By Libby Schubert, India ’16, Case Western Reserve University
August 29, 2016. Today is my first day of college classes.
On August 29, 2015, I arrived in India.
Yesterday I received my Global Citizen Year backpack. Inside there was a certificate of completion and a letter I had written to myself one year ago:
“Right now you are at college or getting ready to go. Maybe I will be excited, but right now I’m not. But, I suspect the feelings I have right now are pretty damn similar to what I’ll be feeling a year from now.”
I was wrong about how I would feel about college. As I get ready to head off to Math 121, I feel so ready. My head is in this, I feel grounded and prepared and excited. I underestimated how much my experience in India would prepare me for college. When I left for my Global Citizen Year, I thought it was just a detour, a delay between high school and college. But it truly was a bridge year. I look around at my peers, who, although they are trying to project confidence, truly seem weary about leaping over this gap between high school and college. Some people can jump that hurdle in stride, but knowing how I felt about college a year ago, I know that I would not have been able to handle it. Because of the tumultuous transition I went through going to India and then coming home, I understand myself so much better: what I need, what I like, who I am, and who I am becoming. I don’t claim to know any of the answers or have a clear path in mind, but I feel so prepared to discover them.
Now, I’m definitely a little nervous to start college. Academics is my biggest worry, considering I haven’t been in a classroom in over a year. But I know that with a little extra work, I will be able to adjust right back into the material. I was also worried about being older and possibly more mature than my peers. However, I have found people who surprise me with their intelligence and thoughtfulness. People are curious to hear about India, not alienated by it.
Global Citizen Year has a set of core values that all fellows develop during their bridge year: Well-Being, Diversity, Accountability, Gratitude, Curiosity Before Judgment, and Empathy. All of these values are equally accountable in a fellow’s host country as back home, in college, or in any new environment. I’m so excited to expand my understanding and push my thinking about what it means to be a responsible global citizen. I have a basis of experiential knowledge about what the impacts of global thinking are, but I lack the academic and intellectual evidence to back it up. This idea is daunting, and I have definitely felt disquieted when information contradicting my current views is presented to me. But if I learned anything this year, it is that all learning happens in the stretch zone, and only by pushing myself to ask questions and learn from the discomfort will I truly grow as a college student and as a person.
Add: As I see this year’s cohort go off to their countries, part of me wishes I was with them. In hindsight, I have regrets, I wish I had done some things differently, and I want to continue to grow and understand India more. But I need to move on, to embrace college. Life will afford me countless opportunities, hopefully abroad and domestic, and it’s important for me to know when it’s time to let go and give others a chance to change their lives.