Inspiration is everywhere. It drives my everyday life and pushes me to become a better person. It has the power to lift my mind to a world of infinite possibilities, where I can consistently feel empowered by reading inspiring words, listening to soulful music, watching miracles happening around me, or simply observing the raw beauty of the world. One of the most influential things I grew up with that continually inspires me today is the children’s picture book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss. Within its colorful cartoons and imaginative characters, I am able to extract the message that life is full of excitement and that I should experience as much adventure as I can. I should be able to express who I am and what I believe in no matter what other people think. I should pilot my life the way I want it to be, and with hard work, be successful at whatever I set my mind to.
Last summer, I traveled to Rau, a rural town nestled at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. I spent three weeks teaching at Himo and Korona primary schools, where enthusiastic children eagerly welcomed me with songs in Swahili each morning. Their pure spirit struck me, as did their ability to live happy lives regardless of their deprivations: a lack of school materials, inadequate staffing, and poor health conditions. Without a doubt, I immediately began to appreciate my own education, which I had always taken for granted. I am proud to have attended a school with tremendous strength in academics. I had the privilege of partaking in diverse activities outside of class that provided chances for me to find and develop new hobbies and interests. I am lucky to eventually be studying at one of the world’s largest research universities. Before seeing the educational system in Tanzania, I never fathomed what it was like to be in a classroom without electricity, teachers, and clean facilities. I had never taken time to explore parts of the world where educational conditions are quite dire, and as a result, it was challenging for me to even realize that there are people in the world who are not as well off as I am.
Teaching in Tanzanian classrooms spawned my aspiration to make education more accessible to people in developing parts of the world. I thought to myself–the time is now. What can I do with a year’s worth of time to provide opportunities to people who otherwise will not have them?
I started looking into the possibilities that would await me if I took a year off after high school. Though it is not the traditional norm, especially in my hometown where mostly everyone directly attends university, as Dr. Seuss puts it in his book, I am ultimately the person who decides where I want to go, and with the right faith, I will be “off to great places, off and away.” As someone who has caught the travel bug early on in life, it was always a dream of mine to live in another part of the world, so as many of my close friends are shopping for college, I am reading about Ecuador and brushing up on all the Spanish I have forgotten from a few years ago. This year is my chance to go out into the world as a true adult, do a little inner-exploration, and live for myself. I hope to touch the lives of others through an apprenticeship geared towards youth and education. I want to learn more about another fascinating culture and give back to the rest of the world. My path may be as “wiggly, weirdish, and wild” as Dr. Seuss describes adventures sometimes to be, but I am up to be a trooper and conquer challenges. I am confident my year in Ecuador will be an extraordinary learning experience that will not only open up my heart and mind to influence others, but also allow myself to better appreciate life.
I strongly believe that everyone should be able to dream what may seem impossible, seek what might seem unknown, and eventually achieve greatness in what they do, so to end my story on an inspiring note, from the words of Dr. Seuss to you, “Congratulations! Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting…so get on your way! And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed. 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.”