Uncertainty and Unexpected Discoveries

Abigail Bethke - Ecuador


August 27, 2016

I feel like I’ve been hesitant to write this blog post for a long time, because for months and months, I had absolutely no idea what I was diving into. I knew a dear friend who had done Global Citizen Year and spent eight months in Ecuador, and that was my only connection to the program. No admissions officer or staff member from Global Citizen Year came to my school, or for that matter, probably anywhere in Wisconsin, to talk to me about the program, no one from Vassar set aside an alternative bridge year option, and only a handful of students in my class chose to take a bridge year before school out of 500 plus students.

For a lot of this journey I’ve felt fairly alone. Excited–but alone. I feel like I always tend to make some of the biggest life decisions on a whim, especially when I’m facing adversity. Only two weeks after my dad died in the fall of 2014, I chose to spend the upcoming summer in Paraguay. After an incredibly stress filled senior year filled and after applying to 11 colleges, I chose the one furthest away from home, that I never visited, and in a region I’ve never even been to.

Choosing to take this bridge year was no different for me. However, I think a common thread I’ve seen through these life decisions isn’t that I’m being irrational or crazy (okay, maybe partially), but that in the face of adversity, I chose to take the leap and dive into adventure rather than sitting back and always wondering “But what if…?” The dots after that “if” would always stay dots; a chapter started and never written, a thought created but then forgotten, an idea crafted but never pitched. I chose Global Citizen Year because I didn’t want that regret to smolder inside of me.

So amidst all the uncertainty and anxiety over whether I made the right decision, I hugged my mom goodbye 3 times at the airport, hopped on a plane to San Francisco, and flung my full self into the hands of Global Citizen Year, hoping white knuckled that they wouldn’t drop me.

What I’ve found here is an immediate community and family that is absolutely unexplainable. An unbelievably diverse family, with brothers and sisters from all over the world, who all feel my struggle, want the same things, and crave the adventure and love I continually seek. A family that has dared to pave a different path and live without regrets. I know it is crazy to say that I’ve created a family only after nearly 7 days, but it is 100% true. Together we are all embarking on a journey, and although we will be in different countries–Ecuador, Brazil, Senegal, and India–with different families, leading incredibly different lives, we will all be diving into the same unknown together, and that connection bridges our hearts across thousands of miles.

While I can’t say yet that I’ve found all of the answers I’ve been searching for, after befriending these amazing fellows and sharing things I’ve never shared with anyone before, I also realized something powerful that I didn’t know when I applied to Global Citizen Year: I am on the verge of becoming myself. This has been a common thread this entire week, as I learn to pry open my mind and be comfortable hearing my thoughts. After my dad died, I was so busy getting by in school and applying to college that I lost my drive amidst checking off boxes on the continuous checklist. I lost my passion. I lost me. But after coming here to San Francisco and meeting my fellow fellows, I’ve begun to find a new sense of self: a self that’s comfortable with my thoughts amidst silence, a self that can exist without technology and engage with others, a self that can trust, a self that can crawl out of its comfort zone, and, most importantly, a self that above all knows I’m meant to be here.

Abigail Bethke