Girl Scout to go on cultural immersion trip
By Cynthia Robertson
Being in Girl Scouts has taught St. Martin’s Academy student Alexandria Freeman to go the extra mile in all she does. She had that in mind when she applied for travel opportunities with the Girl Scouts Destinations program. As a result, on July 8, Freeman will be going on a trip for 10 days with 14 other Girl Scouts from around the world to India.
But Freeman did not simply win the trip, as in a contest or expense-paid program.
“She applied, met the criteria, and was chosen for the trip as a good fit and asset to the leadership experience,” said her mother Amanda Freeman, who is also an assistant troop leader.
Girl Scouts who apply to the Destinations program can try for up to four trips or adventures. In fact, Freeman had applied for two, writing one cover letter each for the trip to Pune, India and the Space Academy in Huntsville, Alabama. She was accepted for both, but she had to choose between the two.
“I picked the India trip because I am interested in their culture. It started when I was a little girl when I used to dress up as Jasmine, my favorite Disney princess.”
Freeman was chosen for the trip largely because of the cover letter in her application to the Destinations program.
“She had to tell why she would be a good candidate to go on the trip,” said Alana Snyder, who is Freeman’s troop leader. “Learning to promote yourself is a very hard but important skill for teens to learn. Teens tend to naturally think of it as bragging, but it’s so much more.”
In her cover letter, Freeman wrote about some of her skills and personality traits that point to leadership.
Calling herself a “people person” in the letter, she wrote: “I love to talk, especially if I get to talk about things that better my city, my country, and women everywhere. I have planned and led stations at many Girl Scout workshops hosted by my troop to earn Journey badges, and continuously tell girls about how to stop stereotypes and how to see them as their best self.”
Freeman consistently reaches for the best she can be, too. As soon as she found out that she had been accepted into the travel opportunity to India, she went to the library to get books about India and she downloaded an app to teach herself some Hindi. In addition, Freeman is learning about the spices used in Indian cooking.
Her mother is often right alongside her in learning all things India.
“We looked India up on a map and studied what she may see and hear and experience while there,” Amanda said.
“We went to a travel clinic and got the required shots and medicines and such. We have been getting clothes ready and talking about how we will attempt to communicate with their time zone and ours — and with spotty internet and electricity.”
During her stay at Pune, India, Freeman will be visiting a women’s shelter and orphanage as part of her community service.
“Just the other night, Alex asked to use some of her recycling money to purchase supplies. We came home with a giant bag of stuff she wants to take,” Amanda said.
The trip was open to girls 11 and older nationwide. The Destinations trips are advertised on the local level as well as on GSUSA’s website.
Freeman was asked if she wanted some financial assistance through Girl Scouts to help fund the trip, in exchange for community service hours, but she chose to give those dollars to girls who may truly need assistance.
Snyder said that the Destination Program has been going on at least since the 1980s when she herself was a Cadette. Back then the program was called Wider Opportunities.
When it comes time to apply for the Destination Program in the fall, each Girl Scout may apply up to four trips. The travel program is designed to allow girls to be involved in various experiences.
“The idea is that the best learning is by doing,” Snyder said.
Trip opportunities include the U.S. and international. The six categories for the trips are International, Outdoors, Science, People, Apprenticeships, and Gateways, the latter of which are typically two-to-four-day trips.
The main point of Girl Scouts is to get out and explore the world and other places; doing so gives one a better perspective and understanding of other people.
“I really want Girl Scouts to continue to open new doors for me, especially through traveling. Going to India will open my eyes and see ‘a whole new world’ that I never knew existed,” Freeman said.
“I’ve been counting down the days on my calendar until I leave. I even started packing some things early,” said Freeman.
—Cynthia Robertson is a San Diego-based freelance writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.