Barbara Jaing is seventeen years old and a senior at Thurgood Marshall High School in San Francisco. She was one of 11 students who received the Matador Travel Scholarship and traveled to Nicaragua this summer with a non-profit organization called Global Glimpse.

Before leaving San Francisco, I felt extremely excited and lucky to begin my summer on this adventure. My initial motivation for taking the trip was to gain a new cultural perspective on my daily life and experience the world outside of my neighborhood. I also wanted to travel so that I may build my leadership skills and sense of direction in life.

To my surprise, I got to do all of those things and so much more. I made close friendships with my three indescribable roommates, students, and neighbors. I created some of the most incredible memories in a completely different country with some people that I have only known for three weeks.

I turned seventeen years old on the third day in Nicaragua. I celebrated my most memorable birthday with a whole new family. I was surprised with two birthday cakes, a special dinner made by our wonderful chef, Norman, and a lively Mariachi band.

Going to Nicaragua, I was looking forward to doing community service abroad. Every Tuesday and Thursday after dinner at the Comedor de Los Angeles, the group would head over to the community center and give English lessons to anyone who wanted to learn. In my beginner group, I had bright students. They were all so eager to learn at every lesson.

There were days when we took time to draw pictures for each other. At our last lesson, we exchanged our goodbye gifts: beautiful Nicaraguan key chains, notebooks, and stickers. We handed our students their diplomas for attending classes for nine weeks and awaited our night surprise.

After the graduation ceremony, we had a talent show where our Global Glimpse group and the students participated in skits, dances, and poetry that in someway reflected how the three weeks had impacted us. We gave our hugs and kisses and departed ways for the night. Who knew that we would see our students once more the next morning when they dropped by our hotel to see us off.

Over the three weeks, I learned to step out of my comfort zone. I spoke more often that I expected myself to. I did not feel dependent on my people from Coro (our leadership program) to take me places or to be with me 24/7. I learned to speak up more and opinionate my thoughts.

My biggest challenge was taking more initiative in creating stronger networks with our courageous guest speakers and dealing with the daily comments on my ethnicity made by everyday people everywhere I went.

My biggest accomplishment however, was really getting out in Nicaragua and exploring the different communities and meeting the children of poor neighborhoods. This opened my eyes more than any other experience I’ve had.

On this trip, I learned that in any society, ignorance is a dangerous state. Being ignorant only harms and changes should and can be made. The world and I have to work together. I learned that I have to be open to the new and I must be aware of the world inside and out.

Upon returning, I have been more aware of my actions and the actions of others. I have been more appreciative of what I have and of those I care about. I have been thinking a lot and have many ideas that still float in my head on what I want to do for the children I met in Nicaragua.

I really recommend traveling to other students my age because wherever they may go in the world, they will learn much about a different culture’s history, it’s challenges, accomplishments, and most importantly, about themselves. In their experiences, they will carefully see the impacts of things that take place before their eyes in the U.S. and be inspired to do something about it.

Community Connection

Do you remember your very first travel experience? Share your reflections with our Brave New Travelers in the comment section below.

Learn more about the Matador Youth Scholarship Fund.

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