Rustic Pathways Reflection

Rustic Pathways Reflection

Stephanie Guza

All photos have been provided by Stephanie. Read her story below!

My name is Stephanie Guza, I’m from Stamford, Connecticut, and I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Fiji in 2017. The program I did was called Sun, Sand and International Service.

After I said goodbye to my parents at the Los Angeles International Airport, I found myself with a new group of people who became my new friends right away. Everyone who was going to Fiji made the 10-hour flight feel much shorter. I already knew we were going to have the best time doing things we all love, community service, learning about a new culture, creating new memories, and meeting amazing people.

Throughout my time in Fiji, I grew as a person and was so grateful for this experience; I had to force myself to embrace everything Fiji had to offer since it took a couple of days to adjust. Connecting with others while forming more friendships helped me strengthen my interpersonal skills, and talking to the natives gave me insight on their lives.

I also became an extreme daredevil by getting out of my comfort zone in outdoor activities such as playing Fiji’s national sport rugby, doing an intense rope course, and skydiving at 14,000 ft!

Yes, we gained a lot of unique experiences, but I enjoyed spending time with the local people and the children we visited in the villages. My favorite memory was singing with everyone under a big hut in one of the villages. It amazed me how happy everyone was with only what they had. It made me want to live a simpler life and appreciate it more. This whole trip brought me down from the high cloud we Americans picture ourselves at, and it made me more aware of how others live in another country.

Eating traditional food and participating in cultural activities was the best way to learn about the Fijian people. When we were doing our service work everyone was extremely nice and welcoming, which made this experience more meaningful. In the villages we spent time with the children and adults, and we helped with construction such as putting in cement and painting school walls. I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and encouraged my friends to go all-in in everything we did.

When we weren’t doing service, we spent our free time hanging out at the base house and got to befriend most of the staff members. I remember that one warm evening I discovered a new interest, which was playing the ukulele. I was mesmerized by all of the Fijian group leaders playing and singing along, so I asked to give it a try. Once I got home I ordered one and have been playing ever since.

I will never forget my two group leaders, Johnny and Veronica who made me feel comfortable and encouraged me to have as much fun as I can. When the trip came to an end it was a sad day full of tears. I said goodbye to my new friends (some whom I still talk to today) and the staff I became close to. One day I hope to go back to Fiji. It is truly an amazing country full of happiness and kindness that I will never forget.

Learn more about the Sun, Sand and International Service program or view more Alumni Stories here