Dear You, Person reading this, maybe even GCY applicant,
Hows life ? Whenever my friends and I talk that’s where we start. Last year at this time, life was centered around school , soccer, and figuring out college . The thought of a gap year started when I was applying for scholarships, and the ones that excited me most were those that focused on travel, experiencing the world, and learning through it. Even after I was done with all the applications, I now had this little bird flying around my head with those ideas, or dreams might be a more appropriate term. Now I have always been a self-professed geek – I love school, learning, and even back-to-school shopping, so this new found obsession did not derive from not wanting to go to school. If anything, it came from exactly that: my “geeky” love for learning.
In talking with my friends and family about this urge, I magically found out about Global Citizen Year, read up on it, and decided that I was going to do every single thing within my power to get into the program. It had everything could have asked fo r- travel, immersion in the culture, a focus on learning , especially about development, and the list goes on. Fastforward to getting accepted (went something like me thowing my phone in the air, dancing in public, and then running around to find my phone because I realized Abby was still on the line), Fellows phone calls throughout the summer, finding out I was going to go to Senegal, and finally getting on the plane to go to California for training.
Those two weeks were a flash before my eyes, jam-packed with classes concerning everything from leadership to looking at the impact of NGOs in developing countries. Nothing though could really prepare me for how much I was about to learn once I stepped foot in Senegal. In the first couple of months much of what I gleaned had to do with the people and things that I missed, those that I realized did not matter as much, and then the surface of Senegal composed of basic greetings, transportation, learning names, getting accustomed to the climate and food, etc. From there things only got deeper with the understanding of everything that was around me. I have cathetar-fed turtles, carried on coherent conversations in Wolof and French, bargained with the best of them in the market, spoken and been involved with NGOs, started an impact study, cooked food that makes your arteries clog on sight, learned more about myself than I knew was possible, grown up while still keeping Peter Pan close to my heart, skinned a sheep, taught classrooms full of students English from the essential words of “duck, duck, goose” to music genres, and am continuing to discover something each and every moment. All at once, it has been different in every way from what I expected, yet an adventure that has surpassed anything I could have imagined.
There were worries before all of this, missing family, friends, holidays, and events, taking a very different path than that of my future classmates, going somewhere so far away, and of course the classic, “is it the the right decision” question. I cannot give you the answers to any of these questions, for the responses will be different for each and every person. Yet if you are looking for a chance to open up your world and discover the rest of it, I know that in the least, Global Citizen Year has given that to me.
With that, I must leave you. Good luck, and whether you decide GCY is right for you or not, I can only hope you the best,
See you on the other side of the ocean,
Ananda R. Day