One Year On

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a Global Citizen Year event. With new and old faces, prospective and returning fellows, and many of the people that make Global Citizen Year tick, I felt the close of another circle. This loop, the mark of being one year back from Senegal and one year through university, was officially closed. Trying to wrap up all of my thoughts about Global Citizen Year and what it means to me, I came to what I wasn’t going to say: how it changed the classes I took, led me to co-chair the Ventures Committee of Nourish International, shifted my value of grades to learning, flipped the rhythm of my thoughts, led me towards a new major, enlightened me about development, drove me to make more of a change in the world, causes me to skip through languages when thinking, etc.- all true, but insufficient descriptions. To try and describe the intangible impact, I came to the people and the possibilities.

Throughout my whole year in Senegal, many of the best moments I had were not grand events, such as a safari. In fact, the glimpses of perfection often came about while doing nothing much — taking a walk hand in hand with Awa, languishing in the twilight heat, reading with my best friends sister Maymouna nuzzled up close to ask French questions, obtaining recipes from everyone who would give them — everything that seems insignificant never failed to bring me joy because of the people surrounding me. My new found friends, widened family, and other fellows gave my moments weight with the lightness of joy. One year and thousands of miles away from Senegal I have other fellows that will always understand my particular intricacies. They laugh at my smoked peanut butter cravings, understand the ways our lives and university experiences are a bit different now, and are great friends who I never would have met otherwise. On the Senegalese side, I have had the pleasure of hosting my Senegalese uncle at Carolina. Beyond this, I have reached out to the local Senegalese diaspora to find the safe haven of understanding and longing for the land of teranga that often flares up. If anything, Skype is my superhero, letting me speak with my family across the world. Though I am far from many of these people, GCY gave me the chance to meet them- to have them sweetening my life.

The view over 120ft. above the Brunei Rainforest

Other than contributing to the lushness of my existence, Global Citizen Year has opened up a myriad of possibilities for me. Right now I’m 120ft above the rainforests of Brunei, on the Island of Borneo (I KNOW….. BORNEO!!!). By some grace, I was accepted into a UNC scholarship program for this summer, which takes me to Singapore, Brunei, and India. When I was writing my application, it was clear to me that my experience from last year was impacting each word I chose. Whether it be through a direct example, such as my newfound passion for social entrepreneurship, or simply personal understanding, the experiences in Senegal gave my responses a quality of depth they never would have had. Simply put, without Global Citizen Year I doubt I would be looking over these treetops today. GCY has been my Emerson, turning every wall into a beckoning open door.

As I speak French with Expats in Singapore and salaam my Brunei friends, Senegal and Global Citizen Year impact me every day. Perhaps GCY has simply set my standards, forcing me to chase learning opportunities as valuable as it. Either way, Global Citizen Year has made the past year and foreseeable future into something that has exceeded any dream. I can only wonder at the people and possibilities before me, and thank GCY for the ones it continues to give.

Bringing my Senegalese pants to Brunei where I'm trimming pandan leaves to make mats


GCY Founding Fellow Michael Wilson and me at UNC Chapel Hill's Holi Celebration, 2010.