My Story - AZ Cobon
AZ Cobon - Student Leader
There are very few moments in ones life where you sit back and think to yourself, “if only life could freeze forever right at this very moment”. It’s the feeling of pure happiness and contentment. At the ripe age of 25 I have been fortunate enough to experience a moment like this 3 times. 2 of those 3 times was due to STLF and the relationships and networks it’s promotes and produces.
In 2006 I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in the first High School Pay it Forward Tour. Already 2 years deep in world travel this 22 year old bloke from Sydney, Australia was introduced to 28 kids from West Fargo High School. To that moment I would have thought I was a fairly confident kind of guy. I had just travelled to 17 different countries solo but I was nervous. Everyone knew everyone. Blind faith just pushed me on. So I put on my thickest accent, stuck out my hand and started to meet the guys and girls I was going to spend an experience of a lifetime with. My eyes were opened to a whole new world. With eyes in AWE at the size of Minneapolis and silent tears flowing from strong young men as they look over the skyline of Chicago from Sears tower these young adults taught me about the minds, aspects and influences of people outside of big cities. A lifestyle I had never been privileged to explore.
The participants on this tour impacted me in ways only people can. It was not where we went or what we did that had the greatest impact but the people I was with. Arriving back in Fargo I was presented with a gift. A jersey of the West Fargo High School basketball team. I was an honouree West Fargo-ian. Moment one.
With the wonders of Facebook I was able to keep in loose contact with many of the students from that tour. As the years went on the time between contact extended but the feeling and memories remained strong. At least from my end.
Last Monday I flew into the great town of Fargo, North Dakota. Waiting for my bags to arrive my ears are filled with song. Carollers are my first thought. It’s Christmas. Listening to the words however cast serious doubt. “Say hello ta, North Dako-ta…….” I spin around to see 3 of the most influential people from that trip who had come out to the airport just to say “g’day”. Moment 2.
I reflect on all the experiences I have had in my now 6 years of travel. Now at 23 countries I have been to some amazing places. Seen some amazing things. There is no doubt in my mind however that it’s the people we meet that make the experience. The most memorable experience and the greatest life lessons I have taken from my travels are not from the things I have seen but the people I have met.
STLF is the vessel in which we learn. We learn about other people from other communities, from other countries but we also learn about ourselves. There is no doubt in my mind that my experiences through my travels and my involvement in STLF has set me up for a very successful and well rounded life. Thank you STLF for an experience that not only is a great memory or a couple of lines for the travel journal but an experience that has shaped who I am.
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