It’s that time of year again – a new school year, a fresh start … a new group of LeadAbroad Community Leaders and Social Media Interns! Our team is as excited as ever to start another great year helping students get abroad.

Here on the LeadAbroad blog, we want our readers to be as familiar with our team and our family as possible. We want to get to know you, and we want you to get to know us.

SO: here’s what we have in mind!

Over the next few weeks, you’ll meet each of our 4 Social Media Interns, our 27 Community Leaders, our 8 full-time team members, and several alumni through posts composed by each of these individuals themselves. We want you to meet us through our own voice and our own personal experiences that we’ve each had through this impactful company.

As for me, the blog editor, I’m the lucky one who gets to read all of these posts first and publish them on the site for the world to read. Let me introduce myself so that you know who is behind the keyboard.

My name is Anna Larimore, and this is my LeadAbroad story.

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It was Super Bowl Sunday, and I was a sophomore at Ole Miss. Without giving you any other details, I can assume that you just envisioned I was out on the Square or at a fraternity party or at a friend’s house, indulging in cheap beer and canned salsa, yelling at the television.

I wasn’t.

I was sitting at home in my pajama pants, staring at my computer screen with strained eyes until I found exactly what I was looking for.

Scrolling through a webpage that answered many of my questions, I turned to my best friend next to me on the couch and asked her what would literally be a life-changing question: “Wanna go to Africa?”

You see, a few days prior, a representative from a study abroad company, then called Global LEAD, came to speak to my chapter. Offering summer study abroad programs in South Africa, Ecuador, and Greece, she caught my attention. She invited us to write our names down on a clipboard to be passed around, and I decided then and there that I’d like to learn more.

I scheduled a meeting with her but had to cancel. In the meantime, I took it upon myself to do some research, and I rescheduled a meeting with a different representative. After some convincing on that Super Bowl Sunday, my best friend and roommate agreed to come along.

We met with the representative on the campus Starbucks, and she answered all of our questions so professionally and with such ease. She made the whole process exciting, relaxed, and easy to understand. Oh yeah…and she also told us that we needed to make a final decision in 7 days. No big deal.

So, we called our parents, and after they did their research, too…they gave us the thumbs up. Within 7 days, we were officially committed for a 5-week study abroad trip to Africa. Surreal.

Africa was everything I dreamed of and more. I went cage diving with great white sharks in the ice cold waters of the Indian Ocean, bungee jumped off of the tallest commercial bungee jump in the world, drove around the grasslands on an African safari. Went skydiving, rode an elephant, and pet cheetahs. It may be hard to understand, but none of these amazing highlights were my favorite parts of the trip.

I met people who understood me in a way I hadn’t even yet understood myself: people who helped me realize my values, my goals, my strengths, and how I could combine those things into a vision statement to live my life. People who were genuinely kind, servant-hearted, good-listening people that believed in me, supported me, and wanted to see me succeed.

I hiked one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature: Table Mountain. The hike was one of the greatest challenges I ever faced, and I did it with the support of complete strangers who turned into best friends. I now have this mountain permanently inked on my body as a reminder of the metaphorical and literal uphill battle.

I was faced with poverty that I’d only seen on television and in National Geographic magazines. I was able to learn hands-on that these people are real people, with real stories, real families, real goals, and real hearts. They taught me about their culture and I taught them about mine. We learned from one another that we are all connected by humanity. Ubuntu. The Amy Biehl Foundation, in particular, taught me about a level of Ubuntu that is ultimately something I will strive for for the rest of my life.

Along the way, I blogged about my experience on my personal website. Little did I know, the CEO of the company had been reading my blog. I was invited to serve as a Social Media Intern and run the blog under the guidance of the Marketing Director. Combining a stellar program, my newfound love for travel, and my talent for writing in one internship? A dream come true.

I was also invited to serve as a Community Leader on my college campus, helping to recruit students and make other people’s study abroad and travel dreams come true. This was especially exciting because at the time, the company was undergoing rebranding to “Go Global.” I got to be a part of that transition, and it was a blast.

But I wanted more.

That following February, a calendar year after signing on to go abroad the first time, I got the news that I had been selected as an International Intern for both Cape Town programs: Direct and LEAD. I was going back to South Africa for my second consecutive summer. I was shocked in the best way ever. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

That trip was such a growth experience for me. I was expected to guide the students and help them to embrace the curriculum, dive into the adventures, and commit to connect when building relationships with fellow students and locals alike. I think I succeeded in doing so — but my students succeeded way more than I did. They ended up teaching me so much more than I anticipated. I got to live my once-in-a-lifetime experience all over again, this time helping other college students live out their dreams and become the best versions of themselves they could be. It was an opportunity that helped me realize where my true passions lie: helping others and learning from others.

As we rebrand again, this time into LeadAbroad, I also get to be a part of the behind-the-scenes work as I serve as the blog Social Media Intern for the second year in a row. I got to be a part of the team during the inaugural GO trips and Direct trips, and the new locations of Italy and Spain. I am beyond humbled to help other people share their stories through this platform with the goal of reaching new people and helping them to achieve their travel goals.

LeadAbroad helped me become the person I’ve always wanted to be. I’ve bungee jumped twice off of the tallest bungee jump in the world, and one of those jumps was backwards – fearless. I’ve given all of myself to a community that showed me, in turn, graciousness and compassion – humble. I’ve learned how to entirely refocus conversations and friendships into powerful and meaningful exchanges of love and care – genuine. Through adventure, service, and leadership, LeadAbroad gave me a transformative experience that changed the trajectory of my life.

As you read the blog this school year, know that I am speaking on behalf of the whole LeadAbroad team! Our team is comprised of dedicated, creative, and passionate individuals who are ready to help YOU have the time of your life.

I hope to get to know each one of you the best that I can! We love to hear from you, so feel free to comment on these blog posts and share them on your social media outlets as you wish.

Writing has always been my greatest joy and passion in life. I write on websites, in journals, on blogs, and in class: I’m a senior journalism major and English minor at the University of Mississippi. This has truly been the perfect internship for me in so many ways, and I’m ecstatic that my opportunities keep growing.

Stay tuned to hear from our other three amazing Social Media Interns over the next few weeks! They are excited to meet you, too, and they are brewing up amazing things for you on their outlets.

Don’t just go…LEAD!

-Anna and the LeadAbroad team

 

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