This I Believe

Eleanor - Owings Mills, Maryland
Entered on October 31, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

I believe that trying things on my own gives me a taste of maturity and independence.

This past summer, I went to Australia without my family for the month. It was the third and final year I’d been going to Chimney Corners Camp as a camper. The next step was the International Camper Exchange Program (ICEP), an international program the camp was involved with. It was for those too old to be a camper and yet too young to be a counselor. ICEP was supposed to be the most amazing summer: a life-changing experience. I’m still amazed I actually ended up apart of this program.

Chimney sent me a list of six countries to choose from. After months of studying each country at the library, it came to me. When would I ever get an opportunity like this again? I decided to take advantage of this as much as possible. Why go to Costa Rica, which is right around the corner, when Australia is on the other side of the world?

So that’s how it happened. Fourteen other campers, two young leaders and I flew to Los Angeles where we’d wait for our fifteen hour flight to Melbourne. I didn’t even realize how important this trip was for me at the time.

While I was gone, my mother went to a family reunion and saw her brother who was home temporarily from Afghanistan where he worked as a doctor. Mom had said to him, “Would it have been better to save the money for college than sending her to Australia?”

“Absolutely not,” Uncle Tim responded. “This is the most important time for her to broaden her base. In order to find a sense of direction, she needs to recognize her opportunities, understand what it means to be independent, and experience another culture.”

The trip was five weeks. This was probably the longest I’d been away from home, and the only time I’d lived with a group of people I hardly knew in a foreign place I’d never been. Since we all felt comfortable at the camp, the first couple days were spent there to get to know each other. I remember regretting ever coming at all. I didn’t know these people very well, so what was I doing going to Australia with them? I just wanted to go home.

Throughout the trip, I became less afraid and more comfortable as I got to know my group members and surroundings. We were given many opportunities to hold our own responsibility. Whenever we came to a new city, our leaders trusted to explore the new environment in groups of four and expected us to be at a certain place, such as a restaurant, at the right time. We were all responsible for our own luggage, money, and passports. I believe our leaders gave us responsibility because they wanted us to see what it was like to be independent. They wanted us to learn to trust ourselves.

For the first time in my life, I’ve felt the need to connect with the real world on my own. I’d recently been traveling a lot, such as my flight to New York where I’d taken the responsibility of switching planes. Then there was my bus ride to Virginia I’d handled alone which included catching a cab and a wait in Washington. Being responsible for myself gives me a taste of maturity and independence, something vital in life. I believe in the importance of trying things on my own to grow apart from my family. Eventually the young kangaroo must leave her mother’s pouch.