An Unboxed Present

Jay Choi - Senegal


July 17, 2012

Hi, my name is Jaeho Choi. I was born and raised in South Korea. What has driven me to take a Global Citizen Year? It’s a difficult question to answer in a simple way. I can easily come up with five decent reasons that are perhaps shared by every equally passionate Fellow: to learn a new language, to experience a new culture, to take a break from school, to reflect on oneself, and to widen one’s point of view. However, I can trace all these reasons back to one fundamental doctrine which I have attempted to abide by closely in my life: to take a chance and delve into something out of my comfort zone.

One day in eighth grade, my dad suggested that I study abroad in China. “What dad, China?!” For a moment, I was unable to reply. I was absolutely scared of the prospect of having to meet and communicate with foreign people on a regular basis in city streets and school hallways. Moreover, I was so accustomed to my life that I couldn’t leave my friends and relatives readily. Soon enough though, my desire to escape my suffocating country to see the world overtook my fear, and in a matter of few months, I landed in Shanghai. My decision to go to China has proven to be among the best decisions I made in my life. The skills I learned there, including my Mandarin Chinese and understanding of Chinese Culture, have become my largest assets. Keeping up my adventurous spirit, I relocated to Maryland in tenth grade, where I reconfirmed the excitement of learning about a new country. Such global experiences of mine not only have equipped me with an open mind and confidence, but also have led me to decide to take a Global Citizen Year. I consider Global Citizen Year to be one extra step forward in my global expedition, an opportunity to truly understand one community in its full scope by considering the issues surrounding that community and forming lasting bonds with its people over an extended period of time.

To me, Global Citizen Year is like an unboxed birthday present. I don’t know what part of Senegal I’m headed to, or what kind of apprenticeship I’ll receive there. However, just as a child’s heart starts beating with excitement just by looking at an unboxed present, I’m filled with the same childish curiosity and expectation for the unknown. I’m honored to have been selected as one of only thirty Fellows to go to Senegal, and of only ninety Fellows to participate in Global Citizen Year this year. However, I’m even more honored to have the opportunity to share my experience with my friends, family, and community members back home who hopefully will open and witness this present together with me over the next few months, and share their thoughts online through this blog. I hope that my Global Citizen Year will be an enriching experience for everyone, and a good investment well worth the time for myself as well.

Jay Choi