I took my bridge year with Global Citizen Year in Ecuador, and I always have great nostalgia whenever I reflect back on it. I won't ever forget about all of the love and care I received from the staff in Global Citizen Year from my host families, my apprenticeship supervisors and teachers at the schools I worked along side with, and the family whose farm I worked on. Not to mention all the traveling adventures and bonding through suffering that I experienced with the fellow fellows in my region. This year will always have a special place in my heart; and this might sound sappy, but my year in Ecuador is an experience that reminds me that there is so much more to look forward to whenever life gets hard in college. My logic isn't really logical, but my bridge year gives me hope that there is so much more to look forward to in life. Taking a year off with this program also taught to me to prioritize the development of my own character; Global Citizen Year emphasizes self-transformation, reflection, and interpersonal relating and understanding within their curriculum, and growing personally with regard to all of these aspects was my main goal for the year. Had I gone into college without taking this bridge year I definitely would have been the type that thinks his grades are his only saving grace (not that grades aren't important to me, they very much still are). I could see myself having missed out on so much of life had I not first experienced it without school and career being a distraction from my personal development.
Global Citizen Year can be hit or miss depending on the homestay and apprenticeship placement that fellows receive, but there is definitely a lot of room to make the year your own wherever you're placed. I admit that my homestay and apprenticeship placements were atypically wonderful placements (many fellows in my region were disappointed in their seemingly non-existent apprenticeships during my year), so perhaps my attitude would have been very different had my placement been different. Although I expected to develop professionally through my apprenticeship, that wasn't the case; rather I came out having my worldview challenged and I believe I was very much more prepared to face the challenge of a changing worldview as I entered college. Although I learned a lot about the food justice movement and its values, I didn't make impact on the community or the movement or any of the initiatives because I was unskilled. The nature of the program taught me above anything to be able to make the most of the circumstances I'm placed in and not focus on what I'm lacking but make the most of what I do have, especially with regard to the relationships that I'm given; Global Citizen Year instilled in me the value that anyone, no matter how different, can relate and find common ground, and sometimes I really gotta fight myself to make that happen. Global Citizen Year has changed their brand image from being volunteerism-focused from when I joined their program, to a self transformation/self-discovery program, and I'm impressed by how aggressively they evaluate, reevaluate, and refine their programming to meet the needs of the fellows they take in year after year.
While Global Citizen Year provides many resources for their fellows to develop professionally (through the training seminars, the academic component of their curriculum, the many alumni opportunities they offer), I especially recommend this program to people who crave growth in their integrity and their emotional capacity. Of course, anyone can easily get away without growing in these respects, but Global Citizen Year surely facilitates that growth process.