Madelaine Guss - Senegal

July 18, 2012

As the month of July drags on—the third month of the longest summer I have endured since I entered school—I begin to take the necessary steps to prepare for the upcoming year: scheduling doctor appointments, filling out paperwork, and purchasing my first pair of sneakers that promise to outlast a month.

In a little corner of my room sits a pile of things I plan to stuff into my suitcase come mid-August and tote away with me. With every day that passes, I toss new things into this pile: certain books and random sweaters, all of which are accompanied by the occasional indispensible item (I think at some point I threw in a toothbrush).

Now don’t get me wrong, each item that makes its way into this pile only arrives after some sort of jumbled rationalization of when and where it may be necessary while abroad. What if my shirt buttons come loose and I need to sew them back into place? What if I lose all 50 of the first hair bands I plan to pack? The list of potential situations and possible what-ifs is endless, because beneath this pile lies what is really driving my obsessive packing: uncharted expectations.

Within the next two months I will find myself, along with the rest of the Global Citizen Year cohort, thrown into an environment that doesn’t allow for expectations or predictions, which is as one of the most exciting factors of the next year. Having no pre-formed expectations, I will land in Senegal malleable in my mindset, and able to mold myself into each moment and challenge I may face.

Some things I have thrown into this pile are old, comfortable items that remind me of home, mainly because as these summer months wind down, I find myself holding onto everything I have grown to love during my 18 years of life, and attempting to pack them away into my 50 lb capacity suitcase.  While I know I am only leaving for 8 months, I have no idea of who will come home, and fear returning unfamiliar to the things I love.

While this thought may scare me, I have come to understand the normality and inevitability of it all, the time-honored tradition of change and growth that each teenager faces. I know that while away I can only develop a stronger sense of self, and return ready to face whatever may come next.

Madelaine Guss