Capstone or stepping stone?

Yesenia Martinez - Ecuador


June 5, 2018

After RET, it took me a while to get back on the "GCY program requirement" train. I struggled with reverse culture shock heavily, and reintegrated somewhat slowly. However, during this reintegration process, Leo (Brazil fellow) and I went to visit one of our high school teacher's (Matt Cone); we talked about our experiences and shared laughs for about an hour. As we were leaving, Matt invited us to come back and give presentations during a few of his classes. We realized this was a perfect opportunity for us to incorporate our "capstones". I love how naturally my capstone project manifested into my life; everything flows.
Once I started planning it out, I sat at my kitchen table for a while, thought long and hard about what I would say, how I would say, and began imagining all the questions the students would ask. Something felt off, I felt like I was trying to control the situation too much. I didn't want to walk into these classrooms just to have them listen to me for 45 minutes; I desired to engage in a conversation with them, about a bridge year experience with Global Citizen Year. So I read through the "how to talk about a Global Citizen Year", and mentally prepared myself for setting the foundation of the conversation by explaining the homestay, apprenticeship, fellowship, and well the general structure of the program. 
June 4th, 2018 
A few days later, as Leo and I walk into Matt's 7th period class, they greet us with this intense question: how do you know that the work you've done is good enough/has made an impact (or something along those lines)? A question not created specifically for us, it's just another Matt Cone question his Global Cultures & Minority/Global Systems & Issues Studies class analyzes on a weekly basis. Honestly, I felt a bit nervous. 
So we arranged the chairs in a circle and began talking about the particular countries we went to, Leo Brazil and I Ecuador. And went over the general structure/flow of GCY. Then we just opened the space for questions. Here's some of what we got: 
If you weren't working at your apprenticeships, who would be playing your role? Do you think you're the best fit for the role the you played? 
Do you go to college? Do you think you'll have a hard integrating when you do? 
Is there anything about the program that you didn't necessarily like, any flaws? 
 
Did you have any problems with your host family? How were they handled? 
What did you do in your free time? 
Name your top 3 culture shocks, in your host country. 
Then, Mr. Cone asked me if I could talk a little bit about my freshman year in high school. As soon as these words came out his mouth it was a blast to the past. Freshman year I was an ego centered, school ditching, eye rolling, rebellious 14 year old girl. I didn't care about anything, I just wanted to be with my friends and "party". My choices drove me to fail freshmen year. At the end of it, I felt lost. Lost and hopeless. What had I done? Why had I done it? (here's a picture of me in 2014) 
IMG_0250.jpeg
Sometime between sophomore and junior year I started to truly change. I began reading about this concept mindfulness, and well dug deep into the movement of love. Then when I started taking Mr. Cone's classes, everything truly shifted. My focus was clearer, and I had a better sense of who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do (literally, be the change I want to see in the world). Long story short, I was that "bad seed". The one no one thought would grow/flourish into anything more then a rotten sprout. But I did, I nourished that "bad seed" with lots of love and here I am. I've grown, and I'm happy to say I'm still growing. 
Now, reflecting on a year abroad with Global Citizen Year, another year of immense transformation, I'm just… grateful. Grateful for all the amazing mentors I've met along the way, and for myself for my desire to let go of everything that was holding me down. (Here's a photo of me right before RET) 
IMG_0479.jpeg

June 5th, 2018 
The next day, I came back to Carrboro High School; a smaller class, and a shorter presentation. Again, I gave a brief overview of what the GCY program structure, and shared a bit about my host family and Cañar. Then the conversation began. The questions were quite similar, so it didn't feel as spontaneous as the day prior. 
Now, as I sit in this Panera Bread, I wonder why people isolate themselves so much. Kids are glued to screens, adults refuse to make eye contact, people don't interact with each other. This has been on my mind since I came in and sat down… Glad I got to share my thoughts with you guys. But this reminds me why now, more then ever, young people, middle aged people, all people should set out and explore something beyond their own invisible bubble. There's more to life then meeting with the same friends every single week to have lunch at the exact same place, and talk about the same realm of topics. I refuse to believe that's all life is about. 
And as far as the sessions at CHS, all I hope for is that I shared at least a little bit of water with the already existing seeds in the minds and hearts of everyone present, especially the students. A drop of water that nourished them, even if just for a few moments. 
This is not my capstone. It's another stepping stone. My journey is not over, the adventure rolls on. And I know that years down the road, I will still be reflecting and pulling different lessons from my Global Citizen Year. And there's no words that can describe how deeply heartfelt this year has been, and how much I appreciate every single person I shared a smile with this year. Much love brothers and sisters, un abrazo desde North Carolina! <3 
IMG_0232.jpeg

Aho mitakuye oyasin, 
Yessi <3 

Yesenia Martinez