Welcome to my blog! Over the course of the next eight months, I will be posting updates on my year as consistently as possible. For my first post, I figured it would be fitting to explain what exactly it is I am doing and why it is I am doing it.
As of today, I am 15 days into a program called Global Citizen Year that provides recent high school graduates the opportunity to live abroad for a year before attending college. For the first seven days, I participated in Pre-Departure training in California, where I was introduced to the program and got to know the other Fellows. Currently, I am living with a host family in Quito, Ecuador while undergoing In-Country Orientation. For the past week, I have been attending Spanish classes in the morning, going to program sessions in the afternoon, and spending time with my host family at night. I will continue with this routine for the next two weeks before traveling to my permanent host community to meet my long-term host family and begin my apprenticeship. Although I do not yet know which community I will be living in, I look forward to finding out on Thursday. Once settled, I will attend my apprenticeship consistently, become a contributing member of my host family, and get involved in my community in as many ways as possible. In addition, I will attend Spanish classes once a week. Finally, every several months, I will get together with other Fellows in my region to reconnect, debrief, and process our experiences together. The months to come are a chance to become fully immersed in a culture different from my own and learn from all that my host community has to teach me.
To answer the question of why I decided to take a bridge year, I could call upon all of the logical reasons that my active involvement in an Ecuadorian community has the potential to be a mutually beneficial relationship that will prepare me to be a global leader. However, while such reasoning is certainly valid, my pure response comes from a far deeper place. From the moment I learned of my acceptance to Global Citizen Year, I knew I had to do everything in my power to make my dream of taking a formative bridge year a reality. Buried within myself, I felt something drawing me towards unfamiliarity, new perspectives, and self-discovery. What I can only describe as my basic instinct recognized that which I needed most far before my methodically calculated self did, and I was immediately overcome with an overwhelming urge to follow my heart.
As I have taken the first steps of the impending marathon that is Global Citizen Year, my confidence in my decision to participate has blossomed. Progressing through Pre-Departure Training and the first week of In-Country Orientation with some of the most insightful individuals I have ever met has left me emotionally full, with a feeling of being utterly, unconditionally alive. After eighteen years of fulfilling societal expectations, I have finally stepped off the conveyor belt of traditional schooling and listened to the desperate voice within me that cries out that there must be something more. For the next eight months, I will seek education that transcends textbooks and lecture halls. Where I am going, every sunrise symbolizes a renewed opportunity to discover surprises that await around every corner, to empathize with people from different backgrounds, and to expand my view on the world. All the pressure to “do” has been alleviated, and I am now free to just “be.” My blissful unfamiliarity with the Ecuadorian culture has empowered me to escape the role of an achiever and transition to that of an observer. Shedding the obligation to pursue tangible achievements has liberated me to focus simply on maintaining an open mind and open heart throughout the inevitable ups and downs that are to come.
At just the right time, I allowed myself to acknowledge the bridge year that was beckoning me to take part and, thanks to Global Citizen Year, I was able to say yes. Like an ongoing domino effect, that first yes has led me to Ecuador, where I promise to keep saying yes. Over and over, I will say yes to things that appear foreign, things that are challenging, and things that scare me. With “yes” at the tip of my tongue, I dive into the upcoming journey, and I cannot wait to see where it leads.