This is Why

By Barker Carlock (Senegal ’13, Lafayette College)


When I was thinking about going to college, I was frustrated. I was frustrated because I felt as though that the pieces of paper that were supposed to represent my achievements and accomplishments felt lost among the many other applicants. In many ways, I felt like a number in an industrial machine moving people from one step to the next–high school to college. Beyond this, though, I simply wanted more before going to college. I wanted to actually gain some real world experience. In high school, I played football, worked in student government, and sat on a leadership board for a hospital but none of these seemed to touch upon the experiences for which I was looking. I still wanted to break from the bubble that was my high school and try to really figure out what I wanted to do in the world. I mean, really, how do we expect a 18 year old kids to know what he wants to do with his life, much less study in college? I didn’t even know how to put my own pants on in the morning, and I was supposed to go to college?

And this is my fear…that most students and young high school students in the U.S. feel this way. That they feel as though they are just a part of a machine, but, because college is an immediate expectation, they MUST go right away if they have the privilege to.


I still remember when I told my parents about wanting to do this program called Global Citizen Year. The immediate response was ” Absolutely, no.” A six hour conversation then ensued. To them, having grown up in lower class homes in Alabama and Arkansas, giving up college for a year was like giving up college all together. They couldn’t see–like many parents–that this experience had the potential to be more informative than the previous 18 years of my life. And it was.

I went from living in a 99% white and Christian community to a 99% black and Muslim community. Think about that for a minute. My program could not have crafted a more perfect reversal for me. Apart from the culture, perspective, and hands on work in the medical clinic, the most important part of this whole thing was my ability to construct an identity for myself. I was able to destruct the identities I had created growing up in the south and reinvent an identity away from my cultural influences that was genuine and a true reflection of who I am.

In sum, I went from be able to speak 1 language to 3 languages. I went from having friends from a couple states to friends around the world. I went from wanting to be a medical anthropologist to a chemical engineer. But, most importantly, I went from being a regular kid from the southern white suburbs of Texas to a mature, passionate student with global perspective ready to dive head first into his higher education and make the  world a better place around him.

Ready to start your own adventure?


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