By Elena Eberwein, Marist Italy FFE
Today in my conflict resolution class I learned about Apartheid, Mexican drug cartels, and international PTSD all within the span of two and a half hours. Last night I was up until 3am writing a research paper on the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan after South Sudan gained independence. I’ve officially decided to apply for a 3 week summer session Marist class in Ghana. I’ve also been talking to one of my best friends, who lives in Pakistan, about his college applications. I feel like my mind is all over the world right now, but I think that’s how I want it to be.
I come from a family where we all live within an hour radius of each other. My mom and all of her siblings as well as my grandparents have lived in the same area their whole lives. We’ve had a few adventurers go live somewhere else for a little bit, but everyone always ends back up in good old Berkshire county. I can definitely see why too. We have great cultural and artistic life, wonderful public schools, great opportunities for extracurriculars, awesome restaurants, the list goes on. But for me, I need to see the world. I need to know what is going on in places I’ve never heard of, involving people I’ve never met and probably never will. It’s just this instinct I’ve always had. And now that I’ve officially been bitten by the travel bug, I know my travels are only just beginning.
This past summer was my first time ever leaving the country. About nine months earlier I had applied and been accepted to join the nonprofit, The Haiti Plunge, on their June team of students. I fundraised all year to pay for my trip and off I went June 24, 2012 along with my best friend and 15 other kids to the rural village of Desab. The experience I had there is beyond anything I could imagine. The people there truly gave me more than I could ever give them. One day I hiked to the top of a mountain to go to church in a village that hadn’t been visited by outsiders until a month earlier. The service was overwhelming. Instead of the sign of peace, I received a warm and passionate embrace from each member of the congregation. We shared songs together, and the unending gratitude for our presence there was felt the entire time. It was in this moment I realized that I had to see the rest of the world.
I’ve explored a bit of Europe so far, but this semester’s basic focus was becoming a local in Florence. I knew in order to become a world-traveller I had to at least establish some sort of home first. And Florence has become just that. Next semester I already have trips booked to Vienna and Salzburg, Austria, Venice for Carnevale, and Greece for a weekend. I’m also trying to plan a trip to Morocco to surf on the coast and ride a camel. This is going to be my year of fun in Europe, but the opportunities for travel outside of Europe are immense and I hope to continue traveling even after this year is over. I want to make it to every continent at some point, but Africa is a true dream of mine, so when I saw that Marist offers courses in the summer in Ghana I knew I had to apply.
I’m lucky in the sense that even though my family doesn’t do much extensive traveling, they are so supportive of it. When I mentioned the idea of Ghana, my mom thought it sounded cool. I can only go if I receive a few grants or a scholarship, but she said if I can make it happen then she is okay with it. I feel like some people want to go to Africa just to say they saw poverty, everybody’s just looking to feel a little better about themselves, but for me it’s a total adventure. I want to experience a new culture, I want to meet the people, I want to learn in a totally new and uncomfortable environment. I’m going to start this application, and we’ll see where it takes me. The adventures are only continuing, and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world every single day to have the life I am currently living.