Joan Hanawi - Ecuador

August 22, 2011

It’s craziness. It really is. 57 like-minded youth from all over the United States—flying, driving, doing whatever it takes to congregate in one singular place. 57 young adults who have all been consumed by the same passion—to tap into innate potential by willingly embracing a cross-cultural immersion. 57 students attempting to break societal restrictions and expectations by seeking an education from the world, rather than a traditional first year at a university. There’s no other way to describe it. We are 57 crazy individuals.

But we 57 are more than just crazy, more than new strangers. We 57 Fellows are America’s next generation of leaders. From musical geniuses to academic mavens, from compassionate philanthropists to inspired artists, from dedicated athletes to lighthearted comedians, the 2012 class of Global Citizen Year Fellows is truly remarkable. What is even more remarkable is our ability to instantly connect. We really are from such uniquely diverse backgrounds—different stories, lifestyles, upbringings, and beliefs. During our first seminar, we learned that together we represent a wide conglomeration of ethnic backgrounds, that our families have international roots, that we have all had varied global experiences thus far. Yet from first introduction, we have also learned that in addition to our differences, we share a number of commonalities. There have been immediate bonds. It’s not common to see the level of camaraderie present here when you shove 57 opinionated, independent, and strong leaders together in one room. But it is what you find when you introduce 57 Global Citizen Year Fellows for the first time.

From day one to day two, the conversation has quickly shifted from, “What’s your name again? What country are you going to? Where are you from?” to “So what made you interested in sustainable agriculture? What gave you the resilience to work your way out of a dysfunctional family? Can you tell me about what you learned about yourself by living in India, in China?” The desire to truly understand one another, learn from one another, and develop genuine trust in one another is an attitude that provides inspiration for the onset of a fruitful journey.

We may seem crazy, but that’s what makes each and every single one of us a Global Citizen Year Fellow.

Joan Hanawi