Charting Your Path is a program hosted by the Office of Global Awards to support sophomore and junior students in preparing to apply for Global Awards and post-graduate programs. This year, the program brought twenty-four participants, five senior facilitators, and three faculty members to Chongming island for a day of activities at the Heartland Farm. 

The first part of the program took place the evening of Friday, December 2nd at the Academic Building. Following large group and small group introductions and icebreaker activities, there was a brief panel where the senior facilitators introduced their majors and previous work, internship, and research experiences. At the conclusion of the panel, dinner was provided by faculty and enjoyed during the last session of the evening. In this session, students broke up into groups of five alongside one senior facilitator for activities on goal setting and transformative moments. These small groups would work closely together for many of the activities throughout the duration of the program. Elena Huang, one of these senior facilitators, shares that “one thing very meaningful to me was to know more people from different majors.” In learning about the personal narratives of the participants in her group, who came from all different majors and tracks, Elena felt she learned a lot about the interests and research topics under various majors. 

The next morning, participants gathered at the Academic Building at 9:30 a.m. and boarded a bus headed to Chongming Island. Arriving at the farm sometime around 11:00 a.m., the first activities included lunch, where everyone was able to make a mini pizza for themselves, and a tour of the farm. Once done eating everyone geared up for canoeing. In teams of two to six people, everyone first practiced paddling and steering in the little river next to the farm before venturing out to the bigger river. For Aura Liu, Class of 2026, canoeing was one of the fun highlights of the trip, noting how the activity allowed her to “have a deeper connection with the teammates.” 

Once docked, the whole group gathered for the main workshop on personal statements. Everyone first read and critiqued some sample narratives before breaking off into smaller groups to read each other’s personal statements, which were submitted as part of the application to the program. “CDC has these kinds of workshops,” explains Aura, “but I think the biggest difference is that you get to work with a lot of people in your team, and you get to hear feedback from your peers.” Through reading other students’ (and especially her senior facilitators’) personal narratives as well as receiving feedback on her own, Aura shares how she gained a much better understanding of what she should include in a personal narrative. As a big takeaway, Aura shares the importance of “showing your own unique experiences,” and in that way “everyone can shine.” 

After a Chinese-style dinner prepared by the staff at the farm, everyone broke into small groups again for resume-based mock interview sessions. Each participant was given printed copies of each other’s resume (which was also submitted as part of the application) and asked each other questions during each member’s five minute mock interview. Once all the interviews were over, everyone offered each other positive feedback.  

To conclude the evening, everyone gathered around a fire to roast marshmallows, enjoy s’mores, and engage in conversation and reflection. From here, students boarded the shuttle headed back to the dorms. 

Although the weather was cold and rainy throughout the day, the trip proved to be a time full of inspiration, fun, and relationship building. During the one and a half days, there was really only enough time to skim the surface of all things related to applying for Global Awards and postgraduate programs, yet the exposure provided by the trip is helpful in inspiring students to start considering the possibilities ahead.