A successful Ambassador completes a community service project of his or her choosing during the year. Read on to hear about some of the projects that our stellar Ambassadors are engaged in.
Names: Anna and Andrei Radulescu
Grades: 10 and 11 (respectively)
Hometown: Glastonbury, CT
Transformational Experience: Galápagos: Preserving Nature’s Wonders™ 2019
Making An Impact: Revived their school’s Environmental Club
Passion: Recycling, outdoors, wildlife
Andrei and Anna Radulescu, siblings from Glastonbury, Connecticut, returned from their summer in the Galápagos islands with a strong sense of purpose. After spending two weeks in the remote islands off the coast of mainland Ecuador working on projects like invasive species removal and creating sustainable habitat for the unique and threatened creatures that inhabit the islands.
“I always knew I had a passion for environmental conservation, but my GLA trip inspired me to take more initiative and gave me more motivation to act. I fell in love with the islands and I couldn’t imagine not doing everything in my power to preserve its beauty….My GLA trip to the Galapagos intensified my love of the environment, and sparked my motivation to fight for what I love,” Anna says.
As for Andrei, his experience in the Galapagos ignited a new sense of urgency. “As soon as my trip ended I knew that I would look forward to helping lead the green clubs at school. Prior to going on my trip the environment was not an aspect of life I had given much thought to. After seeing the rural and few communities of people that live on the exotic islands, I realized my position as a next generation kid who would one day contribute to society in some small way. I became determined to value the health of my planet as it would be something I would pass down to my children and those after them,” he says.
While Anna had previously been involved in her school’s Environmental Club, the group was small and not particularly active; with only four members, initiatives were slow in coming together. In the fall, Andrei also joined and the two led the group’s efforts to expand and make real change. “At the start of this school year, we worked harder to make our club known. We made a poster and set up at booth about Environmental Club at freshman orientation. We also decided we would not only plan events that entail service work, but also fun trips in nature, such as hiking, so that members could enjoy the environment we are working to protect,” Anna says.
As it grew, the club has become more structured, complete with elected positions. Anna was elected Vice President and takes her role seriously. Their main objective for the coming year: Reinstate the school’s recycling program, which in recent years has been ineffective due to a lack of education about what types of materials are actually recyclable. Currently, all of the school’s waste ends up in the landfill. They are aiming to launch a recycling education campaign that will hopefully allow their school to resume its participation in recycling programs.
Other projects in the works include a fundraiser for Earth Alliance, a non-profit that works to address urgent threats to the planet’s life support systems; they are partnering with their school’s Art Club to create stickers to sell.
What does the future hold for the Radulescus? They are both looking at pursing careers in the medical field. Andrei has been completing work with antimicrobial peptides at the University of Connecticut; while he’s not 100% sure what his future holds, he says that being active in solving community issues is key for him regardless of where his path takes him. This summer, both siblings will be participating on the Fiji: Marine Conservation Expedition™ program, where they will continue to work with threatened island ecosystems and communities affected by climate change.
Considering a trip to Europe this summer? If so, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options out there. Typing “Europe for teens” into Google will yield countless results, from gap years to homestays to standard sight-seeing tours. How do you know what you’re really getting yourself into?
While GLA has been a leader in the education abroad world for over a decade now, this year we’ve joined the throngs of options for Europe travel. We’re fond of saying, “We’re not just another teen tour”–and it’s true! We don’t mean to toot our own horn, but our programs are a far cry from a typical sightseeing tour…in all the best ways.
#1: Specific, Integrated Learning Objectives
While we would certainly be remiss to skip out on iconic monuments and sights like the Eiffel Tower or the Sistine Chapel, our programs aren’t built around bit-ticket Instagram opportunities. Instead, these bucket list items are integrated into a meaningful, cohesive experience, where every activity has a purpose. Each stop along the way ties into higher learning objectives and answers key questions about the history, culture, and present-day status of our area of exploration. Country Discovery programs aim to dive deep into regional identities and histories, culture, and where the country fits into the grand scheme of things. Special Themed programs hone in on a singular theme which we explore through various sites across Europe, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), the European Union, or the formation of Europe itself.
#2: Community Service Component
We’ve created our Europe Discovery programs using same philosophy that governs our approach to Service Learning programs. We believe that in giving time and energy to grass-roots projects, we not only make an impact in the community but are also able to more fully understand and form connections with local people. Each Europe Discovery program includes roughly five hours, or an afternoon, of community service. This could mean spending a day assisting with community garden initiatives in Italy or helping at a low-income daycare in Greece. While our specific projects won’t be finalized until closer to summer, all of our projects partner with local, community-led organizations; our helping hands go to whichever project is most needed at the time of our arrival.
#3: Leadership Curriculum
At GLA, we’re all about leadership. (It’s in our name, after all!) Our leadership curriculum is infused into all components of our programs. A good leader is someone who positively affects change. A great leader maintains a global perspective, open-mind and caring outlook while impacting others. Unlike some summer leadership camps for high school students, GLA provides life-changing experiences that will cultivate these characteristics, inspiring students to be great leaders. Travel presents so many opportunities for our future leaders to explore their styles, regardless of whether it is to rural Ghana or in the heart of Paris. Learn about what effective leadership looks like through guest speakers, workshops, and thoughfully-led discussions.
#4: Local Perspectives & Community Connection
We’re on the move, but we’re still taking the time to forge the connections that make travel so magical. Some are guest speakers who are experts in their field; others are local residents who are eager to give visitors a peek into what life looks like in his or her hometown. Through activities like cooking classes, guest lecturers, visits to local high schools, and informal, off-the-cuff conversations, we foster these valuable relationships. Most travelers would agree that while exposure to new landscapes, foods, and languages is a treat, the people they meet along the way are what truly makes a lasting impact.
Itching to travel abroad? Check out all of our Europe Discovery programs here!
“The most important thing I learned while on both these trips is that if you want to make a change, you can’t just wipe away or ignore the communities and cultures already existent in a place when you arrive. I also learned that simply because something is not what much of western civilization is accustomed to does not make it wrong.”