While Saybrook gets quite boring in the dead of winter, growing up in what I thought was a “small” town has given me the perfect launch pad to make my life whatever I want it to be. My experiences in Europe and Costa Rica have given my life purpose and focus. I study hard in French and now take Spanish as well to build a foundation of knowledge that I hope will grow during and after college. I’ve made amazing international connections and friendships that I know I will keep for my whole life. These friendships have changed my perspective of humans and cultural differences as a whole. My interest in travel and foreign cultures has grown from a desire to an obsession to a virtual need for new experiences and relationships. I hope to fulfill this need in college and my career after, traveling and meeting new people and working to build a better world. But now, as I mature, I know that I will not forget the small shoreline town that I dreamed of leaving, knowing that one day, I will dream of returning.
However, if one can live outside a big city in a smaller town that is within easy driving distance to all the advantages of a big city, the advantages of small town living are numerous and enticing....
By the time I got to high school I knew pretty much what I wanted to do as far as activities. Being in a small school, I was able to participate in four different sports throughout the year. My friends and I also tried out a lot of different clubs we thought would be fun. Knowing everybody in your school and having many friends has opened up wonderful opportunities for me to become a well-rounded person. I have been in four sports, numerous clubs, many musical activities, and the musical. I believe by living in a small town, I have grown up to be the person that I am now. I believe in growing up with many opportunities. I believe in growing up and freely making my own choices. I believe a small town provides benefits for you in the long run in college and even for a specific career.
Lesson two: you know everyone in town and everyone knows you. For me personally, this gave me a sense of accountability. I felt this way because you never know who is watching you. Growing up, if you caused trouble, word got back to your parents before you did. I personally enjoy going to a small high school. The class sizes are small so the relationship between students and teachers is strong. To a small town, football season is the highlight of the year. From wearing a boy’s jersey down the hall, to cheering your heart out at the game Friday night, football season is what people of all ages look forward to. A group of friends in a small town are inseparable from one another. They know when something is wrong with one another and if you pick a fight with one; you get them all.
Lesson three: you learn to appreciate what you have. Growing up in a small town, you live on a farm, have a family member that farms, or know someone close the family that farms. Living in a rural area lets you see how much work it takes to raise the food and animals that a lot of other people take for granted. To people in a small town, a home-cooked meal often means a homegrown meal as well.
Living in a small town can limit the perspective of one’s mind, leaving one to believe that hardly anything exists beyond the borders of one’s town. Old Saybrook is a town that I love; filled with beaches and restaurants, a quaint Main Street and green parks, it is quintessential Smalltown, New England. But in addition to its charm, growing up in Saybrook has had its challenges. Now, I’m not talking inner-city slum challenges, but as challenging as growing up in upper middle class suburbia can get. A lack of cultural experience and awareness seems to permeate my town of Old Saybrook, leaving the kids of this small town with little knowledge of what the world truly has to offer.
Being confined to a community with an area of 15 square miles has left me with a desire to see what lies beyond the borders of Old Saybrook. It began the summer before ninth grade when I took a trip to Europe through the program People to People. I, along with 44 other teens, traveled from the beaches of Greece, through the countryside of Italy, up to the center of France. This three-week-long complete immersion into travel and the European way of life left me thirsty for more. In the years that followed, my desire slowly morphed and developed, grew and transformed into a need, an obsession. I plastered my walls with pictures of the architecture of Rome and the beaches of Brazil. I spent hours on my computer searching for more opportunities to travel—counting my pennies, calculating how long until I could dive into another culture. I became committed to learning new languages, taking French in school and scrounging the library for audiotapes that could teach me a new language. And after a failed attempt at mastering the difficult accents used in German and Russian, I realized that it would be years before I could truly escape this small town.
My calling came sophomore year when another international travel program entered my radar. Walking Tree Travel presented to my French III class one of its programs: a trip to Senegal. I, however, was entranced by the Costa Rican trip, Walking Tree’s fledgling trip. I immediately signed up and four months later, armed with a borrowed Spanish I textbook, I was in Costa Rica. While I spent two weeks cliff diving, hiking, and zip lining, my 14 companions and I spent two weeks living and working with the inhabitants of Las Brisas. Las Brisas has a whopping population of 500—that’s a small town! My life began to revolve around life and work in Las Brisas. I would wake up every morning and walk a mile to the school where we were building a new support wall and mixing cement by hand for hours before being refreshed by a hot cup of coffee. The physical requirements of building a seven-foot high cement wall are extensive, but the rewards were even greater. I made new friends with the Las Brisas natives, began learning a new language, and really connected with the dozens of individual personalities and relationships that existed in this small farm town. Everyone had their own stories to tell and dreams to share, from the littlest chica to the oldest hombre. I gained so much more insight into culture in my two weeks in Las Brisas than I ever expected. They come from a different world than I do, but we share so many similarities! They like watching TV and playing sports. Others love traveling to see the wonders their small country has to offer. Some even love texting and, like me, some dream to escape their small town and see the world. And while living and working with the warm-hearted people of Las Brisas, I realized that it’s not the size of the town but the hopes and dreams of those in it that really determines the life they will lead.
Friday night lights, gas station gossip, or kids playing in sprinklers: these are just a few of the everyday happenings in the small town. Large cities and small towns all have their advantages and disadvantages. Many people believe that growing up in a big city is the way to go, but I believe living in a small town offers more chances at learning key life lessons.
Twenty years ago my parents believed that having their children grow up in a small town was a good choice. My dad came from Detroit, Michigan, and my mom came from a big city in Mexico. They met in Detroit, started dating, and finally got married a couple of years later. After a lot of discussion, they decided they were going to raise their kids in a small town. They decided to move to Corning, Iowa, where my grandpa had some land. There, they started raising their three kids.