I never thought I would be here a year ago. Or even six months ago for that matter. Global Citizen Year kind of fell into my lap, like an apple from a tree, something purely coincidental but exactly what one needs at the time. At least, that’s what it felt like to me.
I applied to 19 universities last year. I had zero plans of taking a gap year or really anything that wasn’t a highly selective liberal arts school. If you would have asked me a year ago where I would be now, I would have told you I would be beginning classes, moved into my dorm, and starting my college journey. Never did it once cross my mind that I may be heading to India for eight months let alone taking a “year off.”. It was never a reality for me. So when April rolled around and I got handed 9 rejections and 8 waitlists, the only phrase that comes to mind is: “Shit.” I had no idea what to do. Around that time, a girl posted in a facebook group about a program called “Global Citizen Year” that allowed her to travel to Brazil for eight months, affordably I might add. With close to zero other options, I applied. Now, Global Citizen Year is a pretty selective program, and after receiving such rejection from the schools I spent the last four years of my life tirelessly working to get into, I had zero confidence in my ability to get in. Nevertheless, I took a shot in the dark with no expectations and submitted the application. I am so glad that I did.
Now, you may think, “Lily, isn’t it a bad idea to take a gap year just because you didn’t get into the school you wanted?” I might agree with you. Lengthy time abroad is hard and that is no secret. I battled with this question, trying to make sure a gap year was something I really wanted to do. But upon further self reflection and consideration, I realized this: I was burnt out. Not just a little burnt, like completely charred. I worked so hard and alone the past four years and never gave myself a chance to breathe. I always thought that breath would come when I got into that school or got that scholarship, but that never happened. So, that breath never came. It wasn’t until I looked back at my essays, trying to figure out what I did wrong, that I knew my heart wasn’t in it from the start. The essays felt robotic and scripted, void of personality, even though what I had to say may have been valuable. I talked about wanting to study international relations and linguistics, wanting to travel anywhere and everywhere, and how I felt as if I learned more through experience out in the world than in any classroom. Those were my words. When I read this again I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I want to take a gap year in the first place?” I can’t answer that question for you but what I do know is that I am 100% confident I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Nothing in my life has been conventional, especially not my education. So why should college be any different?
It is now August 28th and I leave for Pune, India on the 31st to begin my apprenticeship with Teach for India and my year with Global Citizen Year that I get to share with you through this blog. To be honest, I’m not nervous anymore. I feel at peace. I feel ready. I feel excited to embark on this incredible journey. I have no idea what to expect but it doesn’t bother me because guess what? I finally feel connected to myself, and remember that breath I was telling you about?
It finally came.