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A Dozen Personalities
The hot sand burns my feet as I sit patiently on the beach waiting for my turn to attempt the rolling waves of Punta Roca, El Salvador on a surfboard. Amused by the spectacle of my fellow classmates tumbling and rolling in the crashing waves, I smile to myself and reflect on the adventurous journey we have experienced together thus far . . .
This is the story of twelve teenage girls, picked from different states across the nation to live together in four foreign countries for three and half months. Though strangers at first, they were rapidly introduced to the reality of living comfortably with one another. This is what happens when typical high school is left behind and twelve brave teenage girls enter a world where they truly have to learn on the go. . .
We replaced our flimsy flip-flops for sturdy pairs of hiking boots. Our wardrobe consists of a couple of wrinkly shirts, to pairs of anywhere pants and a skirt to look polished on the go. Here, dressing up for a night out means finding the cleanest shirt you can, waking up at seven o´clock in the morning is considered sleeping in, and a five minute warm shower is considered a luxury. Each girl has adapted to living in a dorm room, or tent, crammed full of other girls, and everyone gets excited over the presence of testosterone. Meet the twelve, hard-core, diverse ladies of The Traveling School´s thirteenth semester. . .
Clarissa, determined to stand up, turned back into the waves, pushing her enormous board into the foaming surf, refusing to stop until she gets to her feet on a wave. This intelligent girl with an artistic style is from the sunny beach city of Santa Monica, California. She can always be picked out of the group by her unique laugh, mature perspective, and solid individualism. With her calming personality, dedication to learning, and heightened awareness of the world, she sets the bar high and the rest of us strive to reach it.
¨She´s really thoughtful and smart. She knows so much about the world and her place in it. It´s nice to talk to someone who is so sure of themselves, ¨ says classmate Anna H. from York, Maine.
Her arms flailing in the air, Anna H. never let go of her straight face and determination to ride the white foam sliding onto the shore. At age fifteen, she is the baby of the group, but one cannot tell her age due to her mature mentality. She challenges her fellow classmates with her deep and poetic thinking. Her courageous ability to recite and write poetry keeps the group inspired. Her artistic style is represented from the way she dresses to the way she writes and her welcoming presence and quirky comments make her a friend to everyone.
¨She is the type of person who knows her limits and knows what she is comfortable with, ¨ says McKenna from Seattle, Washington.
McKenna glides her hand into the water as she knee boards her way onto the shimmering black sand with a smile stretched across her face. At first this sweet-natured, reserved girl tended to hangout on the sidelines, but now she has grown to be strong and confident. She brings a peaceful energy that keeps everyone calm. With a kind heart that truly cares about the group, she is always there to give a sincere compliment.
¨She has blossomed into a butterfly, and will always be willing to try something new, ¨ says Charlotte, from Sherman, Connecticut.
Dancing on her board in the glittering sun Charlotte, nicknamed ¨Cheese,¨ is always able to find the fun in every situation. This peppy cheerleader has an endless amount of energy and is rarely seen in a bad mood. Her laugh is infamous among the rest of the girls, and her self confidence radiates in everything she attempts. The group would not be the same without her positivity.
¨It makes sense she is a cheerleader, she is always cheering everyone on and loves doing it, ¨ says Clarissa.
My eyes squint from the blazing sun´s glare as I scan the beach. Out in the distance I spot a girl pop up to her feet as she scrambles to keep balance on the board. My eyes finally recognize who it is. It is Anna W. from Scarborough, Maine. This athletic girl has incredible self motivation, and her uplifting attitude gets the group moving. She puts the group before herself and is known and loved for this act of kindness. Her adventurous spirit and natural athleticism makes her a key team player.
¨She is genuinely excited to try new things and enjoys every experience we have, ¨ says Elizabeth from Woodstock, Vermont.
Done with the annoying surfboard, Elizabeth, better known as Biz, lays on the beach soaking up the rays as her skin glows in the mid-day sun. She has the Italian feistiness of a Soprano. Her opinion is always appreciated, and her sarcastic comments and comical facial expressions make it impossible not to love her. She is the rock of the group, always there to give you valuable advice. Her knowledge and insightfulness helps guide us all on this hard life journey.
¨She has a very strong voice, and focuses her strength to help the group accomplish a goal, ¨ says Greta from Bozeman, Montana.
I watch Greta tumble off of her board for the twentieth time, amazed that she never let these consistent wipe-outs frustrate her. This tall, local music loving, pro-active citizen never fails to lend an ear to a friend in need. Her easy-going, non-judgmental personality is always accompanied by a genuine smile. She has the ability to keep the group relaxed with her level-headedness and stability.
¨I really admire how she fights for what she cares about. She is really sweet and caring towards everyone, ¨ boasts classmate Mallory from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Mallory effortlessly rides in on the end of a face wave, rocking the short board. Her ability to learn things fast makes her the best surfer in the group. She causes all of us to think critically and contemplate the deep thoughts and incredible insights she introduces. She is the thinker of the group, and people look up to her ability to learn and retain knowledge about everything around her. She has a mature, philosophical worldview, which makes it hard not to dive into conversation with her.
¨I can ask advice about anything, and I know I will get a thoughtful response full of wisdom, ¨ says Olivia from Belleview, Washington.
The water splashes Olivia´s face as she coasts in on her stomach. One can never forget her spunky attitude and ability to make everyone laugh. She is the entertainer of the group and her crazy, loud presence helps beat the dull moments. She is talented, outgoing, and easily gets along with everyone.
¨She loves to rap and sing, and always has fun ideas for the group, ¨ laughs Evelina from Florence, Italy.
She emerges from the surf dripping wet, smiling and sporting a bleeding cut on the bridge of her nose; a gift from the fin of her surfboard smashing into her face during a wipe-out. Evelina carries herself with a smooth European vibe. She is the life of the group, and everyone is entertained by her loud and goofy actions. Her humorous and loving personality always cheers people up. She is a magnet that all people are attracted to. The group admires her for her ability to make strong connections.
¨If you ever feel like being loud and want to do something crazy, go hang out with Evelina. She makes everything fun.¨ says Merritt from Asheville, North Carolina.
Merritt cruises into the beach gliding gracefully atop her board. This bubbly girl possesses a giggly attitude that is contagious. Her kindness towards the group makes everyone love her. She is the energizer, and has learned throughout this travel experience how much her worldview has changed. She has gained an incredible amount of awareness and has grown up a great deal.
¨Merritt will always be the first to run in the ocean or dance in the rain, ¨ laughs classmate Evelina.
I make up the twelfth player of this diverse team. I have a unique connection with each of these amazing women and see myself as the peacemaker of the group. Living together for three months we have become a big family of sisters. Although we love each other, we have to deal with travelers´ belly puke and foul moods on occasion, as well as the quarrels that come along with borrowing one another´s clothes and deciding who gets the top bunk. We have contradicting views and different ideas. Nevertheless, I can truly say I am honored to have spent three months living with this amazing group of girls. I have grown to love and appreciate everyone for the amazing individual they are.
The blood orange sun begins to set behind a glimmering Pacific ocean. I follow the sand footprints in front of me as we all head to the showers in a mob before another lovely dinner together. Clutching the surfboard tightly to my side, I quietly whisper to myself,
¨I could not ask for a better group of friends.¨