Whether on service trips or studying aboard, several Commodores on the Vanderbilt soccer team had life-changing experiences over their summers off West End.
During the month of May, I took a trip to Costa Rica with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization at Vanderbilt. We ventured to San Jose, Costa Rica for a five-day trip, and those five days had a tremendous impact on my life. This experience allowed me to mature spiritually and meet incredible people who managed to inspire us all. Our purpose was to spread love and joy to darker places of this world. In doing so, we worked on construction projects at a boys’ home, played sports with children from troubled backgrounds and volunteered at a soup kitchen for pregnant women and children. All in all, I learned that a little bit of love goes a long way. It was humbling to share smiles and laughter with those of a completely different culture, which altered my perspective on life itself. My trip to Costa Rica remains a blessing in my life, and hopefully it was a blessing to those I met along the way.
In Costa Rica, Dorsey’s group visited a boys’ home called "Glorioso Dia,” where they juggled a soccer ball in a circle. The group was introduced to several Spanish soccer terms and learned more than a few cool moves from the kids.
When I signed up for the mission trip to Costa Rica, I expected my perspective on certain things to change. I knew the lives of people in Costa Rica could contrast starkly with my own. Two months later, it remains difficult for me to fully grasp the experience, as this trip was the most valuable and rewarding opportunity I have ever participated in. The hardest thing to do was to leave the children each day and know that I would likely never see them again. With each day’s departure, I'd pray that God guide them in whatever they dreamed with their lives. I embarked on a mission trip hoping to change people's lives, but I left having my own life changed for the better. I routinely take simple pleasures for granted in my relatively "normal" life, whereas so many people in this world live with much less than I do. Yet those people persevere with outsized hearts and steadfast faith. As cliché as it sounds, emotions still run high as I reflect my week in Costa Rica and recall all of the amazing individuals I met. I feel blessed and thankful that I had the opportunity to take part in this mission trip with FCA, and I am look forward to similar adventures in the future.
If I had to sum up my mission trip in one phrase, it would be “life-changing.” This summer, I ventured to three different countries in a single month with a humanitarian and leadership group at Vanderbilt. The group included 32 of us ranging in age from 80 to 20. It was a learning experience, to say the least. We began our adventure in South New Zealand before making our way to North New Zealand, Vanuatu and finishing in Fiji. Each place was beautiful in its own way, but our destinations were shockingly impoverished. Before I left when I envisioned Fiji and New Zealand as extravagant places on the opposite side of the world, and to some degree that’s the case. But I soon realized how much help those areas truly need. I wanted to be a person who helps.
Along the way, we witnessed a lack of access to clean drinking water, which made me recognize how much I take for granted in my life. On one day, we traveled to a school where students ran utilized a huge bucket – the size of a hot tub – as their only source of drinking water. These girls dipped their heads under the faucet, where the water came out dirty and practically black, but it didn’t seem to faze them at all. Indeed, this was nothing unfamiliar to them. When asked how often students or their family members get sick from drinking water, almost every student in the classroom raised their hand. Seeing how the filters we brought changed their lives and brought them happiness was truly rewarding. It made me realize that during my Vanderbilt career, and beyond, I want to dedicate more time and effort towards to bringing clean drinking water to countries in need. But I also want to help spread awareness towards foundations that help prevent abuse and suicide, as well as aid in programs that help create better lives for previously incarcerated teens.
My trip to Jamaica was the happiest I have ever been in my life. I randomly signed up for a service trip through our athletic department that would be taking various athletes from all different teams to Montego Bay, Jamaica. I had absolutely no idea the impact that this trip would not only make on myself, but about 700 Jamaican kids. During this trip, we had the opportunity to go to several different schools and pass out shoes to children. To be able to see how thankful somebody could be for a single pair of shoes, and to watch them run away and show all their friends, was truly a moment that can only be matched by watching the smile that appeared or by feeling their warm embrace as you start to slide a shoe on their foot. I know how everybody comes back from service trips and says the same thing” “That was the best experience of my life!” But there is truly no feeling in this world that is remotely close to the moment you realize you are a part of something so much bigger than yourself.
While in Jamaica, Vanderbilt student-athletes jumped rope, chased each other around the school and passed out shoes to local students.
My Maymester experience was a once and a lifetime opportunity. I have met unbelievable connections that I hope will help me in my future endeavors to help those with health issues around the world.
The first day in Geneva, Switerland, the group and I had the opportunity to meet the high commissioner of the United Nations, who is the highest-ranked person in the UN. Next, we got to learn about the UN at their headquarters in Geneva and learn how the UN runs globally. Later that day we went to the World Trade Organization building to get better insight on their goals and objectives internationally. On Day 2 in Geneva, we visited the United Nations Palace. All of the paintings, statues, the peacock, and others were all given to the UN as gifts from various countries. An absolutely magnificent gift was a painted ceiling that Spain gave the UN. On the third day, the group got the opportunity to go to the World Health Organization and learn the ins and outs of what WHO does. During the last few days in Geneva, we got to go to the Red Cross, UNHCR, WHO, and my favorite place, MSF (doctors without borders). We also went to a history museum, and with some free time we explored the city some more.
The next stop was Chamonix, France, by far my favorite place from the whole trip. The pictures don't even do it justice. We took a bus ride up the mountain and the group all hiked down. The week in Chamonix was filled learning about romanticism and going to the same places that Lorde Byron, Keats, and Shelley all wrote their works. In addition, we spent the rest of the time hiking the Swiss Alps.
The third stop was Murren, Switzerland. That was filled with more hiking and more poetry. Like Professor Barsky says, there is always beauty in the sublime. Our fourth stop was in Zurich, Switzerland, where we learned about Dadaism.
The last and final destination for the group was a stop in Rome, Italy. The first day we were lucky enough to get a private tour of the Vatican and go to the Pope’s summer home. The rest of the week was filled with good food, good people, good places, and phenomenal meetings with various organizations. Rome was a ton of fun, and I hope to get the opportunity to go back again.