Stripping Naked with Nothing to Lose

Aitran Doan - Ecuador


July 15, 2014

Who am I? I am the prep school child, the welfare child and the immigrant child from rural Vietnam.

Before my Global Citizen Year, I was scared to share who I was because nothing fit together. I was scared my first-world friends would pity my third world past. I was scared that everyone would think that I was a fake, because I am no longer the Vietnamese girl working in the rice paddies. I am also no longer the inner-city immigrant child fighting off poverty. Although I attend Choate Rosemary Hall on a full scholarship I am certainly not the private boarding school student with another $200,000 private education. In many ways I am no longer the child that belongs in my own family.

So who am I? A year ago, I didn’t know but everyone around me, did. My name was “success.” So when I said I was heading off to Ecuador for eight months, they didn’t know that I was looking for real success. They didn’t know how frustrated I have been all my life because I was searching for roots while hopping between vastly different worlds. I was the chameleon, ever so skillful at changing my skin to quickly adapt to the new environments. I played every part well but it still left me empty. Empty because I could not point my finger to the world the best defined me. But I can confidently say after eight months of ripping apart my false identities during my cultural immersion in my village in Ecuador, I finally realized WHO I am and who I’ve always been but might have never become…I am–a global citizen.

And this answer will take me far. How do I know? Because the full ride to prep school, the 4.0 GPA, the acceptance letter to Stanford did not fill me. But the answers I found on Global Citizen Year did. I am no longer empty because I can now name the virtues that make me who I am—empathy, gratitude, curiosity, and most important self-awareness. Unlike the fleeting roles I’ve taken on in my life, this identity is permanent. I have lived out Global Citizen Year’s philosophy: I have become the solid person they expect from their students because only solid people can be effective leaders and only effective leaders can create real change. So thank you all who have invested in my experience–from reading my blogs to donating to the Summer Campaign–for believing in Global Citizen Year, for believing that in nurturing effective global leaders we are creating a better world.

Aitran Doan