Why did you choose this program?
As I was graduating from High School, an admissions representative of Up With People came to my school and gave a presentation about the program. I was very interested, I had never seen a full show before but I had immediate memories of a school show I saw in Middle School with some people I knew in it. She told us about traveling around the world, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, performing a show, doing community service and just growing as people. I have always loved Traveling, Performing and Community Service, but I was still doubtful about whether or not I should apply. I then thought to myself if I didn't, I would regret it for the rest of my life. So I decided to apply, because I thought the worst that could happen was I didn't get accepted.
Honestly, I am so glad I did, because the day I got my acceptance letter, I was overjoyed and so excited; I would be doing everything that I loved for a year, and even though there were some parts I was nervous about (like the fact that there would be so many new people), I am so glad that I did this because it turns out that these people are some of my best friends now.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Well, I found out about Up With People through an admissions counselor stationed in Bermuda, and they helped me through all the steps that I needed to take to get fill out all the forms and let me know all the medical tests I would need to take. They also gave me different ideas on how I could fund-raise or get scholarships in the program. A few things I had to do on my own was actually raise the money, get my flights and contact my doctors and etc, to get the tests (and proof of such tests). However, my admissions counselor was really helpful and got me through the whole process.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Honestly, this may sound like the most obvious answer, but you REALLY don't need as many things as you are going to pack. Like, you may think you're going to need that many shirts and pants and dresses, but you really won't. I was given SO MANY SHIRTS from sponsors, beneficiaries, service sites and even Up With People themselves. I barely had any room in my suitcase for souvenirs. So pack really smartly; plus, anything you forget, you can probably buy in the first week if you need it! Even on my second semester, I packed too much, and just don't forget you can be stylish with any shirt and pants! I generally tend to mix and match too: I bring black leggings that I can use for workout and professional days, so think of some innovative ways you can 'kill two birds with one stone'!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Well, we have a lot of 'Up With People language', so I will try to spell it out.
On Mondays, they tend to be our travel days, so we get on buses or planes and drive from one city to another. Then Tuesdays-Thursdays tend to be Community Service days, where in the morning we could be doing anything from school workshops with kids, to picking up trash by a river bed. Then in the afternoon on these days we have some workshops with the other members of the cast; these can be just learning about the cities we are in, learning about world news and current issues, or even practicing for our show!
Then on Fridays and/or Saturdays typically tend to be our Show Days, where we come in early in the morning, build our stage, rehearse for our show, perform the show, then take down the stage again!
And finally Sunday is our Host Family Day! In the program, we stay with host families so we can better learn about the culture of each city we are in and not just be tourists. So this is a day where you can hang out with your host families and do some sightseeing, or just having fun!
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I was honestly worried about how I would fit in with all the different people from so many different cultures. Everyone said to me that everyone would love everyone and we would all be friends, and I didn't believe them. I was so worried I wouldn't find any friends or anyone like me. But during the first few days, I got to know so many different people, and not only found out that people also felt worried like me, but that we weren't all so different after all. Now I can say that I have so many friends all around the world and I will say it Loud and Proud.
What are some of your favorite memories abroad?
This may sound so silly, but it really is the small moments in a group of so many people that light up your world and you remember so clearly. I have three little memories that made me laugh so hard, cry so much and feel so loved, that I can still feel it in my gut.
It was in the first few days of everyone getting to know each other, so we were all still a little awkward and shy, then this song plays and one guy begins to dance some of the funkiest choreography in the world, which he'd made up himself. After a little bit of everyone watching and cheering him on, we eventually all joined in on the fun and started clapping and dancing too! One of the most enjoyable moments I can remember us having as a group.
During one rehearsal, as we were practicing a song, the guy who sung the solo was the lights intern at the time, so they weren't there. So the whole cast, as we were sitting on the stage, began singing the song together. The solo parts, the cast vocals, the second soloist parts, as the band was happily playing along. All the staff found it so impressive and amusing because they didn't even know the cast knew the solo parts for it!
I was walking with one of my friends (I won't name names so he won't be embarrassed