I distinctly remember walking down the History department hallway of MWHS during my sophomore year, and thinking, “How does it get any better than this?” At that point, I knew that within a span of five months, I would be traveling to three different places with programs offered through the high school: Washington, D.C., Costa Rica, and China.
First I went to Washington, D.C. with Know America. I earned myself a spot on the trip by getting some of the top scores on a series of tests related to American History. To get out to Washington, D.C., we rode in a white 12-passenger van for hours listening to Mr. Doepner-Hove (my A.P. US History teacher at the time) belt out “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson each morning. Know America was an incredible opportunity to witness the sights and artifacts of our nation’s history in our nation’s capital with someone who is passionate about teaching it.
In March of that year, I went on the Spanish department spring break trip to Costa Rica. It was my first time out of the country! Costa Rica was also my first experience utilizing Spanish in a context outside of the classroom immersed with native speakers. Overall, I remember the trip being extremely adventurous. We went white-water rafting, and zip lining through the rain forest. I was definitely scared and apprehensive at first, but then I didn’t ever want the thrilling adventures to stop! There was no turning back my love of travel at that point...
Then in the summer, I spent two weeks in China with the Westonka Summer Institute. I remember the trip to China was the first time I truly realized that the world is a huge place, but despite differences, people are people everywhere. When it came time to leave, I sat in the airport with the advisor of the trip (who was also my guidance counselor) Ms. Baumann, and we tried to devise a plan to stay longer! I didn’t ever want to leave, and that’s a feeling that I often get now no matter where I travel.
Looking back, I can see how those trips sophomore year were each catalysts for discovering my passions, and developing how I’d like to utilize my interests in a world-wide context as a career. Those trips my sophomore year of high school also taught me how to go outside of my comfort zone in a variety of ways to have new experiences and grow as an individual.
Last fall, I studied abroad in Ecuador for the semester. Throughout my time there, I did things I never would’ve imagined – like eating guinea pig, mountain biking through the rain forest, repelling down waterfalls, and shopping at local markets all by myself. I lived with a host family, and after taking classes there for two months, I did a six-week internship teaching English in a small, rural, indigenous community. It was an immense period of personal growth, and I definitely came back to Minnesota a changed person.
Now I’m a senior at the University of Minnesota– Twin Cities. I’ll graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts in both Journalism and Global Studies, along with minors in Spanish and Teaching English as a Second Language. These studies definitely reflect my interests and I can attribute my ability to graduate with 2 majors and 2 minors in 4 years thanks to the AP and College in Schools courses I took in high school. I had phenomenal teachers at MWHS who challenged, encouraged, and inspired me along the way.
I’m thankful for the experiences and people at MWHS that have shaped and guided me to where I am today… I know I will continue to be impacted by them in the future as well! Mound Westonka certainly has small district advantages but offers big school, incredible opportunities.
Snapshots of Laura's travels sophomore year of high school (2008)
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