Why did you pick this program?
I picked GLA because my parents insisted that the program I chose had to be safe and have constant adult supervision. They didn't want to send me to a foreign country without knowing I would be watched over the whole time! However, I also craved some freedom to gain independence, which GLA also allowed. After reading reviews that promised a changed perspective on life after going on a GLA program, I decided this looked like the best choice.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
If you go on this trip, your life is going to change. You're going to experience a lot of things you haven't before, and meet a lot of people who will inspire you endlessly. You will spend the rest of your life feeling grateful for what you have, and wanting to help those who don't have as much.
Hopefully, you'll stop complaining so much. You will meet people who have so much to complain about, like their lack of cement floors in their houses, but they will be the happiest people you'll ever meet. You'll jump off cliffs, build houses, and conquer your fear of spiders. You will be forever changed, and it will be scary and new and humbling, but it will be the best thing to happen to you. Go for it.
What was the hardest part about going abroad?
For me, the hardest part before leaving was the unknown. I barely knew anything about the Dominican Republic before I went and wasn't exactly sure what we would be doing. The first day when we arrived, I was doubting whether I had made a good choice. We were living in a place with spiders everywhere, I didn't know any of the people, and I was pretty nervous.
However, after a good night's sleep and jumping into our first day of service, the doubts immediately left. I learned to embrace the unknown, and by the end of the trip the very things that had scared me became things I learned to love.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
On a service day, we went to a community to build a school. I helped a Dominican man who spoke only Spanish to build a wall. Despite the language barrier, I quickly learned what he wanted me to do, and we made a good team. After about half an hour, it was time for us to leave, so I said goodbye. The next day, we returned to the community, and the man saw me and got excited and asked me to help him again! It felt so cool to have made a connection with him.
On an adventure day, we hiked Mount Brison. I had never hiked a mountain before, however, I embraced the challenge and kept a positive mindset. When we were about 3/4 of the way up, I started having a panic attack. The mentors helped me with how to breathe to calm down, and after a few minutes, I did. I was embarrassed and thought the other kids might judge me, but they were so helpful.
The best part is that I made it the entire way up, and everyone told me I should be proud of what I accomplished. It felt so amazing to be at the top of the mountain, surrounded by such supportive people, looking over at the beautiful country we had fallen in love within just three weeks.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
The best piece of advice I can give is to stay open-minded and focus on enjoying every moment. This trip really is what you make of it. There are moments that can be less than exciting, such as the long bus rides, but you can either choose to complain and sleep through it, or you can talk to the inspiring mentors, or sing with your new friends. Every moment can be inspiring and life changing if you let it be.