As someone who loves to learn, I have always felt at home in a classroom. Of course, home had its ups and downs. At times, I was comfortable, finishing tests with ease and receiving high grades on papers. Other times, I was challenged. Sometimes it came in the form of a new concept or perspective, but there were always times when I was floundered by something new. I would get frustrated, or discouraged. I would contemplate giving up, but of course, in the end I wouldn’t. I would persevere. I would try to learn that new math concept and I would strive to interact with the text we were reading in a new way. Sometimes, I wouldn’t get the A on the test or the paper that I had wanted, but in the end I would emerge as a better scholar and person.
It’s actually this same love of learning and overcoming challenges that sparked my decision to take a bridge year. While I believe the classroom can teach numerous essential lessons, I think experience is the ultimate teacher. I can read about a new country and take classes to learn a new language. I can take notes in a lecture hall and take tests to quantify my grasp on the material. Or, like my fellow Fellows, I can let the world be my professor. I can immerse myself in a foreign country, diving into its culture and language with an open heart and mind. I can leave the textbooks and essays behind, instead using meaningful relationships and experiences to glean valuable knowledge. Instead of taking a test at the end of a unit, I can use self-reflection as a measure of transformation. While my Global Citizen Year isn’t a traditional freshman year, I know it is still rich in education.
With this in mind, I made the decision to become a Fellow last October, and I am confident that I will not regret it. Of course, this year won’t be easy. I will combat homesickness and culture shock. I will struggle to learn Spanish, and I will face obstacles I can’t even begin to anticipate, but in the end, I know it will be worth it. I will return speaking Spanish, forging many deep, meaningful friendships, and acquiring a new global perspective. I will become more independent, resilient, perseverant, open-minded, and curious – all qualities I need to become the great leader and global citizen I aspire to be. Despite being in Quito, Ecuador for over a week now, I still feel the same nervousness, excitement, eagerness, and giddiness I felt counting down the days to pre-departure training. Now with my long, crazy adventure well underway, I can’t wait to see what unfolds next.