by Natalie Trono, Traveling School Alumna, TTS22 southern Africa semester.

When I was a freshman in high school, I learned about The Traveling School through an upperclassman. I was automatically inspired by the school’s message and decided that it was opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Now, almost two years after my semester abroad in southern Africa, I am more thankful than ever for the opportunity.

It is hard to put into words exactly how much The Traveling School has affected me. I came back from my semester abroad with a newfound confidence in myself along with a network of people that would support and believe in me. Before I left, not having a cell phone, computer, and hair straightener terrified me. However, now I see the value in disconnecting from these pieces of technology. I see the importance of being in the present and appreciating the beautiful things around me without the need to capture the perfect Instagram. And finally, to my great disbelief, I see the importance of letting my frizzy, messy hair down in all its natural glory.

Along with my personal development, The Traveling School transformed the way I approach education.

Before my semester abroad, I went through high school only scraping the surface of the lessons I was taught. I memorized what I needed to get an “A” on a test, and then moved on to the next topic. The Traveling School taught me the true beauty of learning.

Natalie and a few of her classmates.The people and places that surrounded me were part of my history lessons, I was taught a trigonometry lesson on an indigenous baobab tree, and the characters in the book I was reading for literature class were attempting to describe the very weather I felt on a daily basis. When I got back from my semester abroad, I was inspired by the possibilities of learning.

School was no longer only about good grades and getting through the day.

My newly found self-confidence and love for learning allowed me to challenge myself by taking higher level classes and inspired me to more deeply engage in class. The stress of a giant project or taking the ACT didn’t entirely escape me. However, the shift in my focus from the result of the experiences to the process itself showed me greater success than I had ever seen before.

My enthusiasm about The Traveling School as an organization, my traveling school teachers, and the lifelong friendships I have developed will likely never die down.

The most important thing to understand about The Traveling School is that it is not a finite experience. The lessons you learn while abroad will follow you for the rest of your life.

Attending the Traveling School was an invaluable investment in my future. As I move on to college next year, I intend to take the lessons I learned at The Traveling School with me. I am confident in the fact that The Traveling School will continue give girls inspiring experiences much like my own for many years to come.