By: Gaojing (Lydia) Sun, Greenheart Exchange Work and Travel participant and 2017 Ambassador Scholar

 As the Chinese saying goes “If three of us are walking together, at least one of the other two is good enough to be my teacher.” Indeed, I have learned quite a lot from those I have been surrounded by while in Tomah. I am going to pick two of them to reflect upon and explain some of the lessons I have learned from them.

First, my boss. My boss is a humorous guy with a big shoulder. I am not talking about his physical appearance, but rather his capacity to handle stress, which I have learned from him. Being a manager who is in charge of a large-scale holiday village, I have never seen him take a break. At the beginning of a day, no matter how early I come in to work, I encounter him already working hard. When I occasionally work extra hours, I come across him checking other people’s work. I couldn’t help but wonder how a person could live without sleeping! It seems to me that his days are full of stress and hard work, reminding me of the importance of persistence — life is tough! I asked my manager for affirmation of my observations. I was wondering if he was really stressed. On the contrary, he explained that he enjoyed his work! I felt suddenly enlightened, and realized that life is truly what you make it.

Second, my workmate, Mario, has been very influential. From observing him, I have learned two important things. First, and most importantly, I have realized that I should always be myself. I have never had such an overwhelming feeling before, and it is almost frightening! I hoped, aspired, and dreamed that I would one day develop my own principles to live by and stick to! This has always been a place in my life where I have struggled, and I even doubted that humans had principles for a while. When I sit in self- reflection, I often feel as though there is a “Jekyll and Hyde” situation among people. For me, many times, it seems as though my “Hyde” is stronger than my good sense, and it sometimes defeats me, no matter how hard I try. For example, sometimes I will debate between working hard and simply taking a shortcut in my housekeeping job, especially when I see people who get paid more, but are not working very hard. But after I observed Mario’s indescribable work, I felt as though I truly comprehended and understood the saying, “What you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts.” Essentially, this means that both the positive and negative results of a situation balance each other out in the end. Therefore, the places in your life where you have the most challenges and changes will also become the places where you can give the most! The second big thing I learned from Mario is being organized. I feel lucky that I have had the opportunity to work with him this summer. Although we have the same job duties, he approaches situations differently! He always comes up with different and unique ways to solve problems. As a liberal arts student, I feel as though organization and problem solving skills are necessary to master.

While I have been in the United States, I have realized that I am keen on observing the people and places around me. On one hand, I am fond of observing scenery. I have enjoyed seas as smooth as if they were painted. I have felt fierce winds from forests. With fabulous and placid sunsets, it seems like all happiness and excitement, disappointment and depression can vanish. I have observed thousands of wonderful places. On the other hand, I am also interested in observing people. To some extent, a person’s character can be revealed by their motivations and the ways in which they handle their affairs. With that in mind, when I observe others, I look for the merits and characteristics which I can learn from; it gives me a sense of security. I deeply enjoy silence and solitude, which allows me to think, observe, and reflect.

When I reflect on this summer and my time in Tomah, appreciation fills my heart! I have met so many nice people, and I have been blessed with beautiful sunsets and sunrises. I would like to thank every coworker I have met here, as well. I have never had an experience like this summer before, and it will be bittersweet to go home! While I have been here, I have learned so much. I love Tomah.

Lydia has fallen in love with her summer experience and the people she has met! Check out Greenheart Exchange’s program if you are looking for a life-changing summer full of new adventures.