I have never, ever in my life written a blog or even a diary entry so this is quite new to me, as well as everything that I will be experiencing in the next eight months. I am currently sitting on a dorm room bed at Tufts University where I am partaking in the 1+4 gap year orientation. To preface, instead of beginning college at Tufts this fall, I am taking a year off to (hopefully) bring more meaning into my life. On September 1st I will be flying to Pune, India through a program established by my school and one of their many partners, Global Citizen Year. I will be living with a host family and working at a full-time job through an organization called Teach for India. This will not be my first time teaching abroad, as I have taught in short increments in India, Nepal, and Costa Rica in the past, but this will be my first (extremely) long-term trip!
So… who am I and how did I get here?
Name/Age: Wanda Schlumpf, 18
Birthplace: New York, baby!
Home(s): Alabama & Hawai’i
Honestly, the thought of taking a gap year was foreign (haha, get it?) to me until my Junior year of high school. I love traveling and as mentioned above, have done quick service trips during school breaks to various countries. I am not quite sure why I began, but I did. I spent the Summer before Junior Year in Costa Rica building a school, teaching, and installing plumbing in San Jose de Rivas, a tiny, tiny village. That Summer changed my life. I spent several nights crying at the impoverishment and truly realized my privilege of being born in the United States. From then on, I actively looked for ways I could help others while simultaneously helping myself and learning more in the process – this was one of the reasons I applied to Tufts in the first place.
The second reason I chose to embark on this journey was more selfish. After two years of the full International Baccalaureate Program and absolutely, quite figuratively, breaking myself for perfect grades and scores, I was told of the phenomena that was occupational burnout and clinical exhaustion by my Doctor – and I was the textbook example. I knew I needed a break. I was obsessive over school, to the point of checking my grades and re-calculating my GPA up to ten times a day, staying up all night studying content I had already mastered “just in case,” and viewing myself as a worthless failure while everyone else complimented me for excelling and being the top 10% in my class. I needed to re-evaluate my life and have a purpose that wasn’t just school, as well as work on self-improvement. I was living day to day as a zombie focusing only on my next test, exam, or assignment. The idea of taking a gap year was sitting at the back of my head edging towards the front and I knew that if I did not take this opportunity now, I never would; it was the perfect time.
There were several struggles getting here, I didn’t even know if I would be going to India until earlier today because there were some medical complications to get past…which is why I am so late writing my first blog. However, when I was pulled aside today saying this was really happening, I could feel something within me that can’t be explained. I need this, the children I will be working with need this, and I am finally 100% ready. This blog will serve as a platform for me to share my experiences with my friends, family, and anyone who is considering Global Citizen Year, and perhaps more importantly, for myself to look back on. I don’t know Hindi, I don’t know what to expect, but I am doing this, so please, join me on this crazy adventure while I immerse myself into an unknown culture and new home.
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” -James Michener