“Venture outside your comfort zone, the rewards are worth it!”
- Rapunzel, Tangled
We are so fortunate to live in beautiful East Tennessee. There’s mountains, lakes, four seasons, farmland that goes for miles, and, of course, the Vols! There’s nothing better than sweet tea and Dolly, right?
This is what I always believed. I’ve lived in Rogersville my entire life. Never traveled further north than Ohio, never traveled further south than South Carolina. I chose a college that would allow me to live “away” from home, but be just close enough where I could come home every weekend. I never knew anything else, my bubble was my oyster.
However, my sophomore year of college, I had the opportunity to participate in The Disney College Program. This program allowed me to move to Orlando, Florida for a semester and work for The Walt Disney World Resort. This was not only the most rewarding time of my life, but also the most nerve racking.
I know what you’re thinking.. There’s no way I could ever do something like that. Trust me, I thought the exact same thing. I know Orlando isn’t as exciting as traveling to Paris, but for me it was a huge step. At that time, I barely knew how to turn the stove on. I think that’s why I needed to do something like this. I needed to learn how to take care of myself. I was very blessed with two wonderful parents who continuously supported me in any way they could, but I knew the only way I was ever going to “grow up” was to rip off the band aid.
Growing up in East Tennessee, we don’t get a lot of diversity. When I worked at Typhoon Lagoon water park, many of my coworkers were from Australia, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Great Britain. My roommates were from Oklahoma, Michigan, New Jersey, and Arizona. I learned more about different cultures, religions, sexuality, and foreign policies in five months than in twelve years in the public school system and one-and-half years in a private college. I believe my exposure to these different cultures made me a more rounded individual. I am able to see different perspectives on issues I never understood before because it’s always been a one-sided conversation. The ability to step outside your norm and really listen to what other people around the world have to say is inspiring and exciting.
A question that comes up very often is how do you afford something like this? The wonderful thing about study abroad programs and internships is that they offer scholarship and many internships are paid and offer housing. With the Disney College Program, I worked 30 to 50 hours a week which paid for my apartment and left me with spending money to explore. If traveling is something you are interested in, there’s no better time to go than during your college years. Colleges and universities offer so many affordable opportunities for their students that would cost thousands of dollars, otherwise. Be sure to ask your academic advisor or study abroad advisor about different opportunities and scholarship your school may offer.
“All your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them,” Walt Disney
Right now, think about the one place in the whole world you would visit if you could… Is it Hawaii? What about Rome? Maybe, it’s New York City? Now tell me, what is stopping you from going? If you’re college or university offers opportunities to visit or live in your dream travel destination, why not take it? College is the time to rip off the band aid, discover who you are, pursue your dreams, and go the distance.
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