BY TARA BAGHERLEE
Sophomore Mitchell Woolley has traveled “around the world in 15 years.” England, India, Aruba, Ridgewood, N.J., and Weston are all the places Woolley has lived, due to his father’s job with the Marriott hotel chain.
After moving to Weston this past summer, Woolley said he likes the fact that he has had so many international experiences.
“It was interesting and very different. Being exposed to so many different cultures made me more open-minded, and it made me think about life as a whole more, rather than the people around me,” Woolley said.
Woolley describes his travels as eye-opening, since he gained new experiences that most people would not have, with moving to India and Aruba and traveling to other continents such as Asia and Africa.
“Driving to school in India (which took about 45 minutes), you’d see something new every single day,” Woolley said. “You could see elephants in the road. You’d have lots of beggars, you’d have children and infants knock on your window and try and get money and food from you. There were people who would injure themselves so you’d have pity on them, and then you’d pay them money. It was disturbing.”
Before coming to Weston, Woolley lived in Mumbai, India for three years. Woolley said his favorite thing about living in India was the education system at the American School of Bombay, which was through the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which has four different programs for students 3-19 to “help develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world,” according to the IB website.
“The school was really, really good. They had a different style of teaching there which I liked as well,” Woolley said. “It was more open-minded thinking, and more critical thinking in general, so there wasn’t always just one answer to every question. I really liked that.”
Woolley also said through his school, he had many opportunities to go on trips, and on one of them, he met the possible heir to the Dalai Lama.
His father, John Woolley, is Marriott’s area director of sales and marketing for the Caribbean and has worked for the hotel for 13 years.
“I love my job, because it’s enabled me to travel around to some very interesting places. It’s very much a people’s business. Interpersonal skills are very important,” Mr. Woolley said.
Mitchell said he tries his best to keep in contact with his friends from Bombay, but it can be hard because of the distance and time difference.
“With my friends in India, it’s a 9½ hour time difference, so I need to stay up pretty late if I wanted to talk to them, or wake up pretty early. So it’s difficult,” he said. “But, for instance, I’ll play video games with them when I can.”
His father has learned how to deal with communication issues with his family, since he is traveling for his job about three weeks out of every month.
“Generally, it is a positive thing, because we’ve had a chance to meet some very interesting people and go to some very fascinating places. I would say the one negative is that you tend to not be with your friends and with your family. You don’t see them too much,” Mr. Woolley said.
Mr. Woolley also described an experience in India which he would never see anywhere else.
“When we were opening a hotel in a town called Chandigarh (in India) and we had to work with the owner to open the hotel correctly and in a timely manner. At one point, all of us got into rather a heated discussion and an argument, and after five minutes the tension really broke. This fellow, he all of a sudden started singing in Punjabi,” Mr. Woolley said. “It completely broke the ice and everybody got back to work and went on with their business. It’s something entirely unexpected that wouldn’t happen in western culture, but was completely normal for Indian culture.”
Both Mitchell and Mr. Woolley said their favorite part of India was the optimistic quality of the Indian people, no matter what the conditions.
“Despite the majority of people living in bad conditions, people were so friendly and open to things,” Mitchell said. “They were curious and generally interested in talking to you and learning about our culture.”
His father agreed.
“One aspect of India that was just remarkable was that it doesn’t matter
if you’re incredibly wealthy or really, really poor. Indians just have this constant optimism about them,” Mr. Woolley said.
Besides the people, Mr. Woolley also enjoyed the lively quality of Mumbai.
“The chaos that you see in Mumbai – all the traffic, police officers, the people out in the street. It’s the polar opposite to being in Weston. India seems so much more alive, even though you have all this chaos, you feel like you’re alive there,” Mr. Woolley said.
Mitchell also described the community service, which he started in sixth grade, through his school in Mumbai.
“I’ve taken part in way more community service at an earlier age. People really need it there,” he said. “There’s terrible poverty there and the police are corrupt. You could really commit most crimes and pay 100 rupees ($2) and get away with it. The police really only have their jobs so they can get bribes. They need help.”
Mitchell and his school also worked with a foundation called Akanksha, where participants traveled to a slum in Mumbai.
“There were kids there who were especially smart, yet they weren’t in the right circumstance to be able to excel, since they had nothing. They were lucky to be going to school at all. We brought them and introduced them to technology, we taught them basics, but it could help them. They were just so curious and eager to learn,” he said.
Besides the immense impact India had on both Mitchell and his father, he said New Jersey was his other favorite place to live. He was there longest, for eight years.
“I liked living in New Jersey because it was really simple and I didn’t know what it was like to live anywhere else. I liked having the four seasons and snow. It was great,” he said.
As for Mr. Woolley, his favorite place he has lived so far has been New York City, and the place he would like to visit most in the future is South America.
“It just has an exciting buzz about it. There’s always something to do and really a different experience around the corner every minute of the day,” Mr. Woolley said. “Traveling more in South America would be very interesting.”
Mitchell said he also lived on the island of Aruba for two years, where he enjoyed the education system as well at the International School of Aruba.
“I think Aruba was also very interesting, since it’s very close to America, but it’s also very different in the sense that the schools are very small,” he said. “There were only 150 people in the whole school. It was the first time I had ever moved internationally, so it was kind of eye-opening to see what it was like.”
Woolley said he is still trying to adjust to the Bay’s size and atmosphere, since it is a lot bigger than the schools he has went to in the past.
“I like it here so far. My old school had about 750 people, and that was quite a lot for me already, compared to the one before that. But 4,400 is crazy. I’m still kind of adjusting to it, but it’s good,” he said.
Although Woolley enjoys the experiences he has had through traveling because of his father’s job, he does not want to pursue the same career.
“It’s eye-opening and you get to see new things, but I think I’ve seen quite a lot,” he said. “I’m not sure if I want to commute as much later on in life.”