What I discovered during my gap year

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a member of the founding class of GCY Fellows placed in Guatemala.

Before I began writing this, I had spent most of the day working on a final reflective essay for my freshman seminar class. Its topic is about as wide open as possible: “describe your thoughts about the importance of a university education and experience,” yet I just keep coming back to the importance of my gap year education and experience, which has ultimately impacted me more than I can adequately describe.

What I really want to write in response to the prompt is that I feel that the importance of a university education is to help shape young people on a personal level, help them uncover their passions and prepare them for a future focused on fulfilling those passions, however; I feel that the university is not doing this for me. More than helping me uncover passions it is thrusting upon me the importance of obtaining a degree.  And while I have no objections to obtaining a degree—I enjoy learning and take a lot of pride in my work—the truth is that I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. I find myself left with the unanswered question of how to prepare for success when I don’t yet know what I want to succeed in doing.

It is for this reason that I really want to write an essay that argues that students should go to college only after they get a better idea of what they want to obtain their degree in. And it is for this reason that I maintain that despite how scary it may seem to some to step out of the fast-moving but comforting flow of the masses from high school straight on into college, it is the best thing you can do to really learn about yourself.

It was in Guatemala where I re-discovered my passion for writing, which is the skill I most want to focus my life around as I move through college and into a career. It was in Guatemala where, although in my day-to-day work with schools I often saw myself fail, I felt the most successful in trying to address global issues. It was through the development of relationships with my Guatemalan host family and co-workers that I felt the most hope, the most respect, and the most love for all of human kind. And today, it is my ongoing relationships with them that keep me from becoming too self-centered or from allowing my focus on school and my future to eclipse a wider concern for the direction in which our world is heading.

The problems of the world today do seem wearyingly and dreadfully complex, immense, and urgent. It is easy to get discouraged, but then, when I receive emails from Yoly & Clara Luz telling me that they miss me and they are thinking of all their criaturas— literally “creatures”, but with an adoring sentiment attached to it—and the time we made them ride on the deadly-looking ferris wheel at the Santo Tomas Fair; or when Ayrton sends me a text message saying he bought a birthday cake for me, his “little sister”; or when Fina and I talk on the phone and she requests pictures of my new boyfriend and gives me encouragement about my new jobs… life feels more manageable.

Really what I have come to reflect on is this: in addition to an indescribably beautiful life experience during my gap year, I also gained a brand new support system that will always be there to cheer me on and re-inspire me as I continue on my path, wherever it may lead.