Finding old friends and new purpose

Henry Duerr - Ecuador


August 23, 2016

Here I stand, balanced at the edge of an incredible precipice. I need not look over the edge, nor fear the fall I shall soon take.

Because for the first time in a very long while, I am not alone.

As many of you may know, I have chosen to defer my matriculation at Hobart and William Smith to join the Global Citizen Year Cohort of 2017. In layman’s terms: I’m taking a ‘gap’ year. Yet that short sentence does such an injustice to this program. There is no ‘gap’ in my learning. Rather, a bridge between high school and college, and rich bridge to boot. Global Citizen Year isn’t just some way to kill time before I head off to college, it isn’t my noble effort to “go save the world”, it is NOT me fleeing responsibility or the real world. Many times, when I told someone (particularly of the older generation) what I was doing this year, I sensed a feeling of bemusement, almost an unspoken “tsk tsk. You’ll be ready for college some day.”

Let me make something perfectly clear: I am ready for college. College is not ready for ME.

Traditional higher education is not currently capable of providing the opportunities, experience, and worldview that Global Citizen Year so seamlessly provides. My time abroad is very much a continuation of my academic and intellectual growth.

With that being said, allow me to describe the program.

These past few days at PDT (pre departure training) have been nothing short of incredible. From the moment I got off my flight, I was part of something much larger than myself. The global cohort, the Global Citizen Fellows of 2017, have enveloped me. When I first set foot off of the shuttle, two things immediately registered with me: the immensity of the forest I found myself in, and the mass of screaming people before me. A most jubilant welcome, and a heartfelt one at that. In a brief span of time, I found myself making friends. True, honest to god, friends. I have dozens of new brothers and sisters, people who see the world just like me. I have an entire fellowship behind me.

When the course finally began, I immediately found myself awash with critical thinking. The kind of thinking that forces you to reassess who you fundamentally are, and what you want from life.

Exempli gratia:

The staff gathered the fellows (the in-house term for “participants” in the program) around a large campfire as dusk spread over the benevolent wood. Immediately, they made something clear:

“You belong here: this is exactly where you need to be, and you deserve to be here.”

Those words alone nearly moved me to tears. I never realized how much I longed for and needed that single sentence.

The knowledge that I am doing the right thing, the best thing, is not something that I have always had. The reception of this external validation coupled with simultaneous internal catharsis gave me a brief moment of self actualization: For once in my life, I know exactly what I am doing, where I am going, and above all else: I am happy. I look to the start of each day with excitement, hope, and newfound confidence. I want to be here, so here I am.

Can you say the same reader?

Henry Duerr