“Follow your bliss”

Erica Anderson - Senegal

July 6, 2011

A few months ago, I was inspired by a simple phrase I heard in an interview of the late Joseph Campbell, a man who devoted his life to studying ancient myths. From his analysis of global texts and his own life experience, his best advice for living life was to “follow your bliss.” I clicked on a well-aimed Facebook advertisement and made its mission my reality; Global Citizen Year is the place I will search to find my bliss.

I first found out about GCY from a Facebook ad. It’s an embarrassing fact, I know. There I sat, wasting my time on one of the most insubstantial websites on the Internet, when I happened to notice the small advertisement that (presumably) changed the course of my future. Looking back at times like these, the concept of Fate does not seem so far-fetched.

From that one or two sentence ad, I clicked on the website; I could hardly believe my eyes. I had been casually exploring the concept of a gap year, more from my disenchantment with the college application process and the doldrums of wintertime schoolwork than anything else. After reading about GCY, it immediately felt like the right decision; the program seemed as if it had been tailored to fit everything I desired. I could stay for months, not weeks, in a foreign country, join a new family, learn a new language, gain valuable insight into development work, and meet a group of like-minded peers without needing anything more than a high school diploma. In a whirlwind of activity, I applied and was accepted. My parents took a while to warm up to the idea of their “baby” living more than just a minivan-ride away, but they were selfless enough to give me their approval.

As a homegrown, no-nonsense, central Iowa girl, it is in my nature to be realistic about my expectations for GCY and for myself. I do not expect to right the world’s wrongs – not in this one year nor in my entire lifetime. I cannot even guarantee that I will have a lasting impact on my homestay community or internship. At face value, I am just an optimist with limited experience and no in-depth training. However, I have a big heart and bigger ambitions, and I am going to walk into Senegal with my eyes, ears, and arms wide open. My challenge for myself is take down the barriers that close me off from unfamiliar people, unfamiliar concepts, and unfamiliar experiences. I want to truly understand what it means to be a global citizen, apprentice, neighbor, and friend. To any and all who read this blog post, please join me in this mission, whether it is by tracking my adventures or creating your own.

Erica Anderson