Applying the Bridge Year Mindset to College

By Munya Munyati (Ecuador ’16, Middlebury College)


Adaptable to a fault. This was the conclusion Mika, my regional coordinator and I came to following one of our later catch up sessions where we discussed how I had gotten used to the new environment I had been immersed in. I honestly was convinced that you could put me anywhere on the map and I would be able to adapt without an issue. I would have never guessed that my difficulty in adaptation would come from the society I was supposedly returning to.


Munya with his host family in Ecuador.


My first few months at college seemed to be very much like everyone else’s. I went to class, made new friends, joined a sport/club, went to some parties. The typical college experience really. However, it was only around the end of my fall semester that I became aware of the fact that, though I wasn’t struggling where I was, I was very much coasting through. It hit me that, though I was present physically, I was still mentally in the Amazon I had called home for the previous year. I was yet to explore all the opportunities that were open to me, yet to venture on the paths less trodden, yet to taste the fresh produce of the small Vermont town of Middlebury. It was almost as if I had learned nothing from the past year.


While Vermont may not have been the bustling hub of life that the Amazon was, I had overlooked it’s glorious mountains, which go from deep greens in spring, to shades of a fiery spectrum in fall. I had overlooked the winter wonderland that surrounded us, from the sheets of white snow all around to the frozen drops that perpetually hung from the leaves. Somehow, I was behaving exactly how I had behaved during my first few months in Ecuador and largely confined myself to my places of comfort, only coming out when necessary. I needed to re-learn immersion.


Munya with friends at Middlebury College.


It was only then that I realised that, my bridge year, was not the whole story, but rather the introduction to a new way of experiencing life. My bridge year was not just a time for me to explore my stretch zone in isolation and return to the safety of my comfort zone for the rest of my life, constantly reassuring myself that my bridge year had been enough stretching or me. While, yes, my time in Ecuador had pushed me to the limits of my stretch zone, I had allowed that to be the end of my exploration. I had failed to see that I didn’t survive the Amazon, but rather learned all the necessary tools for exploration needed to explore any location I found myself in.


In a drum circle with the Ecuador cohort


And so I write this from the ledge of my comfort zone as I am about to dive out of my comfort zone and sky-dive right back into the stretch zone I had assumed I was escaping. I stand here with a reminder for any fellow coming to the end of your time in Global Citizen Year to remind you that, while your time in country may be coming to an end soon, don’t let that be the end of you testing your stretch zone. This is only the beginning of your journey.


Group picture with the Ecuador cohort after a training seminar in the cloud forest.