The last thing my Italian Host family gave me when I returned home was a rainbow colored flag that matched the one they had waving in their garden in Domodossola, a small town in the Alps of Italy. They instructed me to hang it in my own home so that our peace flags would always connect our families, even 4,000 miles apart. When I returned home, however, friends were unsure why I had a flag with the word PACE on it hung in my room. Although the flag did in fact say peace, just in Italian, the double meaning of the word and both of its daily reminders helped me through the years since my return.
Through many sports injuries and disappointments, overwhelming classes and commitments, and trips that opened my eyes to the world and to myself, I was reminded that it is my choice to be at peace wherever I am. Setting my pace and finding my peace are within my power—a perspective that can be hard to remember when faced with demands of parents, teachers, administrators, coaches, and bosses. When the deadliest season of all, College Application Season, was at its height, I found myself in a race with my peers to escape the torrential downpour of college letters asking for my application and survive the nerve-racking drizzle (or drought) of acceptance letters, go to school, choose what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and tackle it with diligence and ease. How could I please everyone and balance my own interests with the advice I was getting from all sides? What would bring the best match of skills and challenges? Something just didn’t feel right about stepping up to the starting line of the four-year college race. When Global Citizen Year dawned on my horizon it felt like a great match of skills and challenges—one that would bring me peace knowing I could be useful to other people, I’d be learning a new language and I’d be learning in the most global sense.
Living in another country with a new family and a new culture will not actually be completely foreign to me, but I will certainly carry the values of one culture to the next, and remind myself that regardless of where the other Fellows are, where my friends or family are back home, or what any of them are accomplishing, I will be on running my own pace, without a definitive finish line. And I am more than just at peace with that: I am thrilled.