would simply tell him or her, “You’ll thank me later”. I felt like the Lord led me to go on this trip for a reason, and now I understand why. 

Kristen Holloway
-University of Louisville International Service Learning Program

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