Study Abroad Essay Contest Winners: Devote Life to Living

Frank Dumbreski, Second Place Winner of the American Student category

My parents had ingrained in my consciousness that I had to be successful. I would have to sacrifice, educate myself, work hard and shield myself from everyone else’s selfish agendas. I worked hard, sometimes having three jobs, working off shift hours, or jumping from job to job to bolster my financial stature. I left work and headed straight for the departure of my first trip abroad knowing the moment I returned, I would be working another twelve hour shift. This was my first vacation in almost ten years and I was so excited to get away.

Once landing in Heathrow, I became separated from the group. Knowing that we had a very short lay-over I rushed to the gate in an airport that I did not know. There, I asked a gentleman for help. He gladly showed me how we had to go to a shuttle and I thanked him. As I sat down, he signaled me to come over and sit next to him where we began to talk. He was a consultant originally from England but had moved to Italy so that he and his son could enjoy snowboarding in the Alps. We talked the whole time swapping stories about our lives and who we were until we had to board the plan.

While we were visiting Niche, a group of us decided to go out for drinks for the evening. We came across and tiny bar located on a dark street. After only being there for less than an hour, the group left because it was a bit pricey. I decided to stay and talked to the owner of the bar for a while. He told me about his life, his business and his ability to six languages that he spoke. He kindly poured me a drink and we continued to discuss life. He introduced me to the bartender, who was stunning. She joined our conversation as we all shared a bottle of French Champagne and held my hand while we all laughed. When I departed, we exchanged numbers and gave each other hugs like the parting of lifelong friends.

The next evening, I headed to the casino to try my luck. Unfamiliar with the rules of European Black Jack, I sat at a table and just observed the other players to find the cadence of the game. A gentleman sat next to me and shook my hand. He did not speak English but he spoke to me through the use of his hands. He reached over, and grabbed my chips. I was shocked; no one would ever do that back in the states. As the dealer busted the hand, he looked over and gave me a big smile. We shared the pile of chips and played into the early hours of the morning. At no point after the first hand did I feel uncomfortable or in danger. I finally left and once again I was given a friendly hug.

On the way back, I became disoriented since the streets all looked identical. I walked for a good hour and had not seen one person who could give me directions. I turned the corner and there was a man who was not so fortunate in life. I pulled out a picture of the hotel and pointed. He led me to a police station and spoke to the officer to get directions. He escorted me to the hotel. I thanked him and gave him a few Euros for his troubles.

On the return flight, I started to ponder all the experiences I had in Europe. I cannot say on an individual basis that each one was a life changing event. It was the culmination of them all that began the change of my mindset about life. I had been so consumed with working and creating personal wealth that I had over looked what the world had to offer.

All humans have one great common denominator and that is death. We do not go living on forever. It is our memories, interactions and experiences that we share with acquaintances, friends and families that do.

I realized that wealth is not the summation of real property that is accumulated over time but rather the incremental knowledge that one gains. I have decided to pursue my Ph.D. and become a professor of higher education; so I can share my psychological wealth with others and hopefully afford them the same opportunity that was bestowed on me.

Your first lesson: Don’t devote your life to work; devote it to living.

– Frank Dumbreski


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