Last Thursday morning, on the first day of Pre-Departure Training, Abby Falik welcomed the 2015 Fellows with an inspiring speech. More emotions than I could count filled my heart as I thought about the journey I was about to begin, the friendships I was about to cultivate and the challenges I was about to encounter. Mesmerised by the sincerity in her voice, I was captivated by one line in particular: “You are where you are meant to be.”
I wish I could say that all of my doubt immediately disappeared when Abby said those eight words. But that’s just not true. We’ve been told repeatedly how challenging this year will be. It will be transformative and rewarding, too. But the challenge has been reiterated above all. So my anxiety was still present. It is still present.
Later that day, we participated in one of our first activities. My group sat down on the Slab, a turf soccer field nestled deep in the redwoods at the Alliance Camp and Conference Center in Occidental, CA. We were instructed to simply sit on the turf for a few minutes to consider what we had just begun. I was quickly overcome by homesickness, enveloped in the sensation. I thought about my family, friends, sports—the things I enjoyed every day at home. I glared at the white nets on either end of the Slab, yearning for the opportunity to play another high school soccer game. And then it dawned on me. It was the third Thursday in August, the first day of soccer pre-season at Lexington High School. I was seated on a turf soccer field. It was exactly where I was meant to be.
We’ve been here for a week now, and I feel significantly more comfortable and confident. We’ve bonded as a Global Cohort, learned about international development from many perspectives and further prepared for our in-country adventures. But there are still those moments of doubt, the times when I question whether this is really where I am meant to be.
I went for a run this morning, a nice self-guided tour of Stanford’s gorgeous campus. Feeling confident, I decided to simply run far away from the dorm and figured I’d find my way back. About half an hour later, I was in a park, surrounded by palm trees and men and women in royal blue scrubs hustling to work at the medical center. It was a pleasant area, but it wasn’t near the dorms. Continuing to run, I found a road onto which I took a sharp left. A building came into view a few minutes later, the distinct red adobe-style roof growing larger as I ran closer. It was the athletic center, the building right across the street from my dorm. I was where I was meant to be.
Tomorrow morning I’ll board a plane to Quito, the beginning of my journey in Ecuador. The excitement will grow inside of me as I meet new people and create lasting bonds. The doubt will grow, too, as I encounter challenge after challenge, feeling knocked down to the ground and buried by unfamiliarity. But that’s OK. I know to believe that I am where I am supposed to be.