Friday, February 3, 2023

A Trip of a Lifetime

By Reiney Marston

IMC Student

Gracie Gecy Portrait

She straps into the harness getting a little nervous while standing on the Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa. Her palms start to sweat when the two men beside her walk her to the edge as they count down from three. On one, they push. She flies for only a second and then starts to fall.

Gracie Gecy completed the tallest bungee jump in the entire world.

Gecy is sitting across the table as she continues to share her once-in-a-lifetime experiences including walking with elephants, helping the less fortunate and cage diving with great white sharks. 

She learned about this trip through a program called LeadAbroad. By jumping on this opportunity, her whole life changed, and she now sees the world in a different light. Traveling halfway across the world was the best decision she ever made. 

This program sends students to various locations. These programs, for which the students receive college credit, include a week filled with adventures, free days to explore and a week of serving the less fortunate. 

She chose to go to Cape Town, South Africa, knowing that she might never be able to go back whereas she likely would visit European locations as she gets older. She wanted to go to a place she knew would change her outlook on life. 

Gecy walked off the plane not knowing another soul. She said, “I knew I wanted to go by myself so I could have the experience for myself.” 

She discovered that the experience is similar to moving into college. “No one knows what to expect so you bond over it,” she said.

Gecy sinks down in her seat while talking about the friendships she made. She explains that the people she made such strong bonds with will probably never all be in the same room together again.  

Gecy became closer to these people during the week of service. It was one of her favorite parts of the trip. “It was eye-opening to see through a different perspective,” said Gecy. 

LeadAbroad works with a group called the Amy Foundation, an after-school program. Gecy would spend time with young children for a couple of days and then with young adults for the next couple of days. “The Amy Foundation works with all ages so someone in high school could be in their 20s,” she explained. 

While spending time with the small children in Cape Town, Gecy watched one little boy take an extra sandwich, look around to see if anyone was watching and then stuff it into his pocket. Many of these kids only get one meal a day so they steal extras to save for later that night.

Gecy felt very lucky to be from the United States during the week of service. When people would ask why she was in South Africa, she explained that she was studying abroad and then would offer a shower of compliments about their culture and country. They responded to her compliments by saying that America was the best country in the world and it was their dream to go there one day.  

“I am a lot more grateful for what I have now,” said Gecy.

Gecy became concerned toward the end of the trip because she did not want to forget a second of her experience in Cape Town. She decided to do every activity that was offered, and her favorite was bungee jumping. She was nervous about jumping but knew that it would be an experience she would never forget.

Another one of her favorites was cage diving with sharks. “I had to do it or I would have regretted it,” she said. “I couldn’t be scared.”

She starts to fawn over the food she had in South Africa. Most people would think that most of the restaurants would serve seafood since they are on the coast. This was not the case. Gecy described the food as an assortment of different genres.

“People have many perceptions of what the food will be like,” she said, “but there are all types of food there. The only annoying thing is that they don’t have ranch dressing.” She mentioned with a big smile that many restaurants have huge, picturesque flower walls. “You can’t find anything like it in the US,” Gecy said. 

After getting back to the United States, she was filled with gratitude for going on the trip and sadness for leaving all of her new friends. “It’s such a beautiful place,” she said. “I loved it. I hope to go back one day.”


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