The first time I traveled by myself was my Freshman year of college when I ventured off to volunteer in Nicaragua. A few months before I left on a flight by myself to meet a group of strangers, I was sitting in my Chemistry class in Felmey Hall when a recruit came in to spread the word about an organization I had never heard of, GIVE Volunteers. With little research I convinced myself that this was a step I should take and signed myself up. Fast forward to awkwardly sitting on an old school bus full of 30 other volunteers, traveling down a gravel road to a small fishing village on Western coast of the country. Though the first 12 hours were a little awkward and intimidating I grew to love that group of strangers and some of them are still my good friends now, four years later. We started in the small town of Jiquilillo building houses for single and abused mothers and worked our way to Little Corn Island, teaching kids and working with a recycling program.
Poverty in some of these places were high, I saw things that I had only seen on the news before and never thought I would experience first hand. But I also gained a new respect for the world, for my family and friends and all that we have. Little did I know at the time that this trip would change who I was, how I viewed the world, and what I would want to do for the rest of my life.
It was when my flight landed in Chicago that for the first time in my life I had a passion for something. I had done things before that I liked, such as cooking and taking art classes, things that I thought would be fun to do but I had never craved something like this passion before. I had spent the past two weeks traveling around and volunteering in Nicaragua. And those two weeks were the most meaningful weeks of my 18 years of life. At moments it was terrifying, I questioned why I went, I got sick and missed home and my mom, but the more I did and the more I feared, the more I grew and the more I realized that the best things in life are held at the other side of fear. I had to stretch past my anxiety to hop on that plane and it ended up leading me on an adventure that I can never forget. That adventure sculpted me as an individual. It lead me to the love of my internship, and the work I do around the community.
When I was first offered my internship at Marcfirst my friends told me I was stupid for not looking for an opportunity that would offer pay. I knew it would be relatively time consuming and though doing the work for free wasn’t my first choice, it was an organization that consisted of something that I fully supported. It was that passion to relinquish into the community of doing good and helping others no matter what form it came in. I am currently seven months into my internship and I love every second of it. I would go in more if I had the time, the money means nothing to me and I fully support the work being done. It has proven that money is not the ultimate prize in life, and that happiness in what you are doing with your life is.