Kate Piniewski

Dover

Journey East 2005

University of Vermont 2013 Graduate

(This was submitted  to T.Connor by Kate days before she graduated from UVM in 2013)

Kate Piniewski‘Since returning to Vermont after my Journey East Program in 2005, I have spent a semester in Ladakh, India and have traveled to Greece, Panama, Senegal,  and the Gambia.

First it was one month away; then six weeks, and then four months, and another five months, and soon it will be twelve months. In December I will be moving to a rural village in Namibia to teach English for a year and I could not be more excited. But I have to attribute much of this excitement to my first experience with study abroad and intense cultural immersion. I wasn’t even 15 years old when my parents dropped me off at Bradley International Airport with a gaggle of other high school students who were abound with energy and enthusiasm for their adventure across the globe.

Journey East—or the idea of sending students during the school year—to China was still a unique, unprecedented program in 2005. My friends, family, and neighbors were shocked that a group of high school students were flying for 15 hours to perform an original show throughout one of the largest countries in the world. Throughout college I saw the amazement of professors, doctors, lawyers, and other prominent community members when I attributed my passion for international travel to participation in Journey East as a high school freshman. “A rural public school in Vermont sent students to China? Wow, very cool” is a consistent response. The four weeks we spent on stage, in villages, at restaurants, on the Great Wall, in schools, and on buses went by far too quickly. But for many participants, the flight home was not the end. Journey East expanded our comfort zones and broadened our horizons; I craved the energy and excitement of hoping on a plane to a new location. Since returning to Vermont that spring, I have visited India, Greece, Panama, Senegal, the Gambia, and soon Namibia.

Before April of 2005, I did not know that I wanted to study international affairs and cultural anthropology. I did not know that I wanted to travel somewhere new every year. I did not know that I wanted to meet people from remote villages in the furthest corners of the world. I did not know I was curious about global subjects such as food, religion, education, sports, art, music, and the environment. Journey East taught me that I was, that I am. The program instills a sense of confidence and the real-world skills provided are irreplaceable; Journey East sparked my interest in global adventures, and for that I will forever be grateful.”