First Draft: (322 words)
I have had many opportunities while traveling and living abroad to overcome a variety of challenges and therefore have matured as a confident, culturally aware, and responsible young woman. One experience that stands out occurred when I first realized my love for travel. I grew up in a small town and continued to a fairly small university, this was my comfort zone. Blessed with a passion for serving others, I knew I had greater potential. I followed the advice from a Brian Tracy quote, "Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new." After my second year in college I enrolled in a program to study abroad in Morelia, Mexico. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, I stereotyped Mexicans into one group, dark skinned, poor, and catholic with little education. Today I attribute my strongest quality towards my naive labeling, my open mindedness. I had been wrong about Mexico and felt ashamed that I had held a stereotype to begin with. Taking every opportunity from that point forward, I have soaked up information about different customs, culture and history. The more I am able to expand my mind, the more I notice my thought process changing as well. I do not believe that there is any right or wrong way to do something, only opportunities to gain clearer understanding for different cultures. I have learned how imperative it is not to pre-judge as in our nature, and that by having an open mind you are able to integrate and appreciate a whole new lifestyle. Currently I am pursuing a Masters in Intercultural Services, Leadership and Management where I believe that by understanding the differences between separate societies, we may be able to help communities gain knowledge while preserving their culture. We need to teach positive change with peace in mind without encroaching another's beliefs and values.