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GradCity 2017 ScholarTrip Finalist Essay – Skye Levy, Eleanor Roosevelt High School

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GradCity customers traveling on either a 2017 high school spring break or summer graduation trip were asked to participate in the GradCity ScholarTrip contest to win the grand prize of going on their trip for free! Travelers answered the question, “why is it important for high school students to travel and experience the world?” We invite you to read the following essay from finalist Skye Levy from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in New York. To support Skye, click here to visit this post on Facebook and like/share the post to help her earn points!

Parents always ramble about how the years in high school are the most vital to childhood development, which is kind of ironic seeing how they control the majority of our actions, but still, these are the glorified years: the time that we are supposed to mess up and eventually learn from. Everyone, whether it be from personal experience or a friend, knows some version of a story where a 16 year old goes too hard drinking and ends up in a hospital, stays up too late studying and sleeps through the test they prepared so ardently for, or stays out too late and gives their parents a heart attack. These are the years where we undergo the rite of passage to fall off the rails because once we hit our lowest, we can only go back up; a time where judgement is developed because prior to being 16, there is a definite lack of it. Where the paradox arises, however, is the way by which we are supposed to learn these virtues of right vs. wrong. The high school education system has institutionalized and systematized learning down to its core. Now, education has become as simple as either a passing or failing test grade. We either know something or we don’t, and when we don’t, we are feared into thinking that we have no future. In recent years, education has become dictated by words rather than experience; telling, not showing— the opposite of elementary school’s golden rule, show, not tell. What is integral to a cosmopolitan character that will not only survive but enlighten the 21st century, must be created through stepping out of the three dimensional classroom and entering a world of five dimension. Through travel, students are given the chance to learn directly from the terrain that will soon become their reality.

            Travelling is typically equated with the pastime of adults, not the experience of children. Most people view travel as leisure rather than learning, so it is quickly taken advantage of. Somehow it has become ingrained in society that travel is not important to education. In fact, it has become an oddity to hear of a high school student travelling. It is now the norm to learn about something like the Aztec ruins rather than visiting New Mexico. As parents, one main goal for children is for them to be a good person. What they fail to realize, however, is that to be a good person, we need to see the world through eyes other than our own. Personally speaking, I have lived on the Upper East Side for all of my life— I have grown up with the same kids since kindergarten, have gone to the same diner every Friday night and have known my neighbors my whole life. Due to this, I’m only aware of the characteristics of those typical in my 10 block radius, which doesn’t emulate the global community. Through travel, students are given the chance to see how others live and experience somebody else’s normal. Speaking with regard to civil society, in such troubling times— especially those predicted by the 2016 election— it is crucial to actually understand global heritage and community. By witnessing values and civilizations firsthand, we can take certain reasoning into account for what it actually means to be human. By learning how all humans function, we can then begin to integrate normative customs into the global community. Soon, we will become immersed in a cultural melting pot that is comprised of things we would otherwise not have access to. This will not only make us aware of the multitude of notions out there, but will introduce us to a new level of personal thought: thankfulness. If given the chance to visit a third world country, many students would be able to see how much they have and become more appreciative of it. Also, this may inspire a quest of global peace and equality, which always needs more fighters.

In 2016, we witnessed the loss of too many too young: David Bowie, Mohamed Ali, Carrie Fisher, Alan Rickman and countless others. After all of these sudden deaths, I finally understand why everyone preaches the cliche life is so short. Despite its overplayed redundancy, it speaks the truth. Life is too short to just sit on a road of familiarity that spans no more than a childhood mile, migrating smoothly from school to Starbucks to Sweetgreen to Urban Outfitters— how is this living? There is so much more in the world than what we are born into. As humans, we have a falsified tendency to live in what we know. But to truly discover our identity we need to push ourselves past our limits and leave behind the safety blanket that we have clung on too so dearly. Once we let go, then and only then, will we be able to discover our place in the world.