Zoe Soule

Wardsboro

JE 2012

University of Vermont

“This summer as I ran through the Boston airport, I remembered something that was told to me on my last day in China. My group sat gloomily upon our carry-ons, about to board our fourteen hour flight back across the globe, when we were simply told “for the rest of your life, you will be able to navigate an airport”. At the time, it didn’t seem too relevant. I was dirty, exhausted, and at the end of a whirlwind experience within a culture far different from my own. But as I sprinted past gates, all the hours of doing just that, my saxophone case thunking against my leg as we caught our next flight across the Mongolian desert, it felt entirely true. I made the flight, I correctly (if quickly) navigated an airport, and I never once doubted that my experience with Journey East was the reason I could.

It is easy to jump directly into the exciting bits when I think of everything that I experienced in China. How many people can brag that they’ve climbed sand dunes in the Gobi Desert? Performed in front of hundreds in a gold lamé dress? Created an original show and traveled performing it? Not many. But it is the small experiences linked between that secretly impressed upon me, from watching miles of coal plants flash by the bus windows, to laughing with students as I mangled the Mongolian words they pronounced for me. By participating in Journey East, I was afforded a world view that wasn’t limited to the tourist checklist. I saw China, from the carefully guarded Tiananmen Square, to the woman offering me pineapple on a stick with a toothless smile.

As an experience, Journey East expanded my horizons, tested my skills as a performer, and deepened my certainty that I wanted to travel the world. But it also gave me the skills to do so. I know how to angrily barter for my silk scarves, how to communicate using my body language, rather than picking through a translation dictionary. I know how to pack everything I could possibly need into a carry-on. I know that side streets and hidden restaurants hold the best treasures. I know that I have the courage and knowledge to succeed abroad. And yes, I know that wherever I go, I will be able to navigate the airport.”