About a week ago, I was telling a family friend about the wonderful journey I am about to take to Ecuador. She was looking at me with bright and excited eyes while I was speaking, and when I finished, she turned to my mom and asked “Are you nervous that your girl is going away for so long?” Without even a pause, my mother responded “No, her whole life has been leading up to this point.” And she was right.
I went out of the country for the first time when I was in fourth grade. I went to Mexico, got my hair corn-rowed, played in the ocean, got my first real taste of Spanish, and ate some rockin’ tacos. Later, when I was in seventh grade, I went to Costa Rica for 3 weeks. I had Spanish classes for 3-4 hours everyday, lived with a host family, volunteered at schools and orphanages, and I learned how incredibly kind people can be, and how a whole country seems brighter when every single person on the street offers a “buenos dias” in the morning. The next year, I returned to the same small community in Costa Rica to do similar work. I realized how strange ketchup tastes in other countries, I took salsa and cooking classes, and I decided that I wanted to do something great in this world.
My experience with community service developed throughout my years in high school. I joined organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, Best Buddies, and NHS, and I started volunteering at a homeless shelter and taking care of my elderly neighbors. After a few years in America, I decided my lack of travel made me feel some version of homesick, and I returned to Costa Rica with Amigos de las Américas for 8 weeks. It was the most difficult, rewarding and strange experience of my life. I learned about different lifestyles, that being away from the comforts of home is the best way to really learn who you are, that I possess so much love for the world and it’s people, and that human beings are much more alike than they are different.
In my final pages of the journal I took to Costa Rica (when I was having a little freak out about coming back to America), I was reflecting on my summer and what the next step may be after my senior year. I had become aware that I wanted to pursue my global interests and explore who my adult self is outside of the classroom. I wrote “I hope to continue to be the person I want to be. To live the life I want to, and to go out into the world and change it. To realize the importance and power of every life, of every day, and most importantly, the beauty and power of true love. I am excited, and sad, and scared, and excited, and timid, and weirded out, and happy and empowered, and in love with the world.”
I had no idea that it would be almost a whole year later until I knew that I was going to Ecuador with Global Citizen Year. But here I go, leaning into my next great venture. Here I go on a terrifying, exhilarating, and love-filled journey, to discover all the beautiful reasons why this is the path my life has decided is mine.