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Travel with a Purpose – Sarah Weber

In the world of Warnell, I believe anything is possible. It is the place where you learn, grow, and realize your own true passion and purpose. It is a place that inspires you every day to do what you love and love what you do. And as the semesters pass, without realizing it, it is the place that slowly changes you for the better.

I came to UGA with absolutely no clue what I wanted to do with my life. Starting off as a biology major, I couldn’t have been more miserable. My first year was filled with complete indecision and uncertainty. I realized I had to take control of my future before it was too late. That first summer after freshman year, I decided to go on a volunteer abroad trip with sarah1an organization called Growth International Volunteer Excursions (GIVE).

The first part of my trip took place in a small fishing village in Nicaragua called Jiquilillo. There was no cell reception or internet access, only miles of pristine beaches and hammocks swinging in the breeze. I couldn’t have felt more free.sarah2

We helped build a school and septic tank there out of recycled plastic bottles. I became well acquainted with the art of mixing cement and it is just that, an art.        The calluses from my shovel were a constant reminder of my contribution to a most worthy cause. I would look down at them from time to time and just smile.

We also taught the children there how to speak and write in English. When they saw us approaching, notebooks in hand, they became overjoyed with excitement. I will always remember their bright and ready faces eager to learn.sarah3

In addition to building and teaching, I was also fortunate enough to help out at a sea turtle sanctuary. We got to learn about the native sea turtle population and the many dangers sarah4sea turtles face due to illegal poaching. I had never touched a sea turtle before, but there was something in me that felt completely protective over this small, squirmy creature floundering about in my hands. Knowing the uncertainty of its survival made me sad.

The second part of my trip took place on an island in Nicaragua called Little Corn. There were no cars or roads, just mango trees and hidden coves. Here we did some more teaching and helped clear out an invasive grass species from the sarah5island’s main water source: the Cocal Swamp. Unfortunately for me, I sliced my toe on a piece of glass my first day slopping around in the swamp so I wasn’t able to work on this initiative as much as I would’ve liked. Nevertheless, from the sidelines I could still partake in the mud flinging fights that would inevitably ensue.

In addition to volunteering, I was also able to participate in a lot of adventure activities. For one, I went volcano boarding down one of Nicaragua’s most famous active volcanos, Cerro Negro. The wind on top the volcano was sarah6so strong, it nearly lifted me off my feet. It took all I had to anchor myself down and keep
myself from flying away, board and all. Feeling the warmth of the volcano beneath my feet and seeing the breathtaking views left me with an unforgettable sense of euphoria.

I also received my PADI open water certification while on Little Corn Island. I had always wanted to go scuba sarah7diving and there I was making my dreams come true. After receiving my certification, I helped work on reef restoration projects, removing seaweed from coral and identifying fish species for research. Someday I’d like to go back and get my dive master certification.

I learned so much during my short time volunteering abroad. I met so many amazing, like-minded people who opened me up to a whole new way of thinking sarah8and gave me a completely new outlook on life. It was so amazing going to a place such as this and seeing all the notable good we were doing for a community in need. The people were so genuine and appreciative, it warmed my heart to be able to help them. Everything seemed so much clearer as I began to realize my own true passion and potential.

When I returned home from my trip, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I switched my major to natural resources, recreation, and tourism and never looked back. Warnell welcomed me with open arms and a trusty compass. My stimulating coursework and caring teachers have only further inspired me to do what makes me happy and follow my passion. I am so proud to be a part of such a wonderful school.

sarah9

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