High School Travel Scholarship Global Exchange Student Opportunity

Watch out, it’s cold and flu season and I heard that wanderlust is pretty contagious. The summer after my junior year of high school (Summer 2015) I was blessed to with the opportunity to travel to Guatemala. Upon returning home, I was diagnosed with a severe case of wanderlust. Some would argue that I caught wanderlust before apply to be a Wandering Scholar. Some of the main symptoms of wanderlust include: an urge to expand culture horizons, a will to step beyond comfort zones, and a desire to gain a global perspective of the world.

Growing up in a single-parent household my family didn’t have extra money to take leisurely spring, summer, and winter vacations. As a result, I grew up only knowing Wisconsin and its’ adjacent states. Being a Wandering Scholar has opened my mind to new opportunities, become intercultural aware, and increased my global perspective.

I am now a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Food Science with a certificate in Environmental and Community Sociology.  This past Winter Break, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Israel.  My trip to Israel was a gift from UW-Hillel and Shorashim Israel. I went to Israel because I wanted to explore and learn more about my cultural and religious identity. The pre-departure planning was similar to The Wandering Scholar. Leading up to the trip I actively engaged in cultural, language, and “current news” immersion.  I immersed myself with Israeli Culture and News, attended weekly Shabbat Dinners and services, and attended an introductory Hebrew language course. None of this was mandatory, I made the personal choice to participate in these pre-trip activities because I knew it would  make my trip more engaging and meaningful to me.

I am thankful that the Wandering Scholar helped me gain pre-departure planning, autonomy, intercultural-communication skills, and global exposure. I’ve said this before, but being a Wandering Scholar doesn’t end at the designated “10-week” mark. Everyday, I carry the skills and values that I learned from my adventure a Wandering  Scholar with me. I’ve  learned how to take responsibility for my own learning by setting goals and work towards them. In addition, I learned to be globally aware through appreciating and understanding cultural differences.

My trip to Israel was fantastic! It was a great end to 2016 and a wonderful start to 2017. Isreali culture is vibrant and fascinating, however I was surprised by the long plane ride. It is a fourteen-hour plane ride from Newark, New Jersey to Tel Aviv, Israel. After calculating domestic plane flights and anticipated delays it takes about 20-24 hours to travel to Israel. No matter how much pre-trip planning, it is very difficult to avoid jetlag.

My number one travel tip to first time travelers is to bring battery packs a (for phones, tablets, and e-readers) and a universal wall adaptor. There is nothing worse than being on a domestic/international flight that doesn’t have outlets under the seats. Or even worst hoovering over the designated “charging stations” at the airport. To solve this problem, just invest in a battery pack that can charge a device multiple times. Lastly, I recommend extra SD cards for cameras/phones-nobody wants to run out of storage.

At the end of the day, my number one advice to a new traveler is to step out of your comfort zone, try new things, try new things, be safe, and have fun!  Also, don’t forget to pack Vitamin C because a wanderlust is contagious. Once you get it, you’ll want to fill all the pages of your passport!

Until Next Time,
Alexis Terry read more →

I gained something I never thought I could from visiting another country: perspective. I had no expectations going into this trip which I highly recommend for future travelers. Going into this trip without expectations lead to the possibility to be surprised and delighted by everything I had done. I was surprised that someone as myself who usually lives a life of complexity could live simply. I did not think I could be completely independent yet from my family or be staying in places where it is normal for people to eat dinner together and leave doors open all the time for neighbors to wander in and out. I did not think I could be in so many situations where bugs are all around and not be bothered by it or be completely dirty or sweaty and accept it is natural. I did not think I could be without makeup and not be constantly in a “fashion show” as my mother says. I did expect to make so many friends but I did not know they would impact my life and be missed so much afterwards. All these thoughts I had were not expectations I had in my mind to defeat before this trip but things I had discovered along the way as the time I spent here progressed and I noticed myself changing.

