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Immediately following my high school graduation, I bought a one-way ticket to Beijing, China.
I’d only been on an airplane once and had never traveled internationally before, so this travel excursion was quite the adventure. I learned enough Mandarin to greet others, say “Yes” and “No”, and communicate about basic navigation. I’d received a slew-full of additional vaccines from my county health department, and leafed through a few travel books on China’s capital province. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I knew it was going to be exciting.
Seeking a more meaningful experience than my peer’s Greek rush weeks, I decided to spend the summer volunteering at two poorly-funded orphanages located a few hours outside of the capital city. I was still pretty clueless at this time about what I wanted to do with my life and whether or not I wanted to go to college. I hoped this summer of philanthropy would provide me some direction. Maybe I’d realize the nonprofit sector would be a good fit for me, or I’d make some international relief work contacts; either way, I wanted to help others and understaffed orphanages on the other side of the world seemed like a good place to start.