Travelers on EF Study Abroad programs can receive our EF/Nobel Prize Museum Global Citizen Certificate, issued by EF Education First and the Nobel Prize Museum, upon completion of a multimedia project based on their study abroad experience. The Global Citizen Project is designed to equip students with the skills to be leaders for peace and global prosperity and can use this certificate of completion in their own resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and portfolio. Learn more about our Global Citizen Project.
Our travelers responded to this prompt: The Nobel Prize Museum celebrates the world-changing ideas of the Nobel Laureates, and their commitment to making the world a better, more truthful place. How did your travel experience help you deepen your appreciation of the global dimensions of your program, uncover a truth about the world, develop a new idea, or provide you with the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable you to contribute to making the world a better place?
Global Perspectives Essay
Project submitted by: Isabella Crabtree, Milligan University
I spent the better half of my life being raised in a small, rural coal town in the south of West Virginia. Throughout my childhood, I watched as the price of coal dropped and the population percentage of opioid addiction exponentially inclined. I was always considered to be a rather intelligent young individual, not from any outstanding achievement, but more so from the fact that I had a ‘good’ family that had experienced some sense of success in its endeavors. A lot of the praise I received as a child, especially in school, was in remembrance of the path my sister carved years before me. Teachers and parents remembered her for her good manners and eagerness to learn, and this soon became the expectation for me. With this expectation always came the phrase, “You need to get out of here when you grow up. Use that smart head of yours to go make a name for yourself elsewhere,” as if I was too good for the place that had molded me.
By the time I was going into high school, I had ‘gotten out’, but again, this wasn’t really anything of my doing. I had no say in my family’s decision to move three hours south to Tennessee. In fact, for a long time, I resented this decision that stripped me of the friends, mentors, and culture that had for so long guided my actions. Even with such a short change in distance, the culture was drastically different, and I deeply struggled to make authentic friends. But I had done it. I had gotten out of the dreaded small town in hopes of bigger opportunities. And I hated every second of it for about three years, until I began to accept and adapt to my surroundings. I started to see the good in this now not-so-new place. This culture had beneficial qualities too. I stopped focusing on all that I had lost, and instead, I began to realize what I had gained. Not only that, but I started to carry these good qualities of these two places around in my heart, like a little girl would carry her favorite stuffed animals. This didn’t happen naturally, but only as I began to really immerse myself in exploring all that this place had to offer. I slowly developed a deep desire to explore, and as I headed into college, this desire became overwhelming.
I pursued Milligan, a small liberal arts school that requires a seemingly overwhelming sixteen credit hours’ worth of humanities classes, known to be stressful. Luckily, in high school I had dual enrolled in a few classes to knock out a four-hour credit class, leaving me with three classes to take. Then, like a gift from heaven itself, I learned about the so called ‘Humanities Tour’, a short study abroad trip meant to replace the last humanities course. What a score. I thought “I only have to take two of these classes and I get to travel? No way I’m missing out on that,” and I immediately told my mom I was signing up. This was in 2020, the infamous year of Covid-19. I had signed up for the 2021 trip with plans of visiting eastern Europe, which I was thrilled for. As luck would have it though, that trip would get cancelled. So, the 2022 trip to London, Normandy, Paris, Florence, and Rome was the next shot, and at this point, I was thankful to get to go anywhere.
After two years of living through a pandemic, May 2022 finally came, and in a whirlwind, so did the trip. Unfortunately, the whole Covid thing hindered my ability to make a mass of connections during my freshman year. I had built up a strong introverted nature and a small circle of friends, none of whom were going on this trip. I was stressed about not having spoken to any of the people on this trip before, but I was pushing it down, hoping it would drown under the waves of excitement for finally getting to see the world. Somehow, it did, and within the eight-hour plane ride from Atlanta to London, I had a group of friends that would leave their marks on my heart for a lifetime. I blossomed within this group of people, thriving socially in a way I didn’t know I could, because I had to. As we travelled together, we shared intimate moments that words could never do justice.
These moments weren’t just shared within our group of thirty though. They were shared with strangers from all across the world. On the ferry to Normandy, we laughed as tears trickled down our faces with English and French natives as we had battles in Just Dance. In Paris, we swooned as one of our boys bought a rose and gave it to our lovely tour director, Claire, under the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. In London, we held deep conversations about the fears of our society over a pint in a local pub. In Florence, we met fellow Americans who I still talk to a month after our return. In Normandy, as we honored our fallen Americans with the playing of the national anthem in the American Cemetery, everyone in the cemetery, regardless of nationality, stopped to mourn with us.
I learned a lot on this trip, most of which I will never be able to express within the limits of my vocabulary. I learned basic parts of new languages. My eyes learned how to take in everything that they could, not taking for granted the beauty that lie in front of them. Aside from these small things that I’m sure everyone who has travelled feels like they’ve gained, I was taught perspective and compassion. I went on this trip hoping to see old, beautiful things, which I most definitely did. The thing I value the most though is having experienced the power of human connection in a way that was outside of my comfort zone. I realized that no one is too good for anyplace, and that every place has its own good traits. Just because I met good people and had great experiences in the places I visited, doesn’t limit me from being impacted from other places. However, if I allow every place to impact me, then I can continue to carry those good qualities, constantly adding to my collection of stuffed animals through my connection with the people along the way.
In a society that is just recovering from a pandemic, facing new threats to peace, and becoming largely divided, connecting with one another is imperative. It is so easy for us to get caught up in the illusion of connection that is social media and forget about the type of connection that only comes from seeing the facial expressions of others as they tell you their life story. We think we are connected because we look at what is trending on Twitter or what the news says, and we form our opinions with that information, hardening our hearts to those that can’t be seen from our screens. It is so easy to unknowingly form prejudices against the world and sink in the fear that it is this terrible place when we use technology as our only form of interaction. When I had real, face-to-face conversations with these people of vastly different cultures and nationalities, I became aware that these people aren’t just a number in some statistic. These people are real and tangible, as are their feelings and experiences. My perspective was altered immensely with this realization, and my capacity for compassion to fellow humans was multiplied. The best thing we can do to fight for peace in a world that is so desperately seeking it, is to interact with those of different backgrounds than us, leaving our opinions and pre-formed predilections behind. We must focus on each other’s hearts. We must laugh with each other, cry with each other, and love one another, so that in the face of disagreement, we can at the very least express empathy in the search for a solution. We must learn the good parts of one another so that eventually, we are overflowing with kindness towards one another. And as we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with one another, this can be uncomfortable. However, if we explore outside the limits of our comfort zone, then we will undoubtedly grow to progress our future to be a more peaceful place.
See the other Global Certificate projects here.