This travel has inspired me to want to travel more and continue to be surprised by other cultures. I loved working on our service project that we had accomplished but when I go to other places this will not be why I go. I have realized from being around so many others who live such a different lifestyle from those of someone from the states, that when I travel I want to befriend others so instead of trying to be an American that comes in entitled trying to help since I would feel as though they are inferior. I do not want to be a savior since most others don’t want to lose the feeling of independence to rely on a stranger that comes from one of the most developed nations. I want to meet others and learn from their culture and give respect as a visitor.

I have never been one to say no to new experiences and that quality will always stay with me. I hope to always build new bridges for myself and continue to discover new opportunities. To enjoy what comes on the other side of a metaphorical bridge, you must completely immerse yourself in an experience. Take yourself out of your routines and habits and create new memories. This memory of Costa Rica will stay with me forever as well as the perspective I have gained from my visit. read more →

It has been a little over a month upon returning from Costa Rica and I still think about my trip every day. I didn’t expect to get so close to the people I travelled with and attached to the country itself. It was my first time going abroad and I wasn’t with anyone familiar, so I thought I would end up isolating myself and going into my comfort zone. However, I surprised myself many times- from little things such as actually trying new foods (I’m an extremely picky eater), to voluntarily embarking on lengthy nature walks. I feel the biggest lesson I took away from this trip was learning how to take chances because more times than not they can benefit you. In regards to Building Bridges, Not Walls I completely agree with the central theme of the article. I think over the last few years it has become less important to actually immerse yourself into something that interests you. If you give it a few moments of fleeting attention and maybe a retweet, that’s good enough. With the direction our society is going in this is not going to cut it anymore. In my everyday life, I feel that I am more willing to take risks and be more expressive about my passions due to being inspired on my trip. I would love nothing more than to have the chance to return to Costa Rica someday. read more →

Growing up in NYC is something I’m grateful for because it has allowed me to be around a diverse group of people most of whom are accepting of others differences. There is always a mix of people where not one person is the same. In a way, it became like a comforting bubble of sorts sledding me away from feeling different. What surprised me about myself is that I felt a bit intimidated by my fellow group travelers. Based on how they looked. I felt different and stood out were in NYC I blended in. I worried if I could make friends which is surprising because I can get along and befriend people easily. But, now looking back I find myself-silly for worrying about this. Because everyone was great and I will always cherish the memories I made with my fellow travel companions. We shared our dreams and goals in Costa Rica under the starry night during our midnight turtle walks on the beach. Another thing that surprised me about myself is that I wasn’t that scared of bugs/insects. (We co-existed together). I was mesmerized by the beauty Costa Rica had to offer. What surprised me about Costa Rica is how eco-friendly it is (from their sewer system to their trash recycling.

Global travel has always been an interest for me. Now that I have experienced it first hand it has made me all the more eager to search for my next adventure. Since the Costa Rica trip was based on Wildlife Conservation it has also made me more open to traveling not just to experience the culture but also helping out and giving back.

I definitely 100% agree with the Everyday Ambassador blog post, “Why Build Bridges, Not Walls?” idea of building bridges. It is all the more important if not urgent for more bridges to be built in this time of crisis based on current events. People have long been building walls around their hearts and minds, and in doing so hurting society as a whole. I even fell into this mind set of building walls subconsciously when I felt intimidated by how different my fellow companions were compared to me. Popping my bubble of security that I have had all my life growing up in New York City and putting up a Wall of defense. But, this “wall” collapsed with the shine of friendship and instead formulated a bridge of happiness, adventure and a lifetime of memories.Walls have no place in today’s world. People have come too far to take steps back into a period of separation. Although there is separation, it is not to the same extent since there is hope to close the gap between this separation. I hope to climb any walls that I may build today, tomorrow or in the future.


  read more →

Memories are a sneaky thing. They creep out, slowly and quietly, so you don’t even know they’ve gone. Time eats away at them, until they are only sweet remembrances. There are so many things I wish I could hold onto and remember from my travels, but already, my experiences and new friends seem so far away.


