For many it’s difficult to pinpoint a moment in time that changed their entire perspective on life. Often it is a series of events and happenings that occur over a period that shape the way one views the world, even if ever so slightly. This is not the case for me. I was thirteen years old, sitting in a typical classroom on the first day of eighth grade, when I met the person who became my mentor and changed everything. Mr. Crawford was not your average English teacher, as we discovered when he spent twenty minutes of class focusing on the importance of handshakes and eye contact. I admit my first impression of him was that he was a complete nut job, for in addition to the intense lesson on eye contact, he used random British accents and vocabulary and wore a camouflage hat.
However, I soon came to find out this teacher had been all over Latin America teaching under-privileged children and building homes and schools, along with many other acts of selflessness he performed throughout his life. He showed us photos of children receiving their first backpack with school supplies. There was something about the way he described every photo, as if he were there again, that in that moment I instantly knew I wanted to do this work. I wanted to be able to feel the accomplishment and the joy that comes out of improving the lives of others. Mr. Crawford kept us informed all year long with documentaries and interviews focusing on the genocide that had been occurring for the past eight years in Darfur, Sudan. In listening to the stories of hardship, I felt deep and unwavering guilt for the life I had taken so for granted when hundreds of thousands of people were just thankful for one more day of being alive.
Going through the turbulent four years of high school, I constantly felt a longing to work overseas. Along with the desire to aid others, I so desperately wanted to immerse myself in a new culture. I wanted to be the outsider looking in, and to allow myself to adapt to a completely different routine with new people and customs. So, while other students discussed colleges, I contemplated travel to other countries, knowing that I wanted to travel and work but not knowing where to start. Ironically I found myself once again seeking the guidance of my old teacher, and I am so grateful that I did. Mr. Crawford sent me various links to programs both foreign and domestic, with the last link being to Global Citizen Year. He told me that this was the most extensive list he could find, and if I truly felt I wanted a new, life changing experience, Global Citizen Year was the one to look into.
This trip for me is the beginning to a life all my own. In traveling to a country where the language, food, customs, and people are very different from those in the US, I believe I will find a new part of myself. In separating myself from the familiar, I hope to temporarily lift the pressure of everyone and everything I know in order to truly understand who I am. Each day that we grow closer to leaving is a day closer to discovering a new person within myself, and for that I can hardly wait.