Chimamanda Adichie

Mariah Donnelly - Brazil

July 6, 2011

You might ask what brought me here. What made me decide to take a gap year? To be honest I wasn’t quite sure of the answer when I first applied to become a Global Citizen Year fellow. I wasn’t quite sure this nerdy, debate-loving, music listener, high school graduate could handle a gap year. I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave my family back in Minnesota. In short I decided to take a gap year because I knew I had a desire to learn and do more than what the inside of a classroom had to offer, but in the long term I wasn’t sure why I believed that.

A few weeks after I applied to become a Fellow, the answer to the above questions hit me like a ton of bricks in my Advanced Placement Comparative Government class. My teacher, Ms.Gildea, decided to show us a TED Talk. The TED Talk featured a famous Nigerian author named Chimamanda Adichie. During Adichie’s speech she spoke about the implications of only hearing a single story. She defined the single story as knowing or hearing one viewpoint or perspective about a place, person, or event and assuming that story describes everything about the object of the story.  In the speech, she explained that when she was young she only had a limited amount of books available for her to use. The books she read only contained stories with white characters that played in the snow and ate apples.  Because of those stories, she believed all white people were like the ones in the books she read, in addition to developing an understanding that there was no literature about Africans and her culture. Over time, she was lucky enough to find books that had African characters produced by native Nigerian authors. These books saved her from her preconceived notion of what all literature was like. Specifically, these books stopped her from believing and only knowing a single story of what all literature could be. They taught her that her life and culture is just as important as any other characters’ culture in the books she read.

Chimamanda’s speech inspired me to become a Global Citizen Year fellow. She made me rethink all of my beliefs. I discovered most of my understanding came from a series of single facts, stories, or previously held assumptions. She taught me that I must challenge everything I know and that I must not settle for just one story. I must want and need to know more. She made me realize that I needed to take a leap of faith and that I needed to challenge all of my single stories.  Most importantly she made me want to embark on my journey to become a Global Citizen.

Mariah Donnelly