If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to travel. If you don’t travel or experience you won’t know, and if you don’t know, you won’t grow. An accomplishment of mine that I can say changed me, was traveling to Nairobi, Kenya. I was challenged in so many new ways that I was not prepared for while I was volunteering for a few weeks at the Makimei Children’s Home. This was my first time out of the country; I never would have thought that I would be traveling to Africa for my first trip out of America. As the time approached for me to leave for Nairobi, I was filled with emotions. Stressed, nervous, overwhelmed from the questions and concerns of family members, and, of course, I was excited to see what the trip was going to bring me.
A lot of people asked me how I ended up in Kenya. To sum the answer up, I don’t take no for answer, and I always go after what I want. As a senior in college during my Fall semester I was feeling too comfortable, and as if I needed a change in life; better yet a challenge. I told myself, as well as my friends, that I was going to study abroad for my last semester in Africa. Most did not believe me, others told me to just relax; I would be graduating soon and just, “stick it out.” I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing, but I am not too good at listening to other’s people advice. I am good at taking criticism, and open to suggestions, but if I am told not to do something it is not too likely that I will follow. I need to learn for myself, and the best way to do that is through experience.
So, I began researching studying abroad opportunities through my school. After attending several meetings, I was told that I had missed the deadline to study abroad and if I was to do it through a program not at my university; I would not receive any funding from the school. A lot of people would have gave up there, but like I said, never settle for “no.” I will always find a way.
I must be honest; the process of traveling out of the country is quite overwhelming, especially when it is your first time, and you’re all alone. My flight was cancelled due to a snow storm. But, looking at the good in every situation; my new flight required me to spend some time in Italy. Once I finally arrived in Kenya, I was told that my luggage had been lost. I was in Africa with nothing for the first five days. But, I wouldn’t change my experience for nothing.
My view on the world changed. People complain so much, even over the little things. Visiting Africa and seeing how unfortunate some of these families are living, will humble a person real quick. I came across some of the most carefree and pleasant individuals in Nairobi, Kenya. Everybody was friendly and had smiles on their faces, even through the conditions that they were living in. It completely shocked me, and made me quite angry as well.
I was volunteering in an orphanage that had no running water. Yet, we will stand at the sink in the morning brushing our teeth, not even appreciating the water that is coming out of the faucet. There were mice running around their home, flies landing on their food every second, kittens lying the same crib as the babies, no working toilets to go to the bathroom in. The floor was the bathroom to the children. The conditions were devastating; but us Americans, who have it so good, do not appreciate the little things in life.
After a few weeks in Kenya, I thought I was ready to come home. I was ready to get back to my hot shower, my clean kitchen, my bed, other food than the every day rice and potatoes that I was eating. But, not even a day back home in Philly, I found myself saying that I missed Kenya. Which was completely true. Everything was so simple there. Everybody so content and happy, not worried about the unnecessary things in life. Before you get too caught up in this world, volunteer abroad. Take it a bit further than simply just traveling. Even if it is for a week or two, it will change your entire perspective.