My final post in the series of “The Gap Year”. Thank you all for being there with me through these past 7 months. I’m excited to see you all *once COVID19 is cleared.
I made it back to America about 2 and a half weeks ago. We spent a week in DC meeting with various government agencies and NGOs discussing the work we have been doing while abroad and real change they/ we can do. Some of these meetings were incredible, having in depth conversations about the complexities of development and defining poverty, while others were frustrating, as the people we talked with looked at us like little kids who didn’t know what they were talking about. I think the week truly encompasses my entire experience: an incredible opportunity, which I grew substantially from and gave me such joy, but also challenged and frustrated me along the way. The trip was far from easy and I did have a lot of rough patches, however, those typically weren’t talked about in my emails, facetime calls or even now. In Thailand, we discussed thoroughly the aspect of a “saving face” culture (basically a culture which avoids the topic of anything that is unpleasant or embarrassing), it wasn’t until I realized how little people at home knew the entirety of my experience on this program that I realized I play into the “saving face” culture, even if it isn’t as serve as in Thai culture.
With all my really cool stories of delivering a baby, getting my nose pierced in the back of a t-shirt shop, bathing in the ocean for a full week, I also have many feeling useless in my job, unworthy of my privilege, lonely without my support system. However, without all these challenges I wouldn’t have been capable of all the growth I had. The truth is, it is inevitable to face adversity of some kind. We typically shy away from being vulnerable or open about what we struggle with, or in the context of millennials and Gen Zers, we make jokes to play it off like it isn’t a big deal. Both can and will be detrimental. We are all going through our own battles, but what makes us grow, and truly overcome them, is when we rely on others around us and accept we can’t and shouldn’t be alone with it. I leaned heavily on my peers on my program, because in this context they were the only people who could understand, and I made it through because we were all in it together. From crying on a bus with everyone patting my back and trying to hug me to running hand in hand across the finish line, it was all worth it.
The lessons I learned with me I carry now back in NC, and hope to pass along to everyone in my life: the importance of vulnerability, the awareness of one’s privileged, correcting harmful ideas of poverty/ what the “developing” world needs and so much more. And I wouldn’t be following through with holding onto my value of vulnerability if I wasn’t honest and admitted that I’m scared. Scared for life back with technology, forgetting the important lessons I learned, focusing on “1st world problems”, the way my relationships have changed, people not understanding all that I’ve been through, etc. However, if I have learned one thing from taking this gap year it would be ‘don’t let the fear of failure keep you from trying.’
Please remember that my experiences were specific to me and does not represent the entirety of the country or culture we were staying in. With that being said, I loved every moment and every town we stayed it. And of course, if you ever travel to any of these places please let me know and I can share some recommendations!!
As for my future, which I’m sure those who don’t know have been silently wondering about, I am now relaxing with my family for the next 2 months- or possibly longer with COVID19-, and then will be heading off to DC to start my internship on the Hill with representative Lou Correa. Then in the fall I will be heading to Elon University as a Change Maker Scholar where I’m planning to double major in international relations and non-profit management with a minor in Spanish (all is subject to change as I learn more about my specific interests of course).
Thank you so much for reading all these emails and being with me through this journey. I hope to see you all once quarantine is finished.