Going on an elephant-back safari through the wild savannahs of South Africa is most likely not on the agendas of many 16-year-olds. For me, however, this has become a new addition to my list of things that I would like to do in the future. I did not come up with this idea on my own though. This idea of an exotic African vacation first occurred to me while I participated in the Staples High School job shadow program recently. This event is held every year for several students in the 11th grade to experience what different careers are like by spending a day with a person who works in that profession.

On that day, I had the experience of shadowing Susan Farewell, a Westport-based travel journalist, who also has her own travel news and information website, FarewellTravels.com. In the morning, we took the train into New York City to visit a press event held by the Museum of Natural History to promote their new exhibit that just opened May 29, called "Race to the End of the Earth." This information-packed exhibit chronicled the separate journeys of two different explorers (Norwegian Roald Amundsen and Britain's Robert Falcon Scott) who raced each other to become the first men ever to reach the South Pole. In addition to the large amount of information, there was a wide variety of props and other interactive exhibits that allowed the visitor to really experience life in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. However, before visiting the actual exhibit, we attended a presentation in which we had the opportunity to listen to the some of the directors of the museum explain what the exhibit was about as well as introduce myself and talk to some other travel journalists. This was a very unique experience because in addition to seeing other travel journalists from the local area, this event attracted travel journalists from all around the world. Having the ability to attend this press event was a very good opportunity because I had walked into the building having no background knowledge about the field of travel journalism, and I walked out with a much better understanding of it.

In addition to attending a press event, Farewell also took me to visit a travel public relations office in New York City, called Montgomery Communications. While there, I had the chance to meet the owner, Virginia Montgomery, whose job is to distribute information to travel journalists like Farewell, who can use the information to write articles about her client hotels and resorts to attract visitors to them. Although she manages and distributes information about places that are scattered throughout various places around the world, many of her clients are concentrated in South Africa. Resulting from this, Montgomery has been to South Africa numerous times, including one time with Farewell, to visit her clients. While initially I did not have a real desire to visit South Africa, I ended up leaving with one. This stems from all of the different stories and memories from her travels that she told me about, including accounts of things ranging from going shopping at local stores to seeing a variety of wild animals while on safari.

Generally speaking, I'd have to say that thanks to Farewell, all of the other friendly people I met during the day, as well as the guidance department of my school that organizes the program each year, the day was a success. Although travel journalism initially was not a career path that I was seriously considering, I walked away from the experience with a much greater appreciation of the field, and I currently am considering this career path for the future.

Lia D'Addario was one of several Staples High School students who participated in the Staples High School Junior Job Shadow Program. Now in its third year, the program was developed to encourage students to explore careers of interest. Each year, up to 50 juniors are offered the opportunity to spend a day with a professional in careers including, but not limited to, business, education, law, government, music/theater, communications, medicine, and engineering. The program is overseen by volunteer school counselors and parents. Prior to the job shadow day students attend an orientation and an interview/resume workshop. Upon the completion of the visitation students are required to submit an activity sheet, write a thank you note to their job site supervisor, and share their experience with their peers at a culminating job shadow meeting.