Zoey Vadnais’ Global Citizen Project

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?

A Love Letter to Peru

Project submitted by: Zoey Vadnais, West Valley College

No one expected our 11 days in Peru to immediately be met with challenges, but we soon discovered that’s exactly what fate had in store for us. Arriving in Lima and funneling onto the bus at midnight, we were just thinking about getting into bed and all the things that we had planned over the next week and a half – not about the trials we would go through both as individuals and as a group. However, it would be these trials that prompted the connections we formed with each other and the people we met along the way. It would be these trials that got us thinking about what we can achieve when we roll up our sleeves and work together. It would be these trials that helped us deepen our understanding and appreciation of the world.

Our challenges technically started before we had even left the states. Unfortunately, one of our members had a medical emergency on the plane that required him and his partner to stay behind during our layover in Texas. Luckily, he recovered and EF was able to fly them out to meet us the next day – the rest of the group’s first day in Peru. No one expected our first day to go the way it did. Already down two loved members due to them being stuck in another country, both I and our instructor, Chris Cruz, felt ill when we woke up and decided to stay back at the hotel. While I was able to get some rest and eventually meet back up with the group later in the day, Chris was not so lucky. He ended up going to the hospital in Lima for his own medical emergency, where he stayed, essentially for the rest of our trip. Chris is the head of the Park Management program and the lifeblood behind this trip. As we said goodbye, he shared how he had dreamed of this experience since he was young and we all felt his pain and disappointment that he would not be able to join us on our journey. While he was not there with us physically, he was in all of our hearts.

On our second day, I got sick again and was deeply touched by the kindness offered by my group and complete strangers. Getting off the plane, I felt incredibly nauseous and dizzy; I did not think I was going to make it to the door without fainting. It must have been obvious because Molly, one of the other instructors and planners of this trip, immediately put her arm around me and helped me get inside. Molly helped me get to our group, where they started taking my pulse and oxygen levels while offering me food and water. As we were walking, a stranger walked up to me and offered me ginger candies – a remedy she swore by for both altitude sickness and an upset stomach. Other members of the group experienced illness, but fortunately, everyone was able to recover relatively quickly with the help of the other members of the group readily sharing their help, knowledge, and resources. A few days into the trip, we received the news that a graduate of the Park Management program had passed away in a tragic accident. Only known by reputation to some and as a close friend to others, this news hit everyone pretty hard. I think it reminded all of us that life is precious and not something to be taken for granted. It reminded us moments are meant to be lived and turned into memories, hopefully, ones that will stay with us forever.

Right from the start, I realized that this trip would only be possible with teamwork, both on a technical level and on an emotional level. Whether it be getting through the airport, to the bus on time, lending someone sols when they didn’t have enough, helping when someone is sick, or helping a friend through a social interaction, we all banded together to accomplish the task at hand. What our group achieved would not have been possible without the love and support we received from each other or the communities we were surrounded by. This theme of teamwork and community was only reinforced when we arrived at Laquina for our service project. The mamitas of the families who hosted us were waiting for us at the docks, waiting to greet us with smiles and open arms, which turned into hugs. They expressed their gratitude for our participation while we attempted to thank them for housing us, eating with us, and working with us. Communication was not perfect, most of us only spoke a few phrases of Spanish and the families spoke Spanish, Quechua, or Aymara. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, we were able to connect with the families through our actions. Together, we helped to build a section of trail through the town – even the kids of the families were right alongside us carrying small bags of rocks or pushing a miniature wheelbarrow. Seeing the community in Laquina collaborate reminded me of how our group, and the Park Management community as a whole, stand together in good times and bad times. Even if you didn’t go through the program at the same time, there is the knowledge that we have the same roots and love for the natural world.

This trip will remain in all of our hearts and memories forever. My time here has shown me how important it is to cherish your blessings and the people you love. It showed me that I am much more capable than I thought I was as an individual and even more capable when working together with a group of like-minded people. So thank you to Chris. Without you, this trip wouldn’t have been possible. Your love and compassion for the program, the environment, and people is inspiring and motivates me to continue to pursue my goals. Thank you to Molly. Without you, this trip would have fallen apart. You were our rock that kept us grounded when faced with uncertainty. You truly were the group’s Pachamama. Thank you to Francisco. Without you, we would be like lost puppies, wandering the streets of Peru. As you were so fond of telling us, we were definitely not your “normal group” and we take the utmost pride in that. You told us we came as tourists and left as ambassadors – thank you for trusting us with the representation of your country. And thank you to Peru. Without you, I would have never had the chance to grow as a person. You taught me more about myself than I ever expected to learn and showed me how compassionate people can be. Your history, landscape, and wildlife were captivating to learn about and look at. You made this journey unforgettable and I hope to see you again one day.

See the other Global Certificate projects here.