About this time a year ago I was starting the college search process. I knew exactly what I wanted to major in, that I wanted to attend a medium-to-small school, I wanted to stay in the South, and, call me vain, I had to live on a nice campus. And even though I found a nice crop of schools I could see myself attending, I just didn’t feel the normal excitement and giddiness that comes with finding the perfect fit. Was college what I really wanted? Yes, to be an educator I’d have to go to college, I knew that, but part of me felt that I wasn’t ready. That realization was met with an overwhelming anxiety, and just as my anxiety was threatening to cripple me, my friend Lauren Holt made an exciting announcement via Facebook that she would be spending a year in Ecuador with Global Citizen Year. I was incredibly intrigued and immediately googled the program. It was exactly what I wanted without even knowing it! A chance to spend a year abroad, challenging myself and making connections, sounded like a dream come true. And then I noticed the price. I knew that even with assistance, it would be too much, and I tucked the idea into a far corner of my mind. A month later I came home from an incredibly eye-opening experience in Cuba. In my ten short days there, I had felt more love and joy that I had ever known before. It was amazing to be so connected to a world so radically different than mine and to realize how most people are universally the same: Cuban or American, we all need love, we all laugh, we cry, we embrace. After that experience I knew I needed to see more of the world–not in the sense that I wanted to go galavanting across Europe and see the sights (don’t get me wrong, I really do want that), but I craved a connection to other people in the world. Global Citizen Year was my answer. And although I was wary of the price, I knew it would be worth whatever odd jobs necessary to cover it.
Rush ahead to present-day and I am a fully funded fellow headed to Senegal! I am extremely blessed to be able to take this exciting journey and I am (somewhat) ready to face the coming challenges. And while my fellow graduates will be spending the coming year as freshmen in universities all over the country, my classroom will be looking a little different, and I’m okay–no–I’m thrilled with it! So, wherever this next year is taking you, let’s toast to keeping an open mind, to trying and failing and trying again, to loving whole heartedly, and most importantly, to new beginnings!