During Re-entry training, we talked a lot about telling our story. We discussed how people might not know what questions to ask, or might just want a short, generic answer without really understanding, or how people might not be interested at all.
So what struck me most while doing my Capstone was how interested and engaged my peers were. I went into my school with a short video showing my life in Brazil, a brief introduction to the program and a basic overview of my experience prepared. I was also ready to teach them samba, show them more pictures, teach them a few words in Portuguese or show them the GCY website if I was grasping at straws to keep their attention, but we never made it that far. Instead, the students were attentive and curious — I spent the whole time answering questions spontaneously. I was ready for them to be vaguely curious or super interested for the first couple minutes only, and so was humbled, surprised, and gratified when they showed real engagement with my story. I left my presentation with a sense that somehow, this crazy journey I went on was not just personally valuable to me, or in a greater societal context, but something that my peers are actually intrigued by as well. I was touched that they were so genuinely interested. Their pointed questions, especially unexpected and creative ones, also forced me to look at aspects of my experience through different perspectives I hadn’t thought about before.
In some ways, it was difficult for me, because no matter what I said or how much I talked, I felt I still wasn’t doing my experience or the beautiful country justice. The photos in the video mean so much more to me than to any other person, but sharing them and trying to give the rising seniors a glimpse into my life in Brazil was incredibly worthwhile. Trying to put the worth of the last eight months and my connection to my communities in Brazil into words was surprisingly difficult. But it also gave me a chance to reflect about it in a different way. I hope that I was able to open their thoughts to an alternative plan for the year after next, or at least strengthen their belief that travel and this kind of immersed learning is valuable, and not as hard as people might think.