Straying Off the Common Path

Erica Gonzales - Brazil


August 27, 2015

When I meet new people and when they learn that I am a recent high school graduate, they always ask me, “Where are you going to college?”

My answer is always, “Oh, I don’t know yet. But I am taking a bridge year in Brazil.”

And their response is usually either “Oh, that’s so cool!” or “Why?”
I will provide an answer to the latter.

I crave adventure.

The world has so many wonders to “Oooh!” and “Aaah!” at, so many delicious food to consume, and so many people to create memories with that I cannot afford to waste time limiting myself to one place. When I am an old woman and when I am telling my grandchildren bedtime stories, I want to tell them my own stories in addition to the fairytale stories we all know and love. I want to inspire them to create their own. I also want to reflect and be proud that I lead a fulfilling life. A bridge year in Brazil is the perfect time and place to start creating those stories. Who knows what adventures I will have while in Brazil? I might discover a hidden lagoon, get lost in the Amazon rainforest, or spontaneously backpack to Iguazu Falls like what my Summer Campaign Coach and his friends did.

I crave knowledge.

Like many people, the way I gained most of my knowledge was through school. Although I enjoyed my classes, I want to start learning outside the classroom. When I do finally start college, I want to supplement the lessons and the discussions I am bound to have with my experiences. My education will be much more meaningful because it may be possible that I have lived some of the lessons. When I land in Brazil, my curiosity will be ready to lead me to witness events and experience moments that will unexpectedly and gradually change how I view and live in this world.

I crave reflection.

I seldom had time to think – to really THINK – about what I was learning during high school. My head was too filled with deadlines: homework to finish, essays to write, exams to study for, and other school-related errands to do. The only time I really could think about my lessons was during my literature class, the 30-minute journeys to and from school, my 20-minute showers, and the hour it takes me to fall asleep. But with a bridge year, my learning won’t be standardized. No deadlines, no homework, no essays, no exams, no grades. I can ponder about and discuss a quote from a book for 30 minutes. I can watch a TED talk and further delve into the topic if I found it compelling. I can reflect and expand on what I’m learning.

I crave growth.

Goals cannot be achieved unless you grow, and growth does not occur unless you force yourself to expand your circle of comfort. The challenges I will inevitably encounter during Global Citizen Year will help facilitate this growth. I might become a teacher and have the challenge of creating lesson plans despite no experience as a teacher. I might get lost during transit and be forced to speak butchered Portuguese in order to find my way. I might even have the simple but strenuous challenge of building up my physical strength if I am placed in a labor-intensive apprenticeship. The lessons I will learn from these challenges will stay with me throughout my life and will aid me in my endeavors.

I crave peace.

I want peace with myself. The past two years, I constantly demeaned myself – I still do. I want to accept all my flaws. Although quite paradoxical, I want to be content with who I am, yet always strive to improve myself. I know when I am in Brazil, I will be searching for ways to make an impact in my community. I hope to accept that I might not make an impact – at least not the impact I am looking for. Before I change them, they have to change me. And I have to be okay with that.

 

Erica Gonzales