The Best Summer of My Life: Traveling and Free Time in the USA
By: Kevin Smith, Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar
Kevin Smith is a Work and Travel participant from Jamaica, working in Harrisburg, PA. In his blog post, he describes how he has spent his free time exploring the United States.
I am usually not someone who takes a great deal of time off from work to travel and socialize with my friends. During my time on the work and travel program, I tended to work every day, with very little time to go out and explore my environment. However, for my final summer going on the program, I decided that I had to change. So this year, I decided to get far more involved in my community and spend more of my free time being active and traveling with friends.
My first step in changing how I utilized my time during the work and travel program, was to give back to my community in a meaningful way. That is why I decided to volunteer more in my community. This volunteerism came in the form of traveling with a small group of my friends to a farm just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This farm helps children with special needs by allowing them to ride horses and enjoy the outdoors. My friends and I had wonderful experiences there, as we got a chance to help groom the animals, organize barns, and take care of some of the simple chores around the farm so that the owners could focus on more important duties. Volunteering allowed me not only to use my free time more effectively, but also allowed me to improve the lives of others.
The second step that I took to use my free time more effectively, was my decision to go on all of the trips that my employer had organized. Previously, I had been reluctant to go on these trips because they would usually cut into my hours at work. But this year, I chose to do something different. From these trips, I realized that I had been missing out on some exciting adventures for the past two years. My employer organized trips to nearby campground, ski resorts, and bowling allies. They did this so that their international students could experience an authentic American summer. These outings were not only fun, but allowed me to connect far more personally with my fellow international students, as I found them to be far more open about their cultures when in a more relaxing environment.
The third step that I took to become fully immersed in my American community was to get outside of my comfort zone. For example, this summer, I saw one of my favorite bands, Paramore, at a live concert. It was the first concert I have ever experienced, and I got a chance to go not only with my fellow international students, but also with some of my American coworkers. We had an incredible time, and it serves as one of my fondest memories from my time in Pennsylvania.
Finally, this summer, I decided to travel a great deal more. The most memorable of these travels was to Washington, D.C., where I had the chance to attend the first annual Greenheart Global Leadership Conference. It was a wonderful opportunity not only to see the capital of the United States and meet exceptional people, but also to learn many lessons about volunteerism and becoming a global leader. These experiences this summer have had a tremendous impact on my life, as they have inspired me to get more involved in my community back in Jamaica and to give back as much as I can.