Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
The plane landed, and immediately seat belts flew off and iPhones came out. It had been six hours since the plane took off, and therefore six hours since my phone had internet. I had to check every social media platform for anything I could’ve missed, but nothing would load. I looked at the upper left corner of my phone’s screen. No Service. I was in the Dominican Republic; of course my phone wouldn’t have service. Amidst all the excitement of the trip, I had forgotten this unfortunate detail.
I disembarked the plane with five girls from my school and smiled at the sun as the February snow from back home in Rhode Island became a distant memory. After a three-hour bus ride, we arrived at our destination — Angostura EcoLodge. Everywhere I looked, there were either mountains or trees. It was beautiful, but after just one night, we had a list of things we hated about the place. The showers were cold, the windows didn’t shut, and we were woken by roosters early every morning. Worst of all, there was no service. As six technology-crazed teenagers, we felt completely isolated from the world.
The initial shock faded as the mission trip began. We spent the first day planting strawberries, the second building bathroom stalls for the lodge, and the third taking a hike through Angostura village. As we walked past the tiny, dirty shacks that this village’s residents called their homes, I saw the shock on my friends’ faces. But my face showed no shock. After several trips to the Philippines and a previous trip to the DR, seeing poverty like this wasn’t new to me. It didn’t even phase me — not until day four, when the young girls of Angostura came to visit us.
I watched them arrive in their mismatched and ill-fitting clothes. Some wore sandals while others wore no shoes at all. But every single one of them wore a smile. They were the most adorable kids I’d ever seen and soon, I had fallen in love. We spent the day attempting to learn the salsa, bachata, and merengue. Then at some point, between almost falling and my dance partner trying to talk to me in Spanish, it hit me. Suddenly, I felt the shock my friends had experienced the day before. I remembered those tiny shacks and realized that that was where these laughter-filled girls lived. They had virtually nothing, and yet smiles never left their faces.
People say that looking at the view from the top of a mountain or watching a beautiful sunset can make you realize just how small you are in the universe and how little your problems matter. For me, it was these girls. They were my sunset, my view from the top of the mountain. It no longer mattered that I would have to take another cold shower or that I would be kept awake by animals. It didn’t matter that there was no service. These girls lived like this everyday. All my problems seemed insignificant. All I wanted was to look at my sunset and never stop. I wanted to stay on top of my mountain forever.
But eventually, night falls and you must descend from the mountaintop. The feeling of peaceful insignificance fades and we return to our busy, chaotic lives with our hands glued to our phones, our eyes glued to our computers, and our brains never stopping to take a moment to remember that comforting feeling. I think about those girls every day, and I struggle to remember that feeling. As life goes on, and work piles up, it gets harder to see how unimportant my problems are in the big scheme of things. I just wish I could hear those roosters crow again. I wish I could have no service. I wish I could see the sun set just one more time.