I have many thoughts about my bridge year in Senegal that it's hard to write them down and share them. However, there are certain things that I learned and experienced that I want to keep with me for the rest of my life. These are lessons that I hope I will never forget therefore I'm going to write them down and share them with you 🙂
1. Knowing that I don't need my phone and the internet all the time. It's okay if I leave my phone at my house while I go out, or if I don't have internet everywhere I go, even if I separate from my phone while I am bored and not doing anything at my house. Internet can be a very resourceful and important thing, but sometimes it can go overboard and private us from doing other things that we might enjoy. Such as reading, cooking, spending time with friends and family. Even being bored. In Senegal I learned that not having anything to do can be very positive most of the times. You have time to think a lot about many things and you start appreciating small things that make everything more exciting and beautiful.
2. Being more present. Sooner than later I started realizing that the people in my village lived moment by moment, as cliché as it sounds. Often I would find myself asking my host mom or siblings things like "what are the plans for this weekend?" "At what time is the football match?" Or even "Do you have school tomorrow?" Most of the times the answer was "I am not sure." It got frustrating at times, but it made me think that they don't really care. They are just living what they are doing at that exact moment and they are not stressing about what's coming, because there isn't nothing to stress about. I want to live like that. Not stress about something that hasn't happened but instead, just think about the lunch I'm eating or the activity I'm concentrating on at that exact moment.
3. I really don't need much. You can do so much with few things and I wish we would all have this realization. In a society where we are often bombarded with the latest fashions and products it's hard to really think what we really need and what we just want. In Senegal, cooking in a kitchen with no counter, light, cutting boards, and just a couple of knives I realized we don't need a full knife set, 5 cutting boards, thousands of glasses and plates. You can still create amazing dishes, you just need to be more practical and resourceful! Now, preparing for college and to move by myself in a new apartment I will definitely be more mindful about what I just want to own for no reason, and what I need and really want. I still think it's okay to treat yourself and buy things we don't always need, but being more mindful about it.
4. One is more capable than one thinks. I've always been an insecure person, thinking I'm always more shy than what I actually am and that I'm not "good enough" but I learned that that's not completely true all of the time. When I began helping another fellow at the primary school I was very overwhelmed. I didn't think I could go in front and calm the class down, or help them with any of their homework. One day, however, I just stood up and started telling all the kids to make silence, and little by little I started trusting myself inside the classroom. Being more active to go in front, to help them with their math and French exercises. I started feeling very happy and capable, and this soon extended to other areas outside of the classroom. Now during training seminars with the other fellows I started trusting myself more, speaking out more and being myself more often. It felt easier, and I realized that the only one making me incapable is me, so now I don't ever want to tell me that I can't. Of course, I won't be able to do everything in the world, but if I don't try I will never know!
5. Reading and writing more. These are two thing I really practiced during my whole time in Senegal, and something that helped me keep grounded and express my thoughts and feelings. It's something that made me very happy and I want to keep doing it for my mental health and to keep my toyghts in order. I made the mistake of leaving my journal in the US while I came back to CR and as soon as I did I realized it was a big mistake, because I realized that it is something that I miss and need in my daily life in order to feel down to earth and relaxed.
Now, these are some of the few things that I will take with me from Senegal, but I know they are not the only ones. I'm sure I don't even know yet everything that I learned. And little by little Ill be discovering new things that will take me back to this experience and that will constantly help me grow and learn from myself.