Scholar reflects on life-changing experiences at AC

Written by | Kimber Willburn |

How do I even begin to describe my experience at Amarillo College? I can’t believe it’s already coming to an end after only one year. In that year I’ve met so many amazing people and made memories to last a lifetime. During my time at AC, I was part of the Presidential Scholars.

When I first met all the other Presidential Scholars, strangers surrounded me. Now I call those same people I didn’t know at the beginning of the year my friends – not the kind of friends you just know and have class with; they’re the kind of friends you have inside jokes with and that you would do anything for. This program has changed me. I am not the same person I was at the beginning of this year. One of the biggest, life-changing and influential experiences I had while at AC was taking a trip to Lithuania and Poland with the other Presidential Scholars.

The trip to Lithuania and Poland changed my view on a few things in life. This was not my first time to travel internationally, but one thing I can say about traveling to other countries in general is that being in another country is very surreal. It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that you are thousands of miles from home. Being in another country, I have felt starstruck the whole time just imagining that home is across an ocean.
There is something about traveling internationally that makes you realize how much of the world you have yet to see. When you’re traveling, you do your best to absorb everything.

One day we drove outside the city into a gorgeous forest where we exited the bus and started walking through what looked like a scene you could pull straight out of a Disney movie. To top it off, it started snowing. The forest was breathtaking, but the heavy-hearted truth is that it is a memorial for Jews whose lives were taken there. During World War II, Jews were marched out into this forest and lined up in front of pits, where they were shot on the spot. This gorgeous forest that once could have been the scene of a fairytale is now stained with the tragedies of war and is a reminder of the many lives lost to the Nazi regime.

Even though many horrific tragedies took place in these countries, they still are beautiful places that have overcome the past but do not ignore it. These landmarks are used as a reminder to the future generations of Lithuania and other countries to ensure that atrocities such as those that were committed will never happen again. A woman we met while in Lithuania also lives out this lesson. Her name is Irena. She is very short, around five feet tall, with gray hair, a fur coat and an inspiring smile.

When Irena was 15 years old, she was deported to Siberia for 17 years, where temperatures were freezing and she and her fellow Lithuanians struggled to survive. Yet after everything Irena had been through, she was full of life and very positive. She was not full of hate for the Soviets who deported her or the soldiers who kept her there. She is determined to share her story with children.To me, Irena was an inspiration not to take the life I have for granted, to be grateful for the things I have and always to be kind with a positive attitude no matter what happens.

Through this trip, I gained a new perspective on life. These are just a few of the many experiences I learned from this amazing journey at Amarillo College. I had these experiences because of Presidential Scholars, and I never could express how much this program means to me and how grateful I am.
Through Presidential Scholars, I have grown as a person. I feel more prepared to transfer to a university and continue my journey toward starting my career. I have learned about responsibility, planning, stress management and friendship, which all are skills I will continue to use for the rest of my life.

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