As of right now, I think this experience has taught me more than even I can fully realize. When you return from a trip like this one, the expectation is that you have learned a lot and grown and changed as a person. I believe that some of this does happen right away, but a lot of the learning from this experience will also come in the time following our return, as we apply what we have learned into our daily lives. The lessons I have learned have been valuable and I could not have learned them in any other way. Some things have to be learned by first-hand experience, and this trip provided the perfect opportunity for that learning and growth.
This trip taught me to let go of expectations and be more open to taking things as they come instead of starting something with a preconceived idea of what it will be like. I have always been a person who likes to know what is going on, and what is coming next. On this trip, that wasn’t always possible, so I gradually learned to ‘go with the flow’ and accept that you can’t always plan everything. I have definitely brought that skill back with me, and I think it will help me as I go through my life. During the trip, it would have been easy to rush through each activity just to get it done, but I felt it was really important to actually think about what we were doing, and why we were doing it. Our group reflections helped make this possible, and I also challenged myself to keep the lessons we learned in mind so I could continue to process the meanings of them. Now that we have completed all of those exercises, games, discussions, and activities, I can continue to keep them in mind to be more aware and thoughtful.
The main lessons that resonated with me were the ones we learned on our service projects on our universes of obligation, the effects of short-term service trips, and how we approach poverty. These lessons were really meaningful because we were able to apply them right away while on our service learning projects, and also because we can use what we learned in service we do in the future. Before, I had never really thought about how short-term service projects can be both good and bad, and it made me consider how I can do something that is more helpful to people. Above all, going on this trip gave me a new experience that I will never forget. The things I saw, the lessons I learned, the people I met, and the memories I made will remain with me for the rest of my life as I continue to grow and change as a person, and as a global citizen.