Lily Marks

Lily is a sophomore in high school in Chicago. 2017 was her first year going on a service trip and since then she has been hooked. When she is not traveling she loves to play volleyball and lacrosse.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose the South Africa service trip because Africa has always been on my bucket list. I wanted to go somewhere that was different from places I have been before and Africa seemed right. The service component of the trip also caught my eye, I had done service in Chicago but I wanted to do something bigger. This program had extensive activities and experiences that I would have never imagined, like visiting Robins Island, zip lining, meeting healer of a tribe and so much more. This trip offered experiences that I knew I would have never gotten anywhere else.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Travel for Teens did everything for me, all I had to do was show up. They provided me with an extensive packing list, all the necessary forms, and a detailed itinerary. Travel for Teens made sure my experience was as easy as could be and it really was. The only thing I was in charge of was showing up for the group flight. Their organization made things so easy and stress-free.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would tell people to not be afraid to disconnect, this trip was 21 days and I had never been away for that long so I was nervous but excited. One thing I told my self before the trip was that I wasn’t going to be glued to my phone, I wasn’t going to be texting my friends or going on snap chat. Yes, I took pictures on my phone, but for the most part, my communication with my family was just a text that I had arrived safely in Africa. I think this is so important because it allows you to experience everything to the fullest, rather than living through your phone.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Everyday was different on the trip, some days we would wake up early to go shark diving or whale watching, some days we would sleep a little longer and then go to the beach and surf and play volleyball. When we're doing service we would wake up, have breakfast, build parts of the playground eat lunch to build a little more, then go back to the hostel and take a nap eat a snack then have a game of volleyball and eat dinner and go to sleep. The days were full of things to do so you are never bored.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was not liking my the trip, that changed the second we landed in Cape Town. I loved every second of the trip and would go back in a heartbeat. I think I was scared because I didn’t know what to expect and that was scary, but I learned to like not knowing everything. I liked waking up every morning and not knowing the exact plan for the day but I knew it was going to be fun.

What was the funniest part of the trip?

A popular activity in my group was beach volleyball, at one of the hostels we stayed at there was another group of students from Spain so our counselors organized a huge game, USA vs Spain. It was a big deal everyone in the hostel came to watch, people were cheering and yelling and music was playing. Our team USA won in the end but it was so much fun.