Still, I am happy to note subtle but lasting differences in my lifestyle and outlook that result from my trip to Costa Rica. It’s funny, because oftentimes my friends ask me how long my trip lasted, and it feels like almost a lie to say it was just a short ten days. The many things I’ve seen, done, and learned make it seem to me like my trip was so much longer.

I don’t want to use a cliche and say my trip was life-changing, but at least in the scope of conservation, it was. Before my trip, I never was one to think much about the environment. Naturally, growing up in a not-as-affluent household, I was conscious about turning off the lights/water and recycling, but these weren’t priorities in my head; I did them without thinking. But seeing the level of care all the volunteers at the Reserva put into doing these simple things, and more importantly directly seeing the wildlife and nature that would be harmed as a result of not conserving truly made me much more conscious about my actions.

One of the most valuable things I learned was during one of my interviews, after I confessed to not knowing much or caring much about conservation: without conservation, many of the people I care about and want to learn about would disappear, and their livelihoods destroyed. This really put things into perspective for me, and I’m beginning to understand how everything is interrelated. This means even the smallest of actions, like forgetting to take a reusable bag to the grocery store, could have a tenfold impact.

Back in the US, I find myself triple-checking to make sure all the lights are off when I’m not using them, limiting the water I use in the shower, picking up trash I see in my neighborhood, and being really aware about how much meat I eat or where I dispose my trash. One challenge is that the recycling bin in my city only goes out once every two weeks, so my family and I often find that there is just not enough space to recycle everything we’d like to, so I’m hoping we can find a solution to that. All in all, I now have a newfound appreciation for nature and for conservation, which bleeds into many practices and perspectives throughout my daily life.

Although I’ve never thought much about it, I’m very fortunate to live where I do in Connecticut – there are many protected forests and state parks and local organizations such as land trusts and conservation committees. In the future, I hope to expand upon this project and get involved with conservation groups in my area. Last but not least, I want to keep in mind that “we vote with our money,” meaning whatever we buy, we support. This means we support the system that enables the products we use, further highlighting the necessity of choosing consciously.

My perspective toward Costa Rica, Spanish, and travel in general were also radically altered. Before my trip, I completed pre-departure assignments and researched Costa Rica, but Costa Rica was just another place on the map. I had known that Costa Rica would have rich biodiversity, but knowing that and seeing the mangroves and capuchin monkeys for myself were two completely different things. Similarly, I had known that rice and beans were a staple of the diet, but didn’t really know until I had tasted it for myself. Now, I can personally attest to the beautiful starry nights and friendly locals, people and places that are more than mere names to me.

It was also a really amazing opportunity to take my Spanish beyond the classroom and see the looks of surprise when people in Costa Rica heard me speaking their language! I learned the value of knowing a language – it’s not as easy to remind yourself when you’re in a classroom, just learning grammatical conventions or completing worksheets. I met a lot of volunteers who had learned Spanish in school but had never really absorbed it; these same kids left Costa Rica with renewed passion to improve their Spanish. This is a lesson to me that all learning is valuable and useful – we just need to remember that in our daily lives.

I find that I miss many of the little moments most – talking to Gaby and cooking with her in the kitchen, playing soccer on the beach, learning Spanish slang, playing mafia during thunderstorms, walking along the beach at midnight. In hindsight, I am so incredibly thankful for my documentation project, which forced me to get out of my comfort zone and talk to everyone – researchers, locals, fellow volunteers. I gained so many insights and enjoyed my trip more than I could even have imagined. I just wish I could’ve taken more pictures with the people there, and not just of them!

It is bittersweet to be back home, but I’m blessed to have received this opportunity. Costa Rica~ You are so dearly missed. Signing off for the last time…! Thank you to everyone who’s made this time so special. read more →