This student essay was submitted by Serena McDonald from West Virginia.
My adventures with Sustainable Summer were unlike any other summer program I’d ever gone on. I was concerned at first about what this trip would be like. Would I make friends, be safe, learn something new, experience a different culture and most importantly feel safe in a different world. I had nothing to worry about. I made true and unforgettable friends, felt completely safe during all parts of the program, learned so much about sustainable energy and the environment, and learned about a culture so unlike the one I’d grown up with my whole life. Sustainable Summer was an amazing experience on all accounts
On the airplane from my small town in West Virginia I was a little…. well yes freaked out. I was all by myself on a plane to a place I’d never seen, to a language I could barely understand let alone speak, and to a group of people I had never met. I went into this program completely blind. I came out with lifelong friends. The girls in my program became my sisters. They held my hand when I was nervous, rafted down rapids larger than my dad, ate exotic food, cried together, and experienced life in a world that was not our own. When you are in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest something happens. It’s hard to explain. When you’re in a world where eating off a leaf is the norm, and surfing for gold in the sand is common practice you perspective on the world changes. It really does. These girls are the only ones who can understand what I experienced and that is one of the most magical connections you can have with someone else. It really is.
My trip with Sustainable Summer was completely and totally safe! I felt safe at all times during my trip. Even in the middle of the night when I was standing in the middle of the rainforest, after turning all our flashlights off. I could sense the spiders all around me. Maybe I’m just paranoid or maybe they were all about to eat me. However I just stood there grasping for my friends jacket listening to monkeys and birds while staring up at the stars. The stars that I thought I knew. The same ones that I see everyday at home. But as much as people say they’re the same stars wherever you are, their not. I mean physically maybe but the stars I saw that night were unlike anything I’d ever seen. They were unworldly. And as much as I knew I could be eaten at any moment by a giant jaguar I knew I was safe. I had to put trust in my guides. They knew the forest. This wasn’t my world. Sustainable Summer took good care of me.
I feel as though I learned more about the world on this one two-week trip than I did in my whole year of school. I didn’t just learn about sustainable energy on this trip. I learned how to live away from my comfort zone. I learned to live outside the safety of my Wifi and private security system. How to disconnect my cell phone from my hip. I learned to try that weird fruit with seeds I’d never heard of, to attempt to talk with that lady who had no idea what “can I have fries’ meant so I had to struggle to translate. I learned that my life doesn’t depend on having the latest Lady Gaga song, or a new pair of Uggs. That all these things I simply “had to have” weren’t important. No one cares if I dated that cute junior last year. I learned to live life in a way that was so liberating. So freeing. I learned how to communicate with the world.