Every Step Counts

Benito Aranda-Comer - Brazil


September 13, 2012

The last couple of weeks have been nothing short of thrilling, thought provoking, anxiety producing, and most of all: life changing. Stanford University is the perfect setting to foster global change with a group of extraordinary individuals. From conversations on women’s empowerment and foreign aid to reflective yoga and late night singing and dancing there was anything and everything within our phenomenal cohort.

On the plane to San Francisco, and eventually the bus to Palo Alto, I continually questioned my certainty surrounding taking a bridge year. I finally tested the waters of what I knew was a vast ocean by leaving. However, at the sheer immensity of what was to come next I quivered knowing that there was much to do. My angst quickly evaporated as the first day brought 92 Fellows together in an unimaginable way. We became fast friends unlike any group I have ever belonged to. While each of us is unique and incomparable, we are also alike because of our drive to make global change a reality.

The entire cohort is then broken into three country specific groups: Senegal, Ecuador, and Brazil. I entered Fall Training without any definitive plan as to when exactly I was going to be able to journey to the luscious land of Salvador, Brazil; in short, I didn’t have my visa. At the beginning of Fall Training I wasn’t perturbed because I had faith that I would receive my visa and that my idealistic optimism would solve any pressing problems. However, as the Houston and San Francisco Brazil Fellows were to soon find out, bureaucratic employees of the Consulates would have more of a say in our initial journey than we would. We all ended Fall Training inspired yet confused as we waved goodbye to everyone and wondered what was in store for us.

Finding solace in each other’s company there wasn’t much too complain about as we found ourselves in stunning Lake Tahoe on Labor Day Weekend. The visa process was still up in the air but hopes were high as we drank in the pristine beaches and chilling water. Soon the San Francisco Fellows found their way to Brazil and we, the Houston Fellows, had to say goodbye to our partners in what was a brief limbo. As our hopes to secure visas were again dashed, we embarked on a wondrous four-day mountain hike in Point Reyes National Seashore. We emerged, the Houston Three, from the wilderness eager to hear the latest on our visas. Success! Knocking on wood has never been so satisfying.

Forgive my subconscious, but I’ve recently begun to romanticize my time abroad (even though I’m not there yet) in my dreams. I find myself on a long dirt road snaking its way through different areas of a coastal mountain. Walking into the sunset with my hands in my pockets, Houston snapback on backwards, a grin on my face, I continue to journey down the unknown road. There is no end in sight but as I round the first curve I see a beautiful landscape: Waves, continually crashing on the anchored black rocks, signify a new set of challenges for weary, yet steadfast and tested, champions of perseverance.

While the road is uncertain, the path strewn with obstacles, I can take several things from my dream and experience. Each step, regardless of whether it is good, bad, or neutral, has a definite role to play in the outcome of any situation. Continuously moving forward with a positive attitude can make a night and day difference when confronting hardship. Lastly, and most importantly, I truly learned to value the small things. The extra pack of hot chocolate while hiking, the extremely personal conversation before bed that brings you that much closer, and the sobering beauty of our planet at dusk all encompass my gratitude for this opportunity. I am finally able to be my own champion of perseverance as I prepare for what comes next.

Benito Aranda-Comer