“Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.”
On my last night at home, my family and I sat down to watch a movie together: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Near the beginning of the film, Gandalf utters the phrase “home is behind, the world ahead”, as Bilbo and the dwarves leave the Shire for the first time. Sitting there I felt a connection towards my own ‘Unexpected Journey’ that was about to begin.
As many of my 18/19 year old friends are about to do, for their university or jobs, I was about to leave my home behind for the world ahead. My world ahead is my immersion in the culture of Brazil. At first I was scared. Scared to leave the comfort of my thrice daily cups of tea for a land full of coffee, scared of the unknown, scared of whether I can actually make an improvement in myself and collaboratively in the community I am about to live or not, yet all my excitement has been building up to this moment.
However, it is not the first time I have left home. When I was accepted to do a Global Citizen Year in Brazil, I was finishing high school in India at the Mahindra United World College of India. But, this in no way meant I would have a easy year. Yes, both organisations hold similar ideologies which I strive towards: promoting international immersion and understanding for a better future.
However understanding one‘s own culture is hard enough, understanding another’s is much harder. It does not have a time limit (of one or two years). It takes many attempts, many fails and many successes. Studying in India for two years has taught me many lessons such as exploration and time management, but my Global Citizen Year is different in one main aspect: complete independence. This time I will not be living with 200 international students my age. I will be living alone, within a single nation, immersing myself within its internal differences and complexities. As I infer from Tolkein’s writings; there are many paths to take and which you must take towards the light, many will take you to the edge of yourself but will eventually guide you into the light.
But why am I doing this? Why is it important?
When you create strong relationships with local communities, you can create empathy. It is empathy which will bring about useful generosity, that has the power to change lives for the better. It is empathy which allows one to look for the humanity in the corner of the day. It is empathy which opens up opportunities for those involved, to provide enrichment in life rather than in wealth. But most importantly, it is empathy which will bring about love and joy, and if you love, you win. Or at least this is what I hope to prove.
I hope that by stepping out of my comfort zone, being and welcoming a challenging new environment, I will expand my empathy. Through empathy, I will explore how to create a wealth of joy, experience and opportunity for at least myself and hopefully for those whom I am involved with. I will explore just how a localised bridge year can help engage in the understanding of a global community. As importantly, I hope the pages that follow inspire more of you to follow and achieve their dreams, leaving the comforts of home behind and embarking on a journey into the unknown worlds ahead.
My Story so far (the post-ly informative part)
January: My story began in January when I was accepted into Global Citizen Year (GYC). I did not know where I was going or what I was to do, but was excited by the multitudinous of opportunities which lay ahead.
June and July: My summer campaign starts. Over the course of the summer, I had the task of raising $2,500 towards Fellow Scholarship Fund (which provides scholarships and financial assistance to over 80% of Global Citizen Year Fellows). To get used to the idea that I would be spending the next year of my life in Brazil, I started to learn Portuguese and explored the history of Brazils culture by visiting Portugal*.
* Brazil was discovered by accident when a Portuguese expedition to India, led by Pedro Alvares Cabral, swung too far westward in 1500. It remained virtually ignored by the Crown for twenty-five years because it lacked the rich trade cities found in Asia and it had no ready supplies of precious metals. However, the discovery of Brazil wood, the source of red dye, much in demand by the European textile industry, was incentive enough for founding the colony and provided its name.
Now: The day before I fly to California for Pre–Departure Training. I am open minded. I am about to gain a new home, a new family and adopt a new culture in Brazil. I don’t know what this year will entail, but I do know that I can’t wait for it to start.
Post-ly obrigados to: (My thanks per post)
You. For reading my blog.
Friends and family (especially Alison). For backing me on this journey.
Patricia and Luis. For traveling around Portugal with me, increasing my language capability.
Anyone who donated money to my fundraising page.
Anyone who wants to donate to my fundraising page.
To all these people and more. Your support is what kick started my story and what will continue to keep it going.