Dear prospective Fellow,
It’s getting late here in Sebikotane, Senegal – the chatter of children out in the schoolyard is starting to dwindle, the loudspeakers are about to break out with the evening call to prayer, and a cool breeze has finally started to trickle into the computer lab, lightening the lingering midday heat. I really should be hurrying home before my host mother starts to worry, but I want to take this moment to write to you, where ever you might be, perhaps scanning through the Global Citizen Year website, flipping through all the official GCY literature, considering taking a gap year, and probably trying to imagine what it would really be like. Fingers crossed the power doesn’t cut again…..
I remember what it was like to start thinking about and planning a gap year. In my case I had always been interested in GCY- ish things – in travel, in global issues, in foreign languages, in volunteering, in changing the world – and so the idea of a gap year was always there in the back of my mind, as I went through the whole college application process, and started to ask myself all those big questions about what I wanted for my future. My ‘idea’ of a gap year at the time went a little something like this: get into college, defer college admission, find an NGO or two in some interesting part of the world, get in touch, get there somehow, live there alone and work for several months, learn about development and the NGO world (practical, real-life skills that I knew couldn’t be learned in a college classroom), learn another language, refresh my perspective on the world and on life, have an amazing experience, and then come home and work for a few months to pay for it. Assuming that I could come up with a good plan (and convince my parents), I eventually decided I would go for it. I was excited for college, but even more intrigued about taking the opportunity to do something daring, unique and meaningful before hand.
But, as I’m sure you can imagine, putting this dream-experience together was a little more challenging than I had anticipated. I started by researching on the web. Key-word Google searches: volunteering in nothern India, sustainable agriculture in Peru, orphanages in Tibet. I came up with all sorts of exciting ideas and possibilities, very few of which were realistic. When I finally came across Global Citizen Year, I knew right away that it was exactly what I had been looking for all along. Although I was into the whole lone-traveler idea, I realized that I would probably be better off with a little help, not to mention the fact that it would make my parents feel a lot better. And the Global Citizen Year program just seemed so comprehensive and thorough, and the idea of being a part of something bigger – a movement of gap year students – definitely struck at something right inside.
And now, after five months here in Senegal, as one of the founding fellows, I would definitely still use the word ‘comprehensive’ to describe my gap year experience. Between the US training, the in-country orientation and language instruction, our carefully chosen homestay and apprenticeship placements, and monthly meetings, I really feel like I have found my way to a wonderful, balanced place of work, learning and living that I could not have without the guidance of GCY. And sure enough, I would say that one of the most important ingredients to this has been the support network: the support of the other fellows, my team leader, and other GCY staff. For while each Fellow’s experience is certainly deeply personal – we each have our different objectives, needs and interests which are taken into account – it would not be the same without the constant dialogue between us of our shared impressions, feelings, ideas and discoveries.
And so, I truly hope that you will consider joining us! This sort of experience, as I’m sure you can guess by now, is very important to me, and I truly believe that it could be for many, many others as well. Its almost dark, the schoolyard in silent and now I definitely have to hurry home.Thanks for reading and best of luck!