I’ve been mentally preparing myself for this trip since I received news of my acceptance. It feels strange sitting here now, realizing that this beautiful idea has quietly transformed itself into my reality. The fact of the matter is that in a little less than a month I will be on another continent, worlds away from my own, with only Global Citizen Year staff and other fellows to comfort my unfamiliarity. It’s tough to explain to others here what it is I will be doing. I usually get a dropped jaw or a “but why…?”. I understand that they see this experience as unusual, and I only hope that years from now it’ll become casual or expected. But what I do need them to understand now is that this is something I’ve been waiting a lifetime for and going into it, I already know that this will become a common occurrence.
When all this preparation has gone on in my head, from choosing what clothing to bring, to what kind of relationships I will have, to what type of person I’ll become, throughout all this planning, I never would have thought to have learned prior to it. I’ve learned to be brave by evaluating my vaccines instead of cringing or running away. I’ve learned selflessness by ending a relationship that I knew distance would only destroy. I’ve learned patience and cooperation through working with others who all have a distinct way of doing things. I’ve learned awareness by constantly updating myself on West Africa’s current state. I’ve learned gratitude through my mother’s endless effort to accommodate me. I’ve learned to empathize with friends who fret about their upcoming college transition. I’ve learned to take advantage of the opportunities I get to spend time with friends and family I know I won’t see for another year, and lastly, I’ve learned self-fulfillment throughout the whole process. When I believed that all the learning would occur in Senegal and that there was no real way to prepare other than contemplate possibilities, I learned, and I became a better person doing it.
Global Citizen Year isn’t the standard, at least not for now, but I can tell you all how thrilled I am to be a part of it. How thrilled I am to continue my learning experience and to return with knowledge and understanding of the world through my own eyes and not from textbooks and empty assignments. When I believed my Global Citizen Year would truly begin in Senegal, I found that it had already begun this summer. Now, I’m only more excited to continue it and to continue it with all of you.