On every LeadAbroad program, we remind students they would not be where they are without the support of others.  Peyton Heller, a student from the University of Alamaba, is attending LEAD Cape Town and received a little surprise in her suitcase when unpacking after arrival.

Dear Mom

Day two and slowly but surely I was starting to unpack my two 48 pound suitcases. One by one pulling my t-shirts out of my suitcase, I saw a white envelope with a purple border and immediately knew it was a letter from my mother.

Inside the envelope was everything I expected — pictures of our family and dogs as well as a letter, written in the lovely Tracy Heller cursive.

“Dear Peyton,

By the time you read this, you will have arrived in Cape Town to begin this great adventure of yours. It has been months in the planning and I was able to keep it in the back of my mind but now it’s here!!”

The letter included lots of I love you’s and I miss you’s, “take lots of pictures” and “take lots of risks”, but the lines that really stood out to me were the ones that included how proud I am making her. Even though I am the type of person that enjoys trying something different, I knew my mother was surprised when I told her that I wanted to study abroad in South Africa for five weeks. Going to school twenty hours away and not coming home for months at a time is much different than traveling over 7,000 miles to another country, but once reading the letter I knew my mom had overcome the surprise, dealt with being worried and was more proud than she had ever been before.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the young lady you have become. I admire you for taking such a trip and doing it alone. Enjoy yourself! Don’t leave South Africa without experiencing it ALL!”

So, mom, this is for you. Thank you for supporting me in this journey — emotionally, physically and financially. Traveling to Cape Town, South Africa, was something I never imagined I would be lucky enough to do but because of you, your faith in me, and all your help planning and packing, I am here and I am having the time of my life. While I wish more than anything that I could be experiencing this with you and making memories to last a lifetime, I am so thankful that you raised me to be my own person. I am able to experience this trip on my own, giving me an opportunity to grow into a person that can continue to make you proud. Thank you for being there for me every step of the way, without you I would have never made it to South Africa with luggage that wasn’t overweight.

Studying and traveling abroad is an amazing opportunity not everyone gets, and sometimes the people that do get to experience being abroad tend to forget to thank the people that helped get them there. While I sit here in Cape Town, I cannot help but think of how thankful I am for both my mother and father for not only giving me the chance to go abroad but for giving me the opportunity to make friendships that will last forever, memories that I will never forget and to experience the world in a different point of view. Take the time to thank those people – whether it’s LeadAbroad, parents, grandparents, sisters or brothers, aunts or uncles, or maybe even yourself. Thank the people that have worked hard to get you here today.

Be mindful, be thankful, be happy.

Peyton Heller