Chelby Nystrom

University of Vermont

Johnson State College

JE 2010

Chelby NystromJourney East definitely had a huge impact on my life and led me to then seek opportunities to travel as much as possible after that. I was only fifteen years old when I traveled to China with JE, but I felt like I grew up so much from it because I able to go to a part of the world that I would have never dreamed of going to and saw things that I will never forget. Being a blonde fifteen year old girl, I was mobbed by hundreds of Chinese students who would pet me and want my autograph. Being a shy innocent girl, it was definitely a shocker. I was just more in amazement that they could find me so interesting and diverse that they would want to actually pet me. Performing was also something that was something that was completely new for me. Being an athlete, I had not done much performing before the trip, but I think that it served as a huge confidence builder and it was nice to do something outside of my usual realm of activities. I gained a lot respect for performers along the way and learned a lot. I will never forget reading our Chinese story performance out loud to thousands of onlookers.

The summer after my junior year at Leland and Gray, I traveled to Poland and Slovakia with the Experiment in International Living through SIT for five weeks. I had the opportunity to be in Warsaw during the EuroCup, which Warsaw was hosting. I also had the chance to live with a host family for three weeks, which was such an incredible experience. I also visited Auschwitz, the Tatra Mountains, the Baltic Sea, numerous castles, a salt mine, and a few World War II bunkers. While in Poland, my group and I completed a three-week community service project as well. After graduating from Leland and Gray in June of 2013, I attended the University of Vermont for two years, majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting and global business theme and a minor in Spanish. I studied abroad in León, Spain for six months. Living in Spain was hands down one of the best experiences of my entire life. I lived with a host family and studied Spanish five days a week with other international students. My host mother did not speak any English at all, and so it forced me to use my Spanish, which definitely helped me improve. I also had the opportunity to travel to Poland to visit my host family from my previous trip, as well as France, Belgium, Morocco, England, The Netherlands, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Germany, and all over Spain. I made lifelong friends from the U.S., Australia, Gabon, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom. I also became fluent in Spanish, which was my ultimate goal.

While abroad, I decided that UVM was just not the right fit for me, and so I decided to transfer to Johnson State College, where I am currently attending school. I joined the Women’s Varsity Cross Country Team, which is definitely new for me, but a very exciting challenge. I also had the opportunity to pick up a second minor in Global Studies (I know, big surprise!). I also have a few upcoming travel plans in the works: one is to travel to Thailand this coming May as part of a business ethics course that I will be taking this spring. The trip involves working to build housing for low-income citizens in a very poor region of Thailand; the other trip involves studying abroad again, in the spring of 2017, my last semester in college, in Costa Rica. Although I have already completed my minor in Spanish, I want to continue to study the language and improve my fluency. I also hope to take business courses in Spanish so that I can learn business vocabulary and terminology, which might be helpful later in my career if I work with Spanish speakers that do not know English.

All I can say is that Journey East definitely had a lasting effect on me. It got me out of Vermont and showed me that I can go anywhere, do anything with a little bit of hard work and determination. I think studying abroad would have been a much scarier idea had I not already traveled to China with JE. I will never forget sinking my toes into the Gobi Desert, running up the old, crumbling steps of the Great Wall, and cooing at the adorable panda babies in Chengdu. Someday I hope to travel back to China whenever the opportunity arises and I hope that Journey East continues to exist for as long as possible because it one of the most unique, fantastic opportunities out there for high school students. If college student applications were accepted, I would apply again tomorrow!