My parents always raised me to be independent and be able to handle myself. It’s also possible that I was born naturally independent, but my mom and dad definitely instilled great values in me. They raised me in a small town by San Francisco, and I have been living in the same house for almost 17 years. Often I would walk home from high school in the middle of the day, or from a friend’s house in the middle of the night. This made me comfortable with being away from home, and helped me when I went out of the country without my family for the first time. Because my parents trusted my judgment and didn’t fret over where I was all the time, I explored places more and walked long distances alone, with only music as my companion. I tested my boundaries in how comfortable I was with walking home in the dark nights with no moonlight and animals growling in the shadowy bushes. I have grown up in a fairly wealthy county, and I have seen my fair share of sheltered kids who don’t know how to deal with stressful decisions or don’t know how to do many things that are required to manage your own life. My father died when I was 11 years old, and although it devastated our family, my mom, my brother and I rebuilt and adjusted. This definitely made me even more independent, because when someone you depend on leaves, it takes a lot more effort to continue to manage your life.
When I went to Mexico on a school trip for two weeks, it was my first time being in a different country than my family and most of my friends. I fell in love with the culture, the old buildings, and the beautiful landscapes. It was my first time living with a host family, and I thoroughly enjoyed playing with their two year old daughter and going into town to watch the soccer games of their eighteen year old son. When I left, I wanted to go back with either my family or by myself. I wanted to be able to explore the country in a way you can’t when on a school trip. So I took advantage of opportunities and got a chance to stay at a bed and breakfast of an old friend from my family’s Jewish temple. I stayed in Mexico for 6 weeks, during just one of which I was accompanied by my mom. I was alone in a foreign country for the first time, bonding with people and experiencing the culture. This experience made me want to be in another country for an even longer period of time. I always knew I would spend some time traveling around the world before I settle down, and I know that I might just find the right place and live there for the rest of my life. When I graduated from high school at 16 years old, I planned on taking a gap year and traveling, and Global Citizen Year was the program that I thought fit me the best and suited my desires for exploration before I go off into the adult world, independent. Ecuador will be another experience that will tie my heart to another country on the globe and there I might find the place where someday I will retire and live out my life happy that I explored so much and learned so much.