Hello there! 🙂 Welcome to my blog!
My name is Maddi Schink, and I am 18 years old and a Colorado native. In less than a month I will be embarking on the journey of a lifetime on a gap year through Global Citizen Year!
As I entered my senior year of high school this past fall and my mind was consumed with the future and what it might hold for me, I knew that while I wanted to further my education at a college or university, it could wait. I had spent the last 13 years on an academic treadmill, running through a system where stress and my GPA dictated my life. Wasn’t it time for me to rest and reflect, so that I could enter the next race with more direction, motivation and wisdom?
Throughout the past several years I have discovered that oftentimes the most powerful learning isn’t done within the walls of a classroom, but out exploring in the world. My first experience traveling was the summer after my sixth grade year, when I had the opportunity to visit Costa Rica with my Spanish class. It was during this trip when I caught what my mother commonly refers to as the “travel bug” – that insatiable desire to immerse myself in cultures and languages other than my own and develop a stronger sense of understanding of place in a global context.
After more research on the potential of a gap year, I realized that not only were they encouraged by some of the top schools in the country, but that taking time for personal growth and self-discovery would better prepare me with necessary life skills. There was really no excuse not to take the leap of faith and let the course of my life be altered forever.
I know that my nine months in Ecuador will be, at the least, challenging, but I also know that through my struggles with the language, culture, homesickness, myself, and the changes in everyday life, I will realize how strong I really am. Going into college aware of my ability to overcome obstacles will be critical to my success in navigating the academic and social scenes with self-assurance.
Living and working in Ecuador also provides the perfect setting for me to cultivate my Spanish skills. Since that initial travel experience in Costa Rica, when 12-year-old Maddi was only able to communicate with broken phrases, I have held on to my goal of gaining fluency in Spanish. I have continued to dream of the day when I can properly engage with someone in Spanish and fully understand and appreciate their story, as well as share my own. I strongly believe that attempting to communicate in someone’s native language in their home country is not only a sign of respect, but it opens many doors for personal connection, friendship and meaningful, productive discussions that can increase understanding between people of differing backgrounds. It is this understanding that can lead to the love and acceptance that the world needs.
The apprenticeship leg of this program was also appealing because it will allow time to identify my passions and build a better idea of how they can be woven into the pursuit of a college degree and, eventually, a career. I one day aim to live a contributive life in which I am an active member of society who is tirelessly trying to improve the world around her. In order to reach this point in my life, I will strive to find what sets my soul on fire so that these flames guide me to engage myself in service and work that will effectively address issues in both my local and global communities.
As someone who wants to be a lifelong learner, Global Citizen Year is the perfect way to help me begin to embody this value. I am aspiring to embrace every single opportunity for growth that Ecuador throws my way. With experience as my teacher, I hope to gain work and leadership skills, become more aware of my own strengths and weaknesses, develop the harmony between my inner and outer voice, find a new home and family to call my own, make lifelong friends, strengthen my bond of humanity, and overall grasp just who I am meant to be.
With all of these advantages for taking a Global Citizen Year, it really isn’t a “gap” year at all, but more of a “bridge” year that will transform my outlook as I enter a new chapter of my life.
While I did face some doubt and skepticism from those around me when I expressed my nontraditional path after high school graduation, and this at times discouraged me, but I always reminded myself of a quote that has now become one of my favorites:
“Ser joven y no ser revolucionario es una contradicción hasta biológica.” – Salvador Allende
Translated into English, this quote means, “To be young and to not be a revolutionary is a contradiction of biology.”
What can I say? The desire to forge my own path is in my blood. And I can’t wait to see where it takes me.
Thank you for joining my on this grand adventure, I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I do.
¡Vamos al Ecuador!