Life Changing – by Jasmine Kaur Saechao
Laos Study Abroad 2016
L i f e C h a n g i n g
Jasmine Kaur Saechao
A certain friend told me, “This summer will change you,” and I never understood the depth of his words. Of all the people [the teachers, mentors, family members] who told me their hopes, his felt different. He hoped the best for me and I underestimated the statement, not knowing his words were in fact true and genuine. First impression of Laos? You could read, watch, or study it, yet none of the research compares to experiencing it. [That’s why it cannot be fully explained.] Travel is guaranteed to challenge comfort zones. The unwelcome lizards crawled on the hotel walls, knowing we watched them for every slight movement.
The volunteer work with the primary school students forced me to stand up and teach English. The uncomfortable school uniforms felt unbearable. The locals drove me to their nature: kindness, smiles, interest, respect. Change is subtle. My friend never mentioned that. By the last night, five and a half weeks later, everything was different. When did I stop checking the sheets for bed bugs? Suddenly, I noticed the humidity no longer grabbed to my skin, or maybe I was used to the stickiness. How did crossing a street of seven lanes without a crosswalk become an everyday norm? When did the Lao Sinhs for school become likeable? I searched the walls one last time, as I left the hotel room, hoping to say farewell to a once unwelcome critter who was now a usual third roommate. I realized everything my friend told me in one simple sentence was true. This summer did change me. My heart stayed in Laos with the locals [and lizards] who became friends, in the strange place that became home.