Summer experiences change students’ lives

Junior Celie Feighery practices writing Chinese characters during her recent trip to China.

Nyla Carter-Ogden, staff writer

The first step. First words. Life-changing events can happen to everyone in a blink of an eye. A milestone, a special moment, everything that helps shape us to become who we are. These memories help us learn valuable lessons about both ourselves and others that help us later on in life. Some students experienced such moments this past summer.

Junior Mallory Bedford, for example, had the opportunity to participate in an internship on Capitol Hill, home to the meeting chambers of the House of Representatives and Senate. Bedford received the opportunity through the Girl Scouts Congressional Aide Program, which allows fellow Girl Scouts to experience life in their nation’s capital.

“I want to become a politician, so this internship on Capitol Hill gave me a hands-on experience to see if this is what I wanted to do,” Bedford said.

The internship was something that Bedford had always been interested in, and she was surprised to see the amount of work involved.

“I got to do what I like to call ‘glorified customer service’ for a congressperson,” Bedford said. “I had to answer phones, respond to emails, [things] that I didn’t expect to do, but turned out to be helpful life skills.”

The experience overall gave Bedford an eye-opening view into a competitive field.

“[The internship has] impacted me directly by giving me a clear view of what the work environment I hope to go into looks like,” Bedford said. “Even if you’re 100 percent sure on what you want to do in your life, see if you can get an internship at a place or just talk to people in that field, because you want to know what you’re getting yourself into.”

Like Bedford, sophomore Eva Williams also spent time learning through experience in the nation’s capital. She participated in the National Student Leadership Conference at American University, through which she took part in a National Security Council simulation, and played the roles of head figures such as the attorney general and director of the FBI.

Through the six days of the program, students experienced real life situations that leaders face on a daily basis. The program focused on the political and decision making side of the intense government environments.

“I thought [the conference would be] spy-type things, but [instead it was] more making decisions and the political side,” Williams said.

Throughout the course of the program, Williams learned about her leadership style and was empowered to use her skills as a leader to further the agenda of her group.

“Before going into the program, I didn’t know if I wanted [a career in national security], but this [conference] made me want to do it,” Williams said.

While some chose to grow as learners and as people in our own backyard, others traveled to different places. Junior Celie Feighery, for example, went on an exciting trip to China in order to study Mandarin. Feighery was given the experience through a scholarship from the state department. Students who applied for the scholarship had to demonstrate a complex understanding of what many consider to be one of the most difficult languages in the world.

“My elementary school Oak Hill started teaching Chinese,” Feighery said. “[Later on,] I thought that the language was cool and continued [learning] it [throughout] middle school and high school, and then I just fell in love with the language.”

Her love took her all the way to China this past summer, where she lived in international student dorms that featured Western-style toilets and other items to make residents feel at home.

“It was good that we had [a] Westernized dorm to ease us into the culture,” Feighery said.

The classes that participants took focused on Chinese history and culture. Students learned traditional Chinese practices, including traditional tea pouring and steamed bun making.

“We learned a little bit about China’s history and then we learned more culture things like religion, so I think that culture class gave me a wider perspective on Chinese life,” Feighery said.

Feighery’s host family immersed her in the local culture, showing her hot spots they had come to love and enjoy. This insider experience gave her a different perspective on how people live more than a thousand miles across the world.

“Just comparing the Western culture with the Asian culture was really cool to see,” Feighery said. “I didn’t really have a concrete image of what a true Chinese life looks like, so I can’t really say that my perception changed. I was surprised because their culture is pretty similar to ours,” Feighery said.

In Feighery’s opinion, one of the most interesting aspects of the trip was learning about superstitions pertaining to Chinese culture.

“There were lions in front [of the temples that we went to], and all of the teachers went to pet the lion for good luck, and they all started screaming at me because I touched the lion’s face. Apparently, you aren’t supposed to touch [it],” Feighery said. “The thing is, as an American, I would have never known that had I not gone to China [with this program].”

Not only did the trip provide Feighery with more knowledge about Chinese traditions, but it also helped her grow as a person.

“We were forced to speak with our classmates in Chinese,” Feighery said. “I think I really learned how to communicate better with other people, not only in [Chinese, but also English].”

Every life-changing moment involves a lesson that you may or may not reflect upon until later in life. For many Chargers, cherished times will continue to mold and curate them as people, both now and in the future. Bedford, Williams and Feighery had such unique moments that will impact them and their future plans by exposing them to new experiences.