By Anastasiya Korableva, CCI Greenheart Exchange Student

Anastasiya is an exchange student from Russia who was placed in Idaho for the 2013-2014 academic school year. She volunteered a total of 240 hours with the Greenheart Club over the course of her time in the United States and participated on a Greenheart Trip! Read about this volunteering all star’s experiences on that trip below.

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One group with eight amazing people from seven different countries, three big cities with a wonderful history, eight days which we will be remember forever and the Greenheart Club which connects us all together. This is the Greenheart East Coast Adventure!

What do you think about when you hear the words New York, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia? Before the Greenheart Trip I had only seen these cities in the movies and in my opinion, these were the cities everyone wanted to be a part of.

When I left my host-family’s house, I was listening to a song that everyone knows:

“Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today

I want to be a part of it – New York, New York

These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray

Right through the very heart of it – New York, New York”

 

Before New York City, we went to visit Washington D.C. Lots of people know that it is a capital of the United States. It’s a big city with an amazing history. The first day, when I met the Greenheart group, was awesome. We went to our campground near Washington D.C and there, we spent three days.

On the first day, we tried to get to know each other better. About a half of the mile from our campground we had a beautiful view of Virginia. We went to the top of the rock and played some name games because it was hard to remember all the names of the people from different countries. It was really fun! I noticed how interesting it is to hear other people talk with different accents. We are different but the English language keeps us together.

On the second and the third day, we had lots of fun together in downtown Washington D.C. We visited many different places with rich histories. I’d never thought that some of the monuments had little secrets. Did you know that the Lincoln Memorial has a typo on it that is still partially visible or that the Washington Monument isn’t a memorial? Did you know that the Washington Monument was the tallest building at 555 feet at the end of 1884 and that George Washington had only two teeth, and that’s why he is sad in all his pictures?

During those two days we had a walking tour of the National Mall with a wonderful tour guide. It was very interesting to listen to her. We visited the Washington Monument, the White House, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the National WWII Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Capital building. After, we ate some free ice cream with caramel.

Every evening in our campground we had workshops which taught us that we have lots of opportunities to change our own lives, the lives of others and our world as a whole. I learned something very important…If you want to change the world you need to start with yourself! 

After Washington D.C. we rode to New York City through Philadelphia, where we had a few hours to walk around. We had our lunches outside and we went to the Liberty Bell museum. It was so interesting to read about. I didn’t know that Philadelphia was the capital of the United States before Washington D.C.  It was very interesting to ride through the East Coast. We were all excitedly anticipating going to New York….and finally the dream came true.

When we drove through New York we turned on the song by  Jay-Z  featuring Alicia Keys:

“New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of

There’s nothin’ you can’t do

out of New York

These streets will make you feel brand new

Big lights will inspire you

Let’s hear it for New York, New York,

New York”

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I fell in love with a big city, this big multicultural city full of busy people. This city that doesn’t sleep. We stayed in Harlem. As you may know, the area is known for its racial diversity. It was so amazing to understand the culture of others better. We had a tour around the place where we lived. All the guides we had were very interesting to listen to. They know the history of New York very deeply and they were enthused to answer any questions we had.

We visited many different places, such as the United Nations, the Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Plaza, the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial, Central Park, and China Town. When I was younger, I had seen all these places in pictures. I could’t believe that I was actually there!

I want to tell you about the amazing volunteer work we did there! The second day in New York was rainy, but we were not upset, because it didn’t matter what type of weather we had. We volunteered with the Carter Burden Senior Center. We delivered meals  to housebound senior citizens. It was a great experience! We had the addresses and the map where we should deliver the meals. At first, I thought it was scary to walk around New York in groups of two and deliver the meals, but it was amazing to make elderly people smile and to talk with them. They asked many questions about where we were from. We enjoyed sharing our experiences with them.

In the last day of our trip we had one more volunteer activity, with Harlem Grown. Harlem Grown is a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase the capacity of communities and students to access nature and green spaces, to engage these communities with nutritional and outdoor educational opportunities and improve access to a wider range of healthy foods while focusing on food justice issues. I had never done volunteer work like that. There were ten of us, so we quickly picked up the trash and helped with the gardening. I’d never thought of gardening as being such hard work. I realized how much these organizations need our help!

Now that I’ve returned to Russia, I can see that there are endless opportunities to help people! I’m so blessed that I met so many people from all different countries and I really hope that we have a reunion someday. For the eight days that we were together, we became so close because every evening we shared a little something about ourselves. We told each other what we liked the most and the least during the day. It was helpful because it reminded us about all the amazing experiences we had had that day.

Now that I’m back in my home country, I can conclude that if you want to change something, you can by starting with yourself. There are many different opportunities to change our lives. We don’t know what is waiting for us tomorrow, but we can start by making small changes today. When you start making a change, somebody else will join you. We are the future leaders and our future is in our hands!