I left my heart in San Francisco…as the saying goes.Who knew that spending 10 days in the city by the bay could permanently change me? Not me that’s for sure. When I first arrived at the beautiful campus of Stanford college my mind was cluttered with the unimportant clatter of usual teenage din and the exhaustion from my flight across the country. Why am I here? I can’t do this – who was I kidding? There’s so many kids here (92!), I’m way out of my comfort zone. I’ll never make friends. But then something amazing happened. Someone talked to me…and I talked back. Then it happened again. Progress.
Up until this point I had felt like I was on this journey alone. That first night at Stanford, I was woken up from the daydream I was living in. I met the most amazing people who together shared the common goal of all Global Citizens – learn and benefit while making a difference. Demonstrating the result of unity and teamwork, for alone we can go fast – but together we can go far. Training taught us how to go far. How to form a network of connections to succeed even miles from each other. To me, this new realization is simply unreal. What I had unconsciously signed up for all those months ago was finally coming true.
As the day of departure to Ecuador finally presented itself a flood of emotions rippled through my entire being. To me, South America has always held a special place inside my heart. Born in Colombia, Spanish is the language that captivates my heart. A part of me was extremely depressed I would be residing near my birth country for 8 long months, but I wasn’t allowed to visit my family there! I had never been able to really get a good grasp on the culture of Colombia and that was (and still is) something I had been thirsting for desperately. So, in my head, I saw Ecuador as a replacement to the culture immersion I wanted so much. These thoughts remained through the flight to Miami from San Francisco. But, as I buckled my seatbelt on our connecting flight (Miami to Quito) my gaze shifted around the aircraft. More than 50% of the population on the aircraft were latino – like me. The man to the left of me, the girl to the right of me. Conversations in Spanish, in English, all merged together filled my ears. The language of my native land – and the language I had grown up speaking.
I pondered this. I pondered this when the flight attendant immediately spoke to me in Spanish – Que te gustaria a beber? I pondered this as I noticed my two seat companions reading their books – one in English, one in Spanish. My two worlds were about to collide, and it seemed I had done little to prepare for the meshing. A realization. It didn’t matter that I was not going to my birth country. I was going to an equally amazing one – a country that is home to so many people that are proud to be its children. With a culture so rich and similar, I was going to benefit in ways I hadn’t thought possible.
When the first twinkling lights of Quito appeared in the night sky, the young latina girl sitting next to me (who had not spoken a word the entire 4 hours), sat up straighter in her seat and a huge smile was bought to her lips, emitting a tiny squeal of joy. She was home. And that was the moment I realized…so was I.