This spring, Elizabeth Grady is graduating from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with a degree in Journalism and Political Science. For the past year, she has served as Senior Class President (along with a number of other extra-curricular activities). Her experience traveling with ACIS in 2013 had an indelible impact on her maturation process and inspired her to pursue further explorations later in life. She even started her own travel related website – craftedcities.com.
We interviewed Elizabeth about her experience traveling with ACIS, how it shaped her perspective, and where she first discovered her passion for learning about foreign cultures:
When and where did you travel with ACIS?
I traveled to Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, and England with ACIS in the summer of 2013.
What made you interested in going on the trip?
I wanted to go on this trip for a variety of reasons. For starters, my mom traveled extensively for business while I was growing up. Reading books she would bring back, hearing her stories, and seeing pictures of her travels instilled a spark of interest within me.
I grew up in a neighborhood with many immigrants and went to a very diverse elementary school. I loved learning about different cultures, foods, and holidays. My first best friends were immigrants and I always loved hearing their stories.
As I grew up, I carried these memories with me. When combined with the explosion of social media, my diverse high school experience only heightened my curiosity about other cultures.
Enrolling in Brett Stell’s AP World History course greatly reinforced this curiosity. Curiosity quickly became fascination as I progressed through the course, listening to Coach Stell’s teachings and travel stories.
When Coach Stell’s Europe trip was announced for the summer after my high school graduation, I knew this was something I had to do.
Looking back, what were your favorite or most memorable parts of your experience?
Seeing amazing architecture and breathtaking views while being with some of my favorite people. Friendships deepen to a new level when traveling. You are all thrown into an unfamiliar environment and therefore, cling to one another as you broaden your horizons. It is an interesting contrast, really. You become more independent while deepening your friendships.
Personally, seeing the views from Mount Pilatus in Switzerland was my favorite experience, as the scenery was breathtaking. I saw the history books and postcards come to life. The feeling was (and is!) indescribable.
Did that trip change your perspective on the world, and if so, how?
Yes. I think my greatest two lessons were that perception is not always reality and beauty is everywhere.
Places are often portrayed in a different light until you travel there and see them for what they really are. I used to be scared of going certain places, but traveling opened my eyes. No matter where you go, people are people. We all have friends/family, celebrate life’s joys, and work to make a living. Though the ways in which we do this vary greatly, this is what makes us unique. Beauty is in the ordinary because of our differences. They are what make us unique!
Did that trip affect your interests or choices for what you hoped to study once you got to college, and if so, how?
Absolutely. After spending a summer in Europe with ACIS, my top priority when I got to college was studying abroad. I was fortunate to spend a semester in London and a month in China. Traveling with ACIS changed my perspective on life, which helped me prioritize my passions. Prioritizing my passions allowed me to study abroad twice. I have learned so many new things from my travels. The cycle continues.
What do you hope to do in your career once you graduate from college?
Upon graduation in May, I will be moving across the country to work for a global company. Travel opened my eyes to the world and inspired me to take a leap of faith and move far away. Finding a job with an global company was one of my top goals while in the job market because my energy comes from meeting new people and learning their stories. I want to help make the world more connected.
What message would you share with younger students who may or may not be considering pursuing traveling outside the US?
DO IT. Leap at any chance you have to go abroad. It sounds cliche, but travel changes you. I know it can be scary or intimidating, but traveling abroad will allow you to become the best version of yourself. Traveling changes your perspective on life, the way you think about things, and how you view the world. It also puts into perspective just how much of a bubble you live in.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I now run my own travel website, Crafted Cities. Crafted Cities is a series of city guides featuring my favorite places to eat, drink, sleep, shop, and sweat around the world. The website features various travel articles and all of my photography. I’d love for you to check it out!
Browse over 100 educational travel excursions all over the world. From
service learning to cultural connections, find a trip to meet your goals.