By Hannah Saltz
Traveling to a foreign country can be exciting. Seeing new cultures and exploring new places is a privilege that not many people have. Regardless of where one travels, or why, they must be respectful towards the people and the culture of the country – no exceptions. High school students are traveling abroad more than ever, especially for the purpose of volunteer work. This work shows potential colleges that these students are well rounded and caring people, which they hope gives them a larger chance of acceptance. But, what is the difference between taking an experience and smacking it down on your resume and being truly satisfied with what you’ve done?
In the spring of 2016, I traveled to Panama through HB. Halfway through my program, I flew with my fellow peers and teachers to Punta Vieja and stayed at Casa Cayuco. One morning, we hiked through the woods with the goal of painting a cafeteria for a school in one of the villages. This village had recently gained access to clean water through new pipeline technology. We spent the day painting, even though the tropical rain kept pouring down on us. During our time there, small children ran around us, circling our feet and looking up to us with wonder. By the end of the day, the cafeteria was painted stripes of white, green, and blue. Everyone’s shirts were soaking and covered in paint, but we were okay with it and happy with the amount of work we did.
Walking away from this experience and looking back on it two years later, I realized that this is not something I will go around to everyone and talk about for hours on end. I’m not going to brag about my experiences in a heroic sense to colleges, because it is not something I did for the sole purpose of looking “well rounded.” I painted a cafeteria and donated school supplies to smaller villages in Panama. I learned so much from those experiences and I will forever be grateful for them. This trip is a precious experience that has truly made an impact on me and has not just been something to put on a resume.