WASHINGTON, PA (March 2, 2017) – As a triple major in international studies, economics, and French at Washington & Jefferson College (W&J), junior Kayla Conforti has an incredibly rigorous and busy schedule. So, when she decided to complete a Magellan Project, she used it to travel to one of the most relaxing places in the world: Hawaii.
Kayla spent the three weeks of her trip studying the cultural effects of tourism on this state, and also learned a lot about herself as a person. She stayed on the island of Oahu, living in downtown Honolulu and visiting many famous sites, including the North Shore Waikiki, and Pearl Harbor, which was especially important to her.
“Coming from a family with a lot of members who served in the armed forces, Pearl Harbor was a special place to visit and a sobering reminder of the sacrifices servicemen and servicewomen make every day for our country,” Kayla said.
The majority of Kayla’s project was based on conversations with tourists and locals alike. In order to succeed she needed to break out of her comfort zone and initiate the majority of the conversations she was having. This was one of the main challenges Kayla said she faced.
“I tend to be a silent observer in social situations and prefer to just listen to what others are saying, but this project required me to be an active participant in discussions,” she said.
While completing her project, Kayla also learned valuable lessons outside of her research, such as how to think on her feet when plans change. She talked about a time when a professor was suddenly unable to meet, and she had to adjust her plans to complete her research. Kayla is the kind of person who likes order, and wants to have a set plan for her tasks, so the unpredictability of her project was challenging at first, but eventually paid off in the end.
“In the end, the time I would’ve spent with the professor was spent having interesting conversations with many tourists, including an older couple on the hunt for the cast of Hawaii Five-0, about what drew them to Hawaii,” Kayla said. “This experience, in a way, forced me to embrace spontaneity and ultimately to see how it’s okay to sometimes have things stray from what you have planned out. I enjoy deep conversations with others and found the balance between listening and participating.”
Kayla learned that although tourism does affect the lives of the local citizens tremendously, it doesn’t have to be negative. In fact, she saw that most locals enjoy sharing their culture with those people. She saw this uptake in cultural pride because of the number of tourists in the state and the locals anxious to show off their ways, and loved that Hawaiian culture was still thriving in the age of tourism.
As a junior, Kayla has come back to W&J and is continuing to work toward her degrees. She loves that she had the opportunity to take on a Magellan Project and is excited to take the lessons she learned into the real world.
“After graduation from W&J, I plan on pursuing my J.D. (Juris Doctor Degree) and a career in either international or corporate law. This Magellan experience allowed me to sharpen my communication skills and to become more independent, which are necessities in this field of study and in the real world,” Kayla said.
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.
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