When I first thought of going to college, as I began my college apps nearly a year ago, I was excited for all the same things my friends were looking forward to. The prospect of decorating a dorm room, having classes I was passionate about, and way more freedom than I was used to, were all appealing ideas to me. But then I started looking into where I wanted to go. The more I looked the more discouraged I became as I realized I wanted more than to just move from one room to another, even if that room may be in another state.
I’ve always wanted to travel and be independent from the social norms that surround my community, especially because my community happens to include University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The pressures that come with living in a college town can oftentimes overwhelm people and while I found I did a good job of allowing myself to enjoy life outside of school, I did feel like everyone around me, and, inevitably, sometimes myself, found it hard to focus on really appreciating life outside of grades, test scores, and where you were accepted to college. So I decided to do something different.
It didn’t take long for me to come upon Global Citizen Year because a few people from my community have done the program and talked extremely highly about it. When I started to really look into it I realized that this was the perfect program for me. To me, GCY isn’t about what can you teach to these supposedly “undeveloped countries”, unlike some “volunteer” programs, but it’s about what can they teach you. How can they make your life more whole? How can you immerse yourself in their culture to better your own? How can you push yourself out of your comfort zone in a completely new way? How can you find a new family and love them deeply in only 6 and ½ months? How can you learn empathy in a way you never knew before? These are all questions that I can’t wait to find out the answers to.
As my time until departure is coming to a close I’ve had a lot of time to think and have feelings about leaving the only place I’ve ever called home. But the feeling I feel the most is anticipation. I know that this year will not come without its struggles, and those struggles will be intense and unknown, but they also allow you to more generously accept the highs. I don’t know exactly what waits for me in Senegal. I don’t know who I will live with, what I will do, if I’ll be able to pick up the language, but I do know that if I wasn’t trying I’d always wish I had.
So this closes up my first blog. I hope you enjoyed and I hope you continue to follow my gap year journey. My views are my own but I hope that even if you may not agree with them, that they allow you to question or strengthen your own. À tout alors tout le monde.