Jonah Abraham, Global Student Leader Scholarship Winner

Jonah Abraham_Great Wall of China

Jonah Abraham, class of 2014, was one of only 15 students nation-wide to win the 2014 Education First Global Citizen Scholarship. This program is designed to unite high school students from around the world by breaking down barriers of culture, language and geography, while helping them develop key 21st century skills such as global awareness, critical thinking and problem-solving.  For this year’s scholarship challenge, EF asked students to conceptualize a viable, socially responsible business plan.  The scholarship winners then traveled to China in March as part of EF’s annual Global Student Leaders Summit , which explored social responsibility in the new global economy.

“As the global economy continues to evolve, it’s more important than ever for students to think about socially responsible enterprise – and to learn the leadership skills that will help them shape our shared future,” said Shane Steffens, President of EF Educational Tours.  “The 2014 class of Global Citizen Scholars is an impressive group of high school students from across the U.S. who represent the next generation of global leaders.”

This year’s Global Citizen Scholars were in China for a ten-day immersive, educational tour experiencing China’s history, beauty, and remarkable economic growth in recent years.  The trip culminated in a two-day leadership summit where students from the U.S. and China collaborate to study and respond to design thinking challenges focused on social entrepreneurship, and hear keynote speeches from former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, the hosts of National Public Radio’s Planet Money, and other speakers.

Jonah_Global Student Leadership Conf_CHINA

Criteria for the 2014 Global Citizen Scholarship included a video or essay submission addressing the student’s plan for a viable social enterprise.  After receiving hundreds of submissions from across the U.S, a panel of global education experts selected the scholars through a series of assessments and interviews, judging the students on creativity, inventive ideas and their demonstration of global citizenship.

Jonah’s first-hand account of his trip to China:

Jonah_China pic

I never realized how far a short essay could take me. In October, I wrote an essay about the “Socially Responsible Business that I Would Create, With Access to Unlimited Startup Funds.” I wrote about creating a company that would specialize in inexpensive solar power – socially responsible because it would both mitigate the oil-dependence that plagues modern industrial society, and combat global climate change. It was only about two pages long, and I submitted it with little hope of ever hearing about it again. To my surprise and delight, I ended up winning one of the EF Global Citizens Scholarships, which paid for a trip to China in mid-March. After discussing it with the PCA administration, which fully supported me, I made the decision to go on the trip.

The actual trip itself was utterly incredible. After a layover in Los Angeles (where I played beach volleyball with a group of Italian-speaking strangers), we arrived in Shanghai, groggy and jet-lagged. After a day of touring (including a night cruise on the river), we spent two days participating in a leadership conference with several hundred other students from around the world, focusing upon international relations and the global economy. After the conference, we toured the Google offices in Shanghai, and then departed for Beijing via a bullet train. In Beijing, we saw the Forbidden City (the Emperor’s private palace), a Buddhist temple, the night markets, and dined with a local Chinese family. After eight whirlwind days of travel and touring, we finally boarded the flight to return home.

I had so many awesome experiences on the trip; it is impossible to recount them all. Highlights include: sprinting down the Great Wall of China, dancing to an Avicii song on stage in front of several hundred people at the conference, getting sick after eating a silkworm in the Beijing night market, playing basketball with a group of Chinese students at a local high school, negotiating relentlessly with street vendors for lower prices on souvenirs, touring a museum that showed the history and methods of silk production, playing cards late at night in the hotel room, and feeling the weight of history upon me as I saw Tiananmen Square. On the trip, I made memories which will last forever.