At FlipKey, we value the importance of travel and cultural immersion as a way to learn about the world firsthand, which is why we held a contest for one student to win a $1,000 study abroad scholarship. We asked entrants to tell us, in essay form, why travel is important to him or her, and we want to send a big thank you to everyone who entered and helped make the contest a success!
A special congratulations to Grace Inkala of the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire, the winner of FlipKey’s 2018 Study Abroad Scholarship! From tuition costs to plane tickets and spontaneous excursions in between, we hope you use the $1,000 to create lots of memories during your semester abroad in Winchester, England.
Grace’s winning essay is printed in full below.
There are certain moments in a person’s life that stay ingrained in their mind forever. For me, this moment happened in April 2011 when I went on my first mission’s trip. Once the plane landed in Honduras my excitement was uncontrollable; I couldn’t wait to see what the upcoming week would have in store. What I failed to realize as I took my first steps on Honduran soil, was that my world—or my preconceived notions of the world—would be forever changed.
The first days in Honduras were filled with fun activities and getting settled in, but it wasn’t until I traveled to a small impoverished village that I began to see the unfortunate realities of poverty. My team and I were building a latrine for a family who recently lost the little they had in a flood. While in the village, I met a young girl named Genesis. She was sitting in the mud playing with a broken, dirty Barbie doll. Watching her play happily with a toy I considered garbage shook me beyond belief, because up until this point I couldn’t picture happiness without nice possessions. As the week progressed, Genesis was continuously on my mind. Her joy is initially what gave me the desire to travel more frequently. To this day, even 7 years later, I still think of Genesis and hope that someday I may develop her same type of joy. The kind that is built upon counting blessings.
My second “forever moment” happened in January 2016 while I was in Panama serving at a men’s nursing home. I had been on the tail end of a 6-month-long program through an organization called Youth with a Mission (YWAM). At the nursing home, I had the privilege of serving the elderly men in the most humbling way possible; washing their feet. There I met an elderly blind man named George. He had a rough past, but he spoke great English and we became fast friends. What I will never forget about George were his joy and smile. It was on this day, through this initially uncomfortable situation that I served people not out of obligation, but through genuine compassion and desire. It wasn’t until I got completely out of my comfort zone that I experienced something so beautiful.
Coming back home after my previous mission trips was when I realized I will never think the same. Too often I have fallen into the trap of believing my way is best or my ideas are superior to others. However, when I have traveled abroad I begin to see the world in a new light. For lack of a better phrase, traveling wrecks me. It deconstructs all of my previous approaches, mentalities, and notions that I once found familiar. It shakes me from my inner core. These profound, unexplainable, undeniable emotions are why I think traveling is important. When I travel, I encounter fresh realizations that pave the way for a newfound joy and appreciation for life.
Living in the United States, work-life stress and daily obligations are at the forefront of my mind. But whenever I get the opportunity to go abroad, I see how other cultures are centered on joy. This joy is why I am inspired to travel. It’s the infectious smiles, laughter, and contagious zest for life that I so crave. My inspiration for travel isn’t solely based on sightseeing, but my overwhelming passion for people and culture. I believe learning doesn’t just take place from going to a museum or reading a textbook, but through witnessing diverse ways of life. Sure, I am beyond thrilled for the chance to see famous cities I have only ever read about in books, but there is more to studying abroad—even for a history buff like me—than just exploring foreign cities. My reasons for studying abroad stem from my desire to expand my knowledge by surrounding myself with those who may have differing opinions, beliefs, and experiences. Integrating myself into another culture for an extended stay provides a chance to observe these ideals firsthand and learn a multitude of things that wouldn’t be possible if I stayed in the United States.
Studying abroad opens the door to ample possibilities in academia as well. I will be attending the University of Winchester in Winchester, England where I will be enrolled in multiple business courses. I aspire to someday own a nonprofit international organization, so having the opportunity to learn from business professionals and gain new outlooks on business from a global standpoint will be extremely beneficial. Furthermore, by acquiring a broadened worldview, I’ll be able to appreciate another culture while also developing the skills needed to own an international organization.
I firmly believe that studying abroad in Winchester, England is one of the best decisions I have made. I want to be able to look back on my time abroad and have not just one “forever moment,” but many. I read the question, “Why is travel important?” and I believe the answer is joy. Joy filled from diving into an unfamiliar culture, so I may grow as an individual by experiencing new facets of the world and the people who live in it.