Mackenzie McMillen - Ecuador

July 10, 2012

I recently opened my very first debit card. As you would expect, my parents cautioned me against using it frivolously and reminded me that it’s easy to loose track of how much one spends when the money isn’t tangible. I took heed and promised myself I wouldn’t get carried away. Still, I was eager to use it for something. The opportunity arose when I received the suggested pre-departure reading list for Global Citizen Year.

Anyone who knows me well could probably tell you that decisiveness is not a quality I possess. Thus, picking a couple of the books from the list was challenging. I did a fair bit of research; I looked up what each book was about, I asked my friends if they had ever read of any of them, etcetera.  I can’t tell you why I am unable to just say, “ That title has a nice ring to it. That’s the book for me!” like a normal person.

When I had finally decided on two books I unwittingly turned to the web to make my purchases. I was confronted with about a trillion new decisions to make. Ebay or Amazon? Used or new? Which seller looks less sketchy? Is ‘good condition’ good enough? Do I want advanced shipping? I now understand why they call it “the web.”

The point is that although I am frequently stumped by seemingly small choices there has been one big decision I am sure of, and that is my choice to take a bridge year. Though I consulted my family and friends and dug through the internet looking at programs the way I tend to do, I knew two things all along: a) I did not want to go straight into another four years of school without having had a glimpse of a country other than the USA and b) after four years of not shining in school the way I should have I wanted use this year to do something that I could be really proud of.

I also knew that whatever I end up doing in my life there are certain skills that will be both valuable and invaluable to me. Fluency in another language, the ability to relate and communicate across cultures, and organizational and networking skills, to name a couple that particularly attract me to Global Citizen Year. But there are also less literal things I hope to gain from this experience, like the ability to remain anchored to and comforted by something inside myself rather than a specific place.

I don’t expect to come back from this year completely enlightened with all the solutions to hunger, disease, and poverty or anything quite so grand. But I do hope that this adventure gives me the skills, direction, and courage to make the world a more beautiful place in whatever way I can.

Mackenzie McMillen