Have you ever wondered what goes through a student’s mind when they’re traveling the world? Maybe caught yourself thinking about what moments and experiences will be the ones they’ll hold onto forever? Well, then this is the post for you!
Through weShare, EF’s personalized learning experience that connects student interests to their destinations by encouraging them to develop a question to investigate while traveling, thousands of students have shared their personal travel stories with us. These stories highlight the unique things that spark students’ curiosity and inspire them to connect with the world on a deeper level.
This time, 14 students rose to the top, earning prizes for the incredible projects they submitted. This post will highlight the top 4, and we will follow up with the 10 finalists tomorrow, so check back in! Take a look at some of the amazing work these students did, and get to know a little bit about the individuals behind these big ideas.
Grand Prize Winner
Upon learning about Nicoya, a region of Costa Rica classified as a blue zone – an area with an exceptionally high life expectancy – Alex, an aspiring physician who hopes to one day specialize in genetics, quickly took a special interest in the topic. She couldn’t help but wonder if the region of Nicoya was an anomaly for the country, or if the life expectancy for Costa Rica as a whole was generally higher. She thought it may be the latter. After some additional research, Alex was able to confirm her hypothesis, but she didn’t stop there. Was genetics the only factor affecting the life expectancy of the entire country, she wondered? Could there possibly be other things influencing this impressive statistic? And if so, what were they? And thus, her research question was formed.
While on tour conducting her research, Alex had one particular conversation that stuck with her the most, “One night I interviewed my tour director, Chris, who is a native of Costa Rica, about the Costa Rican life expectancy. What first began as a light conversation developed into an intense discussion causing me to reflect on my own life. Chris talked about the way Costa Ricans live according to ‘pura vida,’ and I realized that Americans have a completely different lifestyle” she said. “As a high school student, my life is often fast-paced and stressful. This is the complete opposite of the lifestyle of the Costa Ricans. They focus on the positives and do not dwell on the negatives in life” recalled Alex. This conversation prompted her to not only think about her research question, but also to promise herself to bring “pura vida” back home with her.
Note from the judge’s panel: Alexandra’s passion and curiosity comes through clearly in her project. She found multiple ways to address her question of lifespan in Costa Rica, focusing on food and diet, genetics, healthcare, and the economy. She even references scholarly sources! Yet, her conclusion was based on her own experiences and instincts – the way she told her own story made this project a winner!
Cambriel T. (Social Studies)
Greece had always held a special place in Cambriel’s heart, so when she found out that she actually had the chance to go their herself, she was ecstatic. Everything from the history, culture and mythology of the country excited her. Selecting a question to research while abroad was a quick process for Cambriel, as there were many things she had wondered over the years.
As soon as she stepped foot in Athens, she realized her research question was going to need to change, “It was everything I had hoped for and nothing like I expected at the same time” she said. “I could see the ancient and beautiful Acropolis standing over a modern, graffiti-covered city and in that moment, I learned that there’s never one version of a story. For every ancient hero there’s a citizen going through everyday life, and for every myth, there’s a current narrative taking place” Cambriel recalled. Through this experience, and many others on tour Cambriel decided to frame her project around the idea of what she now refers to as “history’s algorithm” – the idea that people throughout history have not changed and this is why similar conflicts that existed in ancient times still exist today.
Note from the judge’s panel: Cambriel is an amateur mythologist – and used her passion for Greek Mythology to explore how Greece became known as the “Cradle of Western Civilization”. But she takes her exploration a step further, and considers what the future might hold for Greece, and the entire world.
Andrew B. (STEM)
Andrew’s experience traveling through Ecuador and the Galapagos taught him about the importance of sustainable tourism by shedding light on the invisible impacts of tourism. His experience prompted him to explore the topic of environmental conservation and how one can practice conservation in their own lives. He now urges fellow travelers to “leave nothing behind—not even footprints” he says for “our influence on the world through travel can be detrimental if we refuse to conserve cultures and environments.”
When asked to describe a moment on tour that connected with his own life, Andrew described his visit to the Otavalo Market in the Imbabura Province of Ecuador, “The Decorative scarves, blankets, and clothes of every color swayed in the wind above tables of meticulously crafted paintings and ceramics. Each piece was its own masterpiece carefully created by the indigenous Otavaleños. I instantly connected to their art and its powerful representation of heritage and culture,” he said. The creations illuminated the importance of the people’s economic livelihood and their very survival for Andrew.
Andrew credits the opportunity to travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos as being an experience that has altered his understanding of travel for the better.
Note from the judge’s panel: Andrew’s approach to studying ecotourism in the Galápagos inspires us to be more environmentally conscious in our own lives. His profound reflection helps us all connect to the incredible biodiversity and beauty of these islands.
Carly P. (ARTS)
As an avid dancer, Carly was thrilled to see that her travels included the opportunity to participate in a traditional Viennese Waltz dance class. After looking into the history behind this style of dance, she couldn’t help but wonder how the dance has stayed relevant for almost two centuries despite the continually changing and modernized society of today.
Through her research and reflection pre-tour, on-tour and post-tour, Carly concluded that a main reason the Viennese Waltz has been able to stay so relevant over the years is because like many great things, elements of the dance like the music, the movement and even the garb has adapted and modernized to stay relevant in the lives of today’s young adults.
Note from the judge’s panel: Carly does a great job at connecting her weShare question back to her own experiences and interests. Her love of ballet, and dance in general, is what makes her project come to life. The moments she captured on tour helped us feel like we were there with her!
If you loved seeing these students’ travel stories, find even more in our weShare Project Gallery.