An intensive, 12-week leadership experience that equips students worldwide with powerful skills for a lifetime of social impact. Designed as a 5-7 hour per week commitment, the Academy adds an enriching layer of purpose to high school, college, travel, or work.
A deep, 8-month immersion where students live alongside the global majority in Brazil, Ecuador or India and develop the insights, skills, and network to become the leaders our world needs. Fellows build language fluency, develop resilience, and become part of a community a world away from home.
A Homesickness Story: What Makes Global Citizen Year Fellows, Team Leaders & the People You Meet so Spectacular
Want to know something that’s been really tough about being in Ecuador? I haven’t had anyone been able to come visit me and I was feeling pretty down in mid-January. I guess the homesickness was just a bit too much. Not to mention, I can’t really explain what it’s like to hear the other fellows talk about how their families (biological families) come to visit them. And I really can’t explain the empty feeling I get when I see the Facebook posts of the family members who travel thousands of miles to visit their kid in Ecuador, Senegal, India or Brazil. No resentment, just emptiness. I understand why my parents can’t come or my friends, it’s not because they don’t love me but because they just don’t have the cash.
…but that’s the thing, I didn’t think.
I didn’t think….Austin would invite me over to meet his pop’s. Austin was the first guy I told I was switching host families, I knew he wouldn’t go around spreading the chisme, “gossip”, and just listen. That’s what I wanted, someone who wouldn’t judge and just listen, but I still didn’t expect him to invite me. His old man was visiting from the states for the holidays and before I knew it I was in Otovalo watching Austin translate from Vietnamese with his pop’s, to English to me, to Spanish to his indigenous host family to even a little Quechua to his host grandma! Then before I left, Austin’s host mom, who cooks some of the best food I’ve had out here or in my life, said I was welcomed anytime which made me blush really hard.
Austin & I ft. his old man + Otovalo City
I didn’t think….Joanna Dizon would ask me to meet her sisters who were visiting from Washington. Joanna was living in the “Oriente”, the Amazon region of Ecuador nine hours away from my region, but she called me up saying she was going to be in Otovalo in the end of December and that we had to meet up. Joanna was my best friend in this program, so I said, “HELL yea”. I sort of wondered on changing my mind…I didn’t really have that much to be going out to eat, but then Joey’s (I call Joanna, “Joey” by the way) sister insisted they had everything covered from the car ride to the boat that went around the Islands of Imbaburra. By the end of that day I just felt really loved and in a way at home with the Dizon family.
A lake of the Imbaburra province, a life-jacket and a member of the Dizon family
I didn’t think…Desire Mulla would say, “So when are you coming over to my house Santi?”. Desire was cool, wore dread-locks, had a Swahili accent when she spoke English and was a sas-talking roasting Queen. Before I knew it we were hanging out every week, I would come home to find her watching a movie on my T.V. screen, we were hitting each other up and of course I can’t forget about how I wasn’t as quick-witted as her so I was an easy target to be “roasted” by her, which basically means she knew how to crack jokes at my expense. Then at Training Seminar Two (TS2) I finally found a way to be able to roast her back. I saw something on the stairs of our hostel, then I realized I found one of her dread-locks (apparently dread-locks start to fall after a while)! I ran up to her with one of her fallen dread-locks and said, “Yoh, I think you DROPPED something Desire”.
A lucky Ugandian dread-lock (Desire’s dread-lock to be more specific) tied onto my travel backpack)
I didn’t think….that it would take me two months after living in Ibarra to make an actual friend. Rafa, was his name, he was of mestizo decent, awesome and was also taking a year off before after high school. I think what made us click most of all was that he reminded me of my best friend in the States and that we both wanted to enter the military. We were laying on my bed that was way too small for two 18 year old guys and we started watching the trailer for the Purge: Election Year on my laptop while he taught me Spanish slang and I taught him the various ways he can tell this girl he likes, “I love you”. Then we both cracked up because by trying to teach this guy how to say, “I love you” in English we ended up saying it to each other.
What exactly is a bromance?
I didn’t think…Lisa Walters (my Team Leader) would invite us to her wedding! Then I realized how much I connected toward Lisa in her mini-wedding speech when she talked about how even though her family from the United States could not be there (and in that moment I realized that’s exactly how I felt about my family not being able to be here either), she said she couldn’t be any happier her family that was Anita, Soumaya, Maxx, Austin, Desire, Kate, Bennett, Madi, Cisco, Munya, Hannah, Noah and I were there. And after an empty and somewhat depressed state I was in for a few weeks because of homesickness, and how much I missed everyone in Bell, CA, I couldn’t be any happier these people and Lisa were there too.
Lisa and Gio dancing to “Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheran” (Photo cred. to media fellow Anita Delsavio)
Thanks to my GCY homies, Team Leader and the people I’ve met out here I was able to stick it out through a tough time..maybe I can’t show you this, because this is something I had to experience myself, but all these people made the homesickness fad away and have made the entire world slowly become my “Home”.
…and surprisingly, my mentor Adam Schuman came all the way out here to visit me! Out of all people…crazy how the world works, right?? Thanks for everything Adam, I don’t even think I understand what this meant to me.
About Hugo Santiago
Hugo is passionate about making new friends, challenging himself, American history, public speaking and proving that anyone can achieve whatever they set their minds too. He is involved in promoting college at his high school's college center as a Peer College Counselor and working with his high school's nine year award winning Interact Rotary Club. His goals for the year and to master the basics of the Spanish Language, learn to live on his own and overcome whatever adversity may he run into. "I know where I'm going and I know the truth and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want".