Lessons Learned

Paulina Jedrzejowski - Brazil


May 7, 2015

As I was departing the United States just eight months ago I did not want to leave my comfort zone. A few weeks before leaving I remember glancing over this quote, “Surrender to what is, Let go of what was, Have faith in what will be.” I was unable to let go of what was yet. Throughout my life I was sheltered in the environment I was growing up in, afraid to step out of my comfort zone and unable to fully pursue anything I wanted because of my parents’ “Perfect Plan” for me. Arriving in Brazil I would often think back to the first blog I posted, to the people I wrote about in the blog, to this statement “I hope the adventure in Brazil will be worth my friend’s tears.” When I was going through tough times in Brazil I would doubt that the adventure was actually worth my friend’s tears yet what I learned is that although the journey was difficult I learned the life lessons I needed to learn to pursue the path I will.

The first lesson I learned may have been the catalyst of all the other lessons I would learn this past year, what it means to not know something…what it means to struggle because of not knowing and how tired a person gets when they try try try and they just don’t get it. In Brazil I struggled with the idea of not knowing something…this something was very important, Portuguese. I would spend countless hours with my host mom who had extreme patience with me (I am very thankful for her). I will not expand on this topic because it was already written about in another blog but I would like to expand on the topic of thankfulness. Before Brazil I would not think about how much my family does for me but in Brazil I learned how much my family back home did for me. I had to learn how to take care of my own things, wash my clothes, clean my room, even help out my host mom with cooking and cleaning the house. I had responsibilities I never had. I became thankful for everything my host mom did for me because I was a stranger that walked into her life and was treated as a daughter. I also became thankful for everything my mom did back home even if it was just a text asking me how I am doing. There is no other time I felt so loved by both my home stay family and my family and friends back home.

Patience…this word had another meaning in Brazil. What I mean by this is that I had to learn a lot and most of it occurred through making mistakes. Before, I almost never learned through making mistake…furthermore I was afraid of making mistakes because making mistakes would mean failure and I was afraid of failing. Today, I know that making mistakes is ok…moreover it is the only way a person can truly learn anything. Everyone makes mistakes! Before Global Citizen Year I would get mad at people in my life because when I would ask them why they acted the way they acted they would respond that they did not know what they were doing would result in what it resulted. I would get very upset, how could you not know? was a question I found myself asking a lot. Today, I know – it does not matter how old people are, everyone makes mistakes all the time and a perfect plan or path does not exist. In eight months in Brazil I most likely made more mistakes than I had ever made in my entire life and I had to practice patience with myself. I also had to practice patience when becoming accustomed to the Brazilian pace of life which was much different from New York City’s “everything that is due today should have gotten done yesterday” pace of time.

My beginning struggles were only experiences that made me prepare for the rest of the cultural struggles I faced that year yet today I know that each situation I went through in Brazil was a struggle that taught me something, made me more self aware, pushed me out of naiiveness. I have become more aware of who I am and what I bring with myself. I no longer have to hide myself of fear of my accomplishments or compare myself to other people because I am proud of who I am. I have also stopped believing in people being able to control what is happening, I am beginning to believe that things happen because they are meant to happen that way and no matter what others do they will happen the way they are meant to happen. My decision to take a gap year popped out of nowhere. And why was it Global Citizen Year that proposed a gap year to me? It was because I needed a year away from everything and everyone I have ever known to learn important lessons and break the shell. This was not my plan, yet somehow this was what was supposed to happen. Throughout the year I learned that times come when a person must incorporate unforeseen changes into their life and be ok with how things change. When these changes happen, a person must understand the difference between their wants and needs, and that wants sometimes become needs unnecessarily and needs will occur regardless if we want them to occur, (another lesson learned).

Some people may continue to not understand why I made this decision to take a Gap Year, they do not have to understand because the only person that needs to understand how this year has shaped me is me. I have gone through a journey, a journey in which I wanted to stop moving forward but I continued taking steps. Steps that today result in few of the greatest lessons I have ever learned and that I will continue to carry with me.

Paulina Jedrzejowski