Dani Morales, Ecuador ’15, University of Southern California
Tell us a little bit about what you’re up to since returning from you 2015 bridge year.
I am living in beautiful, sunny California and this fall I will be starting at the University of Southern California as a sophomore transfer student. At USC, I will be pursuing a major in NGO and Social Change, a new interdisciplinary program that launched last year.
This summer I have been working as a Human Resources intern at Krochet Kids, an ethical apparel brand whose comprehensive programs empower women in Uganda and Peru to rise above poverty. Outside of work and school, I love to hike, read, spend time with loved ones, and find fun ways to stay active.
What is a favorite memory from your Global Citizen Year?
This is one of the most difficult questions to answer because I made so many incredible memories during my Global Citizen Year. One of my favorites though is the day my two families came together to play soccer. At that point in February, I felt as if I had completely bonded with my host family. We joked and laughed constantly. I let myself be silly and vulnerable around them. They called me their daughter to strangers who shot us inquisitive looks.
Also in mid-February, my little brother and dad travelled to Ecuador to trek through the Amazon and the Andes with me. Of course, the end of our trip was spent at Imbaya, my host town. As my two families convened on the concrete soccer court, the women moved to the side to watch the action-packed scrimmage. I remember sharing a blanket with my host Mom, Mayra, and my host sister, Mishell, and feeling overwhelmed as I took in the beauty of the moment. Behind the sprinting figures and metal goal posts, the sun was dipping behind the large Andean mountains that stretched around the area. More beautifully, some of the most important people in my life were laughing and playing together. As I took the scene in, a wave of intense happiness and love washed over me, and I smiled at it all.
Looking back on your Global Citizen Year, what part of your experience has had the greatest impact on you?
I think the most impactful part of my experience was gaining more confidence in myself and my abilities. One aspect of that was learning to let go of expectations and to trust myself. Another was realizing I should not take myself too seriously, which means occasionally laughing at myself. I learned to appreciate being alone with myself and to embrace uncomfortable moments. I learned that I can do a lot more than I initially had imagined, like bonding deeply with people so different than myself and learning a new language. I believe that these things have helped my transition to college and with my ability to remain open-minded, persevering, and self-confident even in difficult moments.
Are you still in touch with other members of your cohort or other Global Citizen Year alumni?
I have continued to stay friends with some members of my cohort, and in fact, I will be going to school with one of them once I transfer! I appreciate and love these people because they have opened up my eyes to different perspectives, and have continued to be supportive even after our Global Citizen Year has ended. Most importantly, I feel a sense of mutual understanding because they also embarked on meaningful bridge years as well, and know about the ups-and-downs that came with the experience.
How are you continuing to live life in your stretch zone?
I am continuing to live in my stretch zone by embracing opportunities, like joining clubs I would not have before, making the decision to transfer to USC this fall, and accepting my role as a Human Resources intern at Krochet Kids International which is a new position. Each of these opportunities are full of ambiguity, but after my Global Citizen Year I am equipped with the skill-sets and attitudes to overcome these circumstances.
What advice do you have for current Global Citizen Year Fellows and for recent alumni?
My advice is to put yourself out there, even if it’s hard. I made a lot of my greatest memories during my Global Citizen Year by doing just that. One example is that at first I was nervous about striking up conversations with those in my host family and community. Once I started putting myself out there though, it became easier, and led to so many meaningful conversations. It led to sitting on my bed after dinners giggling with my host mom and learning about my coworkers’ lives. Putting yourself out there, for introverted people like myself, is part of being in the stretch zone. And as Global Citizen Year staff knows and us Fellows have learned, the majority of learning and growing does happen in our stretch zones. Now, I realize how relevant that sentiment is.
Because of my Global Citizen Year, I am more confident in myself and more prepared for my